Copyright © 2005
by the Fellowship of St. James.
All rights reserved.
ANOTHER LOOK AT DEMOCRATS FOR LIFE:
Matthew Maguire, who teaches European intellectual history at Kenyon College, writes in response to my comments on Democrats for Life in From the Inbox 22 July 2004:
I think you missed something essential in yesterday's post about pro-life Democrats. If Day's movement does not succeed, change in America's ghastly abortion laws will take much longer and be much more difficult, and bring about still more suffering and death.
The reasoning behind this position is simple. While there are many sincere pro-life Republicans (and Democrats too - more anon), the Republican Party uses abortion as an electoral issue while doing very little about it, and over thirty years after Roe, there is little doubt that this is part of a conscious, ongoing strategy.
Jeffrey Rosen's article about abortion politics in The New Republic last year (see issue dated Feb. 24, 2003) was quite blunt on this question. A senior republican congressional aide told him that the GOP is “generally harmonious over this issue (i.e., abortion) because of the belief that the pro-life position will never truly be tested.” Rosen also observes that the most important political advisor in the contemporary Republican party (Karl Rove) “dodged the question” when asked whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned. The parade of televised speeches by pro-abortion Republicans at the upcoming national convention (Pataki, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, et al.) further confirms that something less than savory is at work in the alleged pro-life “commitment” of the Republican party.
Pro-life Republicans often argue that judicial appointments alone should obligate all pro-life voters to vote for their candidates, especially for President. But three of the Supreme Courts Justices currently upholding Roe (Kennedy, Souter and O'Connor) were appointed by “pro-life” Republican presidents. Based on the past two decades of Republican appointees to the Court, it is more accurate to say that one should vote for a Republican for president so that pro-life justices continue to be a significant but ineffectual minority (since only two of the last five Republican appointees to the Court are in fact pro-life).
As for lower courts, the Republican record is mixed. It must be said that the one judge in America currently forcing abortionists to be honest about their habitual violence is Judge Casey of New York - and he was appointed by former President Clinton. For local judiciary posts, of course, one can simply vote on the Right to Life line for judges.
I must add on a personal (and admittedly anecdotal) note that a friend who has worked in the Senate assisting in legislative work told me that it is an open secret on the Hill that pro-life laws are quite deliberately written with utmost sloppiness, so that they will be overturned by the Courts. In this way, the Republican leadership keep their wedge issue without jeopardizing their standing among pro-abortion economic and political conservatives.
Nonetheless, one could plausibly argue that all pro-life voters should vote Republican simply because the Republicans tend to be more pro-life than the Democrats, even though their efforts on behalf of life are ambivalent and ineffective at best, and at worst deeply manipulative. But then the status quo will not change. This is precisely why I think Day's movement can do enormous good.
Quite simply, as long as the Republican leadership need do nothing but bloviate about abortion in order to win the pro-life vote, that is exactly what they will do. If significant segments of the pro-life vote begin to vote for Democratic pro-life candidates, the Republicans will actually have to offer a dramatic increase in substance to these voters in order to win them back. This testifies to a straightforward rule of contemporary Western politics: a captive electoral demographic is typically not treated at all well by its political captors. Hence all the national Democratic party has (not) done to help inner-city African-Americans.
The natural question is: does Day's movement have any chance of success? Happily, the answer is yes. In the meantime, there will of course be occasions where pro-life Democrats will vote for Republicans in order to support a sincerely pro-life candidate (Day has been clear on this point). That said, a few years ago (c. 2000), about 70 Democratic members of Congress were pro-life. At the moment, Democrats for Life has endorsed pro-life candidates for Congress in over 20 States.
In more general terms, according to a national poll (forgive me, I don't have the source at hand), over 30% of registered Democrats are pro-life. They are shut out of the campaign process because they are typically not nearly as wealthy as the fund-raising elite of the Democratic party, who bribe and threaten their pro-life opponents throughout the national Democratic party with partial, but nowhere near total success).
If Day can mobilize even a fraction of pro-life Democrats to make their voices heard, there will be even more Democratic congressmen and Senators, and in many areas of the country there will actually be races between two pro-life candidates from the two major parties. These campaigns would be a real blessing for the pro-life movement, and the effort to nurture them should not be dismissed lightly.
I agree with this, actually, both Dr. Maguire's hope for the success of pro-life Democrats and his suspicions of the Republicans' real commitment to life. I dismissed Democrats for Life too quickly.
The Republican's choice of speakers for this year's Convention - surely approved by President Bush - reveals as much as did the Democrats shutting out of Governor Robert Casey at their Convention in 1992 (or 1996). It is not, or is only partially and unstably, a pro-life party. Which does not change the fact that the Democratic party, in its leadership, is very much a pro-death party.
NEW JOURNAL ALERT: APOLLO:
A magazine for those of you interested in history and art, which I hope means all of you: Apollo. (The site requires registration.) It offers all sorts of interesting-looking articles, for example the two I’ve had a chance to read:
— the essay Sight Unseen: Vision and Perception in Leonardo’s Madonnas, in which “Larry J. Feinberg explains how the artist’s interest in the way the eyes work influenced his realistic depictions of the Christ Child as a baby learning to see.” It is the first of two articles on Leonardo’s Madonnas, but the second one (from the August issue) wouldn’t come up when I tried the link.
— a review of Joseph Leo Koerner’sThe Reformation of the Image. The reviewer, an historian named Margaret Aston, writes that:
Sixteenth-century Lutheran art and the iconoclastic momentum from which it emerged have found a fine interpreter in a work which sits happily on the cusp between the historical and art historical.
It is part of the author’s contention that ‘the Christian image was iconoclastic from the start’. ‘Iconoclash’, the term coined for an exhibition in Karlsruhe in 2002, is defined as the collision between the having and having done with images, religious imagery being regarded as intrinsically self-effacing, containing its own repudiation of the inherent deception of its form. Users of Christian images were always expected to see through or beyond them, to ‘cross them out’, to be trained in the capacity to see beyond the representation. If one accepts this premise, what Luther was doing in the developments described in this book was an experiment in iconoclastic as well as post-iconoclastic image-making, since his aim was to provide a fresh repertoire of church imagery that was beyond the objective of image-breakers, based firmly on a reformed communion of the word. But even if it seems helpful to place, clash, ahead of ‘clasm’ in thinking about this reform, one may still wonder whether internal destroying or breaking fits either late medieval assumptions about image use, or Luther’s own views as explored in the book.
The journal even lets you download an older issue as a pdf file (I presume it includes the pictures).
Here is an interesting — and for those of you who don’t know about advertising, alarming — article on the effect of advertising: Janet Daly’s Time was when only women drank lager from The Daily Telegraph. I have been surprised, in English pubs with all sorts of wonderful bitter ales and stouts on tap, to find the natives drinking Budweiser and similar beers. Budweiser and its peers are — and if I’m stepping on anyone’s toes in saying this, good — crimes against humanity.
Anyway, Daly writes that:
the advertising industry [has been] blamed for glamorising graffiti. What to most sane people represents a degradation — even a frightening invasion — of their community is being depicted by advertisers as part of cool popular culture.
Graffiti is the perfect backdrop for the commercial that wants to project itself as at one with urban chic: it is vaguely delinquent, brash, in-your-face defiance of the respectable and house-proud. It is anarchic, daring and juvenile — which is precisely how most of the advertising industry wants to see itself. The fact that this is not how most people wish to live — surrounded by ugly, discordant scrawl that makes them feel dispossessed in their own communities — is of no account.
Once again, the advertisers are creating their own normality, and their techniques for cultural manipulation are disarmingly insidious. Advert-life creates a world whose assumptions sink into your consciousness in a way that their overt selling pitch may not. You do not necessarily run out and buy that particular product, but you absorb the message that this kind of object, this way of seeing things, this idea of what the world is like, is desirable and sought-after. And that whatever does not fit with this picture — or whoever is not comfortable with it — is ridiculously archaic, outmoded and unfashionable.
She goes on to explain the creation of the “lager lout” and the new, and predictably destructive, advertisers’ ideal.
INVENTING THE 60s GENERATION
A reply to Civil Rights and Woodstock:
Part of what shaped the cultural cataclysym that was the 60's was demographics. By the 60's the "baby boom generation" had overflowed high school and was flooding into college. The US population had its highest percentage of adolescents ever. Thanks to America's post-war prosperity and the resulting after-school jobs and generous allowances from their parents, they were also the richests teens the US had known.
The baby boomers faced all the issues which adolescents are heir to: notably, sexuality and identity. Down through the centuries, adult society has generally sought to abbreviate adolescence and shield and direct teens through this turmoil -- but not this time. Some adults, notably those in the music and clothing industry, realized it would be more profitable to exploit, indulge and pander to adolescent angst and impulsivity. Thus was born the "generation gap" and youth culture.
Previously, humans enjoyed a long childhood (characterized by, among other things, sexual innocence) and a brief adolescence. Childhood was romanticized -- note how childhood is presented in Mark Twain and contrast it with Stephen King -- and adolescence gotten through and over as quickly as possible. This is no longer the case.
Now, adolescence is romanticized and prolonged. Childhood gets shorter and shorter (5th graders are now having oral sex) and adolescence, especially among males, is extended indefinitely. Teenagers are no longer eager to become adults and "put away childish things" nor are they encouraged to do so by popular culture.
Poet and men's movement guru Robert Bly addressed this in his book The Sibling Society (which, unlike Iron John was not a best seller). In brief, his thesis is that we are a society of adolescent peers: there are few adults and few willing to act like responsible adults. No wonder we have seen a presidential candidate (Clinton, of course) discussing his preference of underwear on MTV.
I fear it may be the 60's abolition of adulthood that will, in the long run, have the profoundest and most devastating impact.
--L. Joseph Letendre
VOTE SPLITTING & OTHER GRIPES IN ILLINOIS
Former presidential candidate and UN Ambassador Alan Keyes is reportedly set to announce that he will accept the invitation of Illinois Republicans to run for the US Senate seat from that state, challenging Barack Obama, the newest rising national star of the Democratic Party.
Keyes lives in Maryland and is not from Illinois. But, some reply, Senator Hillary Clinton was not from New York. Fair enough, I suppose. But I think that was as problematic. What I fear, should the trend continue, if it is even a trend yet, is that we will end in several decades with senators representing all 50 states who were signed up to run because they were any one of the following: former First Lady, Cy Young Award winner, Best Supporting Actress, the latest Survivor, top-grossing film director, Oprah's favorite poet, NCAA Coach of the Year, and so on.
Well, Alan Keyes is none of the above and hardly a household name. And probably not too popular, having lost two bids for the Senate already in Maryland. If I were him and wanted to be in the Senate, perhaps I would think about living in another state. These days, people move all the time.
That said, one criticism of the Keyes-Obama scenario struck me as a bit off the wall. Some local Chicago folks complained that it was a devious attempt on the part of Republicans to "split the back vote." (In case you don't know, Keyes is also black.) Before I go any further, I would like to make just one comment: don't read everything I write as arising from partisan motives. I have to write when I get an idea, if I have the time, and most of the ideas I get come from what I hear on the air. I can't help it if there's things out there being said that come from one side of the aisle, so to speak, that are really loony. This is one of them.
To speak of splitting the black vote in Chicago is to point to some blatant or latent racism. Political operatives so motivated would be splitting the black vote in order to elect a white candidate. A black candidate might challenge, say a white fictional Mayor Weekly, and in order to diminish the black opposition to the mayor, the mayor's men might entice a second black politican to enter the race to make the race go where they want it to, to Weekly.
In a twist on this scenario, back in the 80s, there was a black mayoral candidate, Harold Washington, who ran in the primary against several white candidates. The white candidates (one of them was the current Mayor Daley) split the vote and Harold Washington became the Democratic candidate. He won in the general election against a white Republican, although the Republican polled far better than any Republican in living memory (due in part, no doubt to a subtle appeal to racism: (Vote for X--Before It's Too Late. I voted for Washington.)
Anyway, since there would be two black candidates for senator, splitting the black vote is really nothing more than an attempt not to get a third (white or other) candidate in; it would be simply the result of trying to win the office outright. If certain politicians fear that some of the voters that they normally count on to deliver their votes to the right party might be attracted to a black Republican, then I have two things to say. First, I don't know how attractive Alan Keyes will actually be to black voters, but secondly, if he does make his case and more than the usual 9 or 10 percent of black voters in Illinois vote for a black Republican, I can only say: It's called democracy.
That would be nice: to see a bit more democracy in Chicago for a change. On many parts of the ballot for various offices, there end up being no Republican (or other) challengers. I live in Congressman Guitierrez's district and I have not yet had the chance to vote for anyone but him, which I have never done. I have not sent anyone to the U.S. House of Representatives in years. I wouldn't mind seeing two parties, or even three or more, viable parties in Chicago and Illinois and the U.S. In Chicago it's Democrat Town. No pro-life candidates here.
If a few more citizens of Chicago decide to give a Republican a chance in the Senate, they can't be blamed. If some voters ask, "What have the Democrats done for Chicago's black community," I suppose they could come up with a few things: disastrous and ill-advised billion-dollar public housing programs (and the buildings are now being torn down); a sorry approach to poverty and welfare (if it worked, why did we "end welfare as we know it" under Bill Clinton, and where are the movies and the newspaper and magazine stories showing the grand successes of Great Society programs started up in the 60s? Nobody's talking.). Anyway, when it comes to voting, I really am pro-choice.
LEAVE IT HERE
It is a commonplace of simple wisdom that “you can’t take it with you when you go.” This popular axiom, usually cited as an exhortation to detachment from material things, is also supported in Holy Scripture, where it is said of both the wise man and the fool that they “perish and leave their wealth to others” (Psalm 49 :10). No matter what a man has accumulated in his lifetime, wrote Ben Sirach, the time must come when “he must leave these things to others, and die” (Ecclesiasticus 11:19)
Even though we take that proposition as self-evident, apparently not everyone in antiquity thought so. Tut-ankh-amen, for example, notwithstanding the wisdom ascribed to Egyptian pharaohs in the fourteenth century before Christ, evidently imagined he could take at least some of it with him when he went. Indeed, a rather large museum exhibit now contains the art works, household items, and other amenities that he carried off to his regal tomb.
Nonetheless, the plain fact that archeology was able to recover those sundry treasures from Tut-ankh-amen’s tomb is pretty good evidence that even he was unsuccessful in taking the stuff with him.
Although the reminder that “you can’t take it with you when you go” normally carries about it a negative and ascetical ring, it could just as well be heard in a positive and supportive way. For instance, if we simply turn the statement around and say, “You have to leave it here,” it is at once obvious that this principle of detachment is also a principle of history and culture.
Suppose for a moment that Tut-ankh-amen really had been able to take everything with him when he went. Imagine, indeed, that all the ancient pharaohs took with them, when they went, not only their art works and household items, but also the very pyramids that they had spent their lifetimes constructing. What would we now know about Egyptian history and culture?
Suppose, in addition, that Ictinus, Callicrates, and Phidias had been permitted to carry the Parthenon away with them when they took their leave. The Acropolis would look as bare as it probably did before the Greeks arrived.
Imagine too that Socrates, when he swallowed the fatal hemlock, swallowed also—and forever—those ideas that he had just propounded to Crito and the other friends surrounding him, the very ideas that have formed the mind of Western man for more than two millennia. Worthily may God be praised that Socrates could not take the ideas with him when he went.
Thus the thesis that “you can’t take it with you when you go” may be heard as a gospel of sorts. It is good news, not bad. Truly, history and the transmission of human culture are founded on the principle that “you can’t take it with you when you go.”
Indeed, even if the Almighty had not so decreed, human wisdom itself would certainly have made a rule about it.
For instance, even without a divine mandate on the subject, the contemporaries of the Florentine poet would have told him, “All right, Dante, you may die, if you feel so strongly about it, but please understand that the Divine Comedy stays here. Don’t even think about taking it with you.” The British Parliament, likewise, would have determined that Shakespeare might be given permission to emigrate to the afterlife, but only with the proviso that Othello and Hamlet could not accompany him on the journey.
Tut-ankh-amen was not the last person to try and take it with him when he went. When Vergil died at Brindisi in Calabria on September 22, 19 BC, his Aeneid was not yet ready for publication, and he had left instructions with his literary executors to burn the manuscript in the event of his death. Vergil, that is to say, endeavored to take the work with him when he went.
Fortunately, Caesar Augustus would have none of it. Convinced that Vergil’s great epic version of the Trojan origin of the Roman people would inspire them to an heroic sense of their destiny, finding thus their rightful place in history, Augustus ordered Vergil’s wishes to be ignored and his work to be published. He was correct, and the Aeneid became a standard text in the teaching of Latin grammar and literature for the rest of time. Even if God had made no rule about not taking it with you, it is obvious that Caesar was quite prepared to do so.
It is good news, not bad, that man must take leave of what he makes. Because some things belong to history, we must not endeavor to keep joined what the Almighty's wise decree had determined to put asunder.
REBEL WITH A CONSCIENCE CAUSE:
In the midst of an article in the Chicago Tribune on the debate that was instigated by Planned Parenthood’s sale of the “I Had An Abortion” T-Shirt I find this:
Rosalyn Baxandall, 59, a professor at State University of New York in Old Westbury, had an illegal abortion in 1962. While participating several years ago in a rally at which women shared their personal abortion stories, she learned the younger women felt guiltier about the procedure than the older women.
"The [religious] right has kept up such a campaign [of shame] for so long," said Baxandall; she bought a shirt to counter that message.
So, the reason the younger generation feels more shame over abortion is the campaign of the Religious Right. Well, perhaps, but I doubt it. I speculate a bit, but perhaps it goes like this: Ms. Baxandall, in 1962 (age 17 or 18?), and others like her who would have bucked the stigma and (usually) laws against abortion, would likely have been the sort of young person who transgressed more boldly than others. You know the sort I mean: the cutting edge rebels.
But now, with Roe v. Wade in place, abortion is perfectly acceptable (as long as you stay away from the Religious Right, which must be very difficult to do on campuses such as Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Harvard, and in places like Chicago and New York, all which places are literally crawling with people from the Religious Right, who dominate the campus and local newspapers and local airwaves, right?)
After Roe v. Wade the number of women who “had abortions” leaped into the millions. In that large stream must be included a majority of those who would never had transgressed with Ms. Baxandall. But they are candidates for abortion because the stigma of coercing your girlfriend or l over or whatever into an abortion is significantly lessened. A candidate for abortion has all sorts of professional people at a “clinic” counseling her and telling her it’s all okay.
My point is that as the number of abortions go up, you are including a growing majority who are not as naturally transgressive. And they, after all is said and done to them, have natural feelings and thoughts that still whisper to them that removing the baby from their wombs is not natural. And they feel bad, and guilty about it.
The guilt is not sown by the Religious Right. It is the harvest of ignoring natural rights. Given the amount of pro-abortion propaganda that has been dumped into the cultural stream, it is amazing that a high level of guilt remains. It grows as more mainstream women do what they know is killing a life they have brought into being.
Sorry, Ms. Baxandall, you can legally abort a life, but you cannot always silence a conscience, though perhaps it is easier if you are a rebel and you are trying to teach others to do as you did.
THE "SETBACK" IN THE "SHOW-ME" STATE:
Everyone has heard about the vote earlier this week in Missouri, where voters approved a legal definition of marriage as between a man and woman. I heard at least three reports on the radio that simply said that voters approved the measure. None of them mentioned the fact that about 70 percent of those voting approved it. Nor did they even use an adjective that might indicate it passed by a more than 2-1 margin, adjectives such as "overwhelmingly." Other stories, with more detail in them, did note the figures, though, as you would expect. But even in the short reports given, it would have seemed to me very noteworthy that the margin of votes on a very contentious issue that the media likes to cover was 70 to 30.
Further, one of the reports was scripted to describe the vote as a "set back" for the gay rights movement. You might think I make too much of this, but having listened more carefully to news reports than I used to, I find small choices in wording often indicate a clear bias. If you favor "gay marriage" and think it is merely another right that runs in a straight line through "gay rights" to "women's rights" to "civil rights," then you view it as an inevitable march of reasonable progress in human development and liberties. "Setbacks" are generally temporary, something to get past down the road. No doubt those choosing the word are simply of the mind that the vote in Missouri is just that. If, however, a US Constitutional admendment is passed, down the road, it might eventually appear to them that the setback was there to stay.
RESPONSE TO CIVIL RIGHTS & WOODSTOCK:
RE: "Civil Rights & Woodstock (August 3):
James Kushiner's response to my comments were very well put. It has helped me to think more clearly about my attitude towards the 60's. Like John Kerry, I have been captivated by the idea that the boomer generation brought about civil rights, an increased awareness of environmental responsibility, and a a disdain for war. However, people like MLK and RFK were not boomers. They were somewhere in between the silent generation and the greatest generation.
Plus, the garbage-strewn fields of Woodstock in the wake of the event would indicate that the "environmentalism" of the 60's was only a fad. Unfortunately, the best description of the 60's are in novels like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and the film Easy Rider. "Free" sex, drugs, and
Rock and Roll - that is the legacy of the 60's. Well, at least they got it right with Rock and Roll...
PS But wait, Rock and Roll also originated in the 50's - darn! I'm beginning to feel like Abraham felt when he pleaded with God to not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah "Lord, if I can find 3 good things about the 60's...alright, how about 2?...Okay, what about one?" I think it's time for this country to flee from the influence of the 60's without turning back, lest they turn into a pillar of salt.
NO MORE GRAVEN IMAGES:
Well, this past week the Supreme Court finally settled the matter about statues in public places. Christian statues, of course, including Nativity scenes, were prohibited some time ago, but now the highest court in the land has followed the logic of that prohibition to its full inference. No more statues of any kind may be erected on public property. All those sculptures of famous Americans in the Capitol, for instance, have been given two weeks to vacate the premises. The Jefferson memorial will be converted to a skating rink.
Since statuary has long been traditional in our nation, a good number of Americans wonder how we have arrived at this new state of things. The origins of the litigation that led to the Supreme Court's decision should be better known. We at Touchstone take it upon ourselves to review that case here.
It all began at a public park in southern Oklahoma, where stood a large alabaster effigy of Roger N. Baldwin, the former Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Now let it be said at once, and with no expectation of dissent, that so illustrious a patriot certainly merited the statue, and for many years no one thought to challenge the arrangement. Those, however, were the days of our unthinking innocence.
But one summer afternoon last year a civic-minded tourist from Ohio, drawn by the many charms of southern Oklahoma, spotted the statue from his car window as he was driving by. Curious at the sight, he left his car and ambled over to where he found a group of civil libertarians singing “God Bless America” at the alabaster feet of Mr. Baldwin. Making inquiry of one of them, the gentleman from Ohio was informed that this ritual, organized by the ACLU, was enacted annually on July 21, the anniversary of the decision in the Scopes Trial.
The Ohioan was shocked to learn of this practice, nor was he otherwise dissuaded by the argument that Roger N. Baldwin, who had arguably done more to preserve the freedoms of Americans and to influence the course of history than George Washington and Abraham Lincoln put together, deserved to have a statue erected in his honor.
His shock was understandable. Singing a hymn (and certainly “God Bless America” qualifies as a hymn) in front of a statue constitutes an act of religion, and this act of religion was being done on public lands, supported by the hard-earned tax money of American citizens.
Returning to Ohio, this dedicated citizen contacted his many friends, who became the nucleus of a political action group called “Getting Rid of Idolatry in Public Environs” (GRIPE). This organization moved quickly to bring suit against the ACLU and all other groups that had, for many decades, blurred the wall of separation between church and state.
GRIPE found many occasions for its activism. Last autumn, for instance, the capital police arrested a Nebraskan who was seen to be moving his lips, probably in prayer, in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The park police at Mount Rushmore began to give warnings to visitors who gazed at the monument with what appeared to be an enthusiastic, almost religious, look on their faces. Then there was the lady found saying her Rosary at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty. As the park rangers took her away, she tried to explain that she had mistaken the statue for an image of Our Lady of the Harbor. This explanation scarcely helped.
Newspaper editorials and radio talk shows weighed in on the debate. There were demonstrations and counter-demonstrations at nearly every public statue in the nation. The ACLU went almost bankrupt with the legal fees required to preserve its own interests. Chris Matthews, on Hard Ball, interviewed Velma Crabtree who claimed to have been the mistress of Richard Lippold, Jacob Epstein, Kenneth Armitage, and several other sculptors. Tempers rose when The O’Reilly Factor exposed Velma as a fraud. The country was in an uproar.
Finally, however, we have received the decision of the highest court in the land. No matter how famous the citizen—be he even so renowned as Roger N. Baldwin—all statues and effigies on public property are strictly forbidden. The unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court stated the fundamental reason that prompted its decision: “Statues of famous individuals are intended to inspire the beholders by reminding them of the life and accomplishments of the one thus portrayed. If the said inspiration is sufficiently great, it assumes a religious quality. It may provoke faith, for example, and hope, possibly even charity. In sum, it constitutes the establishing of a religion, which is forbidden by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
THE ORTHODOX COVER-UP:
A reader writes in about last week's Ancient Teachings Now (Allegedly) Hidden:
I know this is a late response to an earlier blog, but I was intrigued by your relating the letter from the reader who spoke about hidden knowledge and "Self that is the higher self".
I have been involved in an extended email conversation with my mother (an ex-Catholic, self-described "new ager") about theology, religion, and Christianity. (I am a convert to Roman Catholicism.)
As you might expect my mother speaks often of how hard it is to be sure about anything, and how impossible it is for us humans to express anything accurately about the divine. However, one thing she is ABSOLUTELY SURE of is that the Catholic Church censored and destroyed crucial and ancient knowledge/scripture/beliefs of what she is SURE was "genuine Christianity". (She seems to think this happened at the Nicene Council, but is almost entirely ignorant about what actually HAPPENED at this council.)
I find this idea a very difficult one to directly engage her on. After all, I am no expert in ancient history, and even if I was, I know that there is no historical era or event of which EVERY historian universally agrees upon. And frankly, I suspect that her insisting on this point is much more ideological than historical.
In other words, she found what she wanted to find. At a time of personal difficulty with her childhood, pre-Vatican II, Catholic faith, she read some heavily anti-Catholic and biased books about Gnosticism and the Dead Sea Scrolls. It gave her a handy "expert" and "historical" surety that she was right in rejecting the organized Christianity she was familiar with.
Interestingly in the ensuing years she never did familiarize herself with what these "alternative gospels" ACTUALLY SAID! She still is emotionally angered at the "fact" that the Church suppressed information, while she herself seems to have no interest in taking advantage of the modern proliferation of this same information. I recently made a breakthrough (of sorts) in our conversation, when I got her to admit that the content of these writings doesn't matter AT ALL. It is the very fact that they exist, which to her mind, is "proof" against orthodox Christianity!
I suspect that your letter writer must come from a similar type background. My mom also talks a lot about reincarnation (which she claims she isn't sure about, but which is an enticing "possibility"), the importance of a "direct experience of God" (as opposed, I suppose, to my experience of receiving communion, or of prayerfully reading the Bible, or of humbly submitting to the Church's guidelines for life), and a lot of confused and general talk about the Self, the higher self, and the "God within".
Generally, whenever I try to get a precise definition or explanation of what exactly she means by these kinds of words, she becomes very evasive. I appreciated what you said about there being no discernable or public meaning to some of these kinds of words!
I think my mom would reply that there are no accepted meanings of these words because of 1) the alleged centuries of official Church oppression, or 2) that it is just "too hard" to put God into human words. However, I have yet to get her to give me her own personal definition or explanation of these words which has any coherence or convincing power.
Don't get me wrong, I love my mom, and she is definitely a good (if misled) person. From what little I know of her personal story, it was the sins and mistakes of Christians which played a big part in her loss of orthodox Christian faith. I judge her not, but I always speak as honestly (and charitably) as I can about the faith "ever ancient, ever new" which I have found in orthodox and creedal Christianity.
FROM THE INBOX AUGUST 4TH 2004:
Four items from today’s reading, as it happens all from the (Southern) Baptist Press.
— Our contributing editor Russell D. Moore on The American Protestant majority, RIP.
— And again, this time declaring that The moderates were right, providing a nice short defense of “credalism.” The same article can be found on the website of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute, of which he was the founding director.
— His boss and friend of the magazine Albert Mohler on Liberal theology: Losing its mind, in which he examines a new book by the Methodist theologian Professor Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., of Chicago Theological Seminary titled The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives From the New Testament.
Jennings, a United Methodist, argues that his approach is "pro-gay" rather than defensive in dealing with the biblical texts. Reading the Old Testament, he finds parallels in the relationship between Jonathan and David or Ruth and Naomi. The biblical texts should be read "from the perspective of a contemporary gay or clear sensibility." He explains: "Here the aim is to discover how the text appears when it is read from a standpoint affirmative of gay or queer reality — that is, what the text means now, when viewed from this perspective.”
. . . In order to make his case, Jennings turns especially to the Gospel of John and to its author, described as the disciple "whom Jesus loved." Jennings turns this into an assertion of homosexual attachment and relationship. He works through various New Testament texts in order to find parallels, arguing that the youth in the garden (Mark 14:50-52) was a homosexual prostitute and that the centurion's servant healed by Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10) was his homosexual lover. Jennings claims that this narrative "may be fairly read as Jesus' acceptance of, and even collaboration in a pederastic relationship."
Chicago Theological Seminary is a seminary of the United Church of Christ, which as I have mentioned before is sometimes called “Unitarians Considering Christ.” But apparently even they found this book a little too advanced, judging from the note about it they put on their website, as quoted in the article.
You may want to look at Dr. Mohler’s website
, by the way.
— The convicting story of a Romanian pastor who suffered for his faith: Romanian Josef Tson recounts God's grace amid suffering
CIVIL RIGHTS & WOODSTOCK:
A reader wrote about my entry on Sunday on The Greatest Generation:
James Kushiner brings up many valid reasons why the march of the 60's was a march towards a Huxleyan "Brave New World." Unfortunately, the legacy of the 60's is largely based on a "feel-good" culture that has led only to drug addiction, STD's, divorce, and most importantly, a profound sense of loneliness and despair for the proceeding generations, from which I am apart.
Unfortunately, the 60's will primarily be remembered for its sexual revolution, but lets not forget the 60's other revolutions. Let's not forget about people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, or people like Robert Kennedy and the peace movement to end a senseless war in Vietnam. Most importantly, may we never forget the "blacks only" signs that hung over segregated bathrooms, water fountains and lunch counters prior to the 60's, and may we never forget the time when the American people placed blind trust in their political leaders to do the right thing on matters of war and peace,
Fair enough point, of course. But it is no mere quibble to point out that what is commonly known as a cultural movement called the 60s (as I noted in the posting) runs roughly from the mids 60s into the 70s. I am not a historian, but let me suggest that the period between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Watergate-inspired resignation of Richard M. Nixon roughly frames the period.
The civil rights movement began in the 50s and it was under President Dwight Eisenhower that the federal government used its muscle to force the issue in places in the South where segregation was practiced. Indeed, it was on May 17, 1954 that the Brown v. Board Education case, argued in the U. S. Supreme Court in 1952 and 1953, was decided, and the court declared that
Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment -- even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.
…Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal.
The Civil Rights era marches came largely in the aftermath in order to enforce the Supreme Court decision, to put it perhaps a bit simply.
My point is that the institutions of the United States government, some of which came under fire and were in some cases discredited in what I am calling the 60s, were responsible for the advance of Civil Rights and the end of segregation as practiced then. The hippies and Vietnam protesters and the flocks that liberated themselves sexually and pharmaceutically on the green fields of Woodstock in 1969 cannot take credit for the Civil Rights movement and subsequent legislation. (Just for fun, check this out to see what happened to Woodstock
.) They can take credit, however, for other things not worth mentioning in the same company with the momentous achievement of Dr. King and those national leaders who saw and did what was right and just.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful I Have A Dream speech was delivered on August 28, 1963. By then the movement had peaked, the point had been made, much had been gained and The Civil Rights Act, the culmination of a long process, was officially signed into law in 1964.
So I see no reason at all to link Civil Rights struggle with the cultural revolution that we call the Sixties. Some say imagination rules the world, and in the popular mind of many there runs a straight line between Civil Rights and the so-called Sexual Revolution and other “gifts” of the Sixties. Otherwise films such as Pleasantville wouldn’t connect.
But while it may be true in the imagination, I don’t think it really was that way. What happened was a growing sexual liberation movement in America, fed by various auxiliary currents, wormed its way into the culture (or perhaps was the result of various aspects of culture that had been long in place), and became increasingly accepted on campuses, in Hollywood, in mainstream media, and appealed to a burgeoning younger generation of Baby Boomers (like me). I am thinking of the effect of the now-discredited Kinsey Report (1948 and 1953), the mainstreaming of pornography (Hugh Hefner), Hollywood’s abandonment of the Production Code, officially in 1967, the rise of the Beat Generation in the 1950s, along with its drug culture, and the founding of the very influential New York Review of Books, which plumped for increasingly radical causes, in 1963, to give a few examples. (For more, I recommend Roger Kimball’s The Long March
to anyone interested in “How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America,” as the subtitle of that book puts it.)
Members of the Greatest Generation, such as my parents, approved of the Civil Rights legislation and desegregation. They saw it as right. But the Civil Rights movement had peaked before the sexual liberation movement took over. To the extent that it claimed any affinity with Civil Rights, it was parasitic on the Civil Rights movement.
In the view of at least one speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, Civil Rights, Vietnam protests, Woodstock, Roe v. Wade--it’s all of one piece. This comes from a blindness to which we are all susceptible. We like the world in simple black and whites. And while there are simple black and whites (such as that killing a human life in the womb is inhumane, and that homicide is wrong), we can’t paint everything that way.
But we are particularly tempted to paint people and movements that way, including political parties and politicians, because they are often complex, changeable, even deceptively so. The best way I can summarize this error, when it is an error, is to say: Just because someone is right about one important thing doesn’t mean they are right about everything. Just because someone was wrong about segregation, also, doesn’t mean they were wrong about everything else they believed; just because someone supported Civil Rights doesn't mean that they are right about everything else.
I don’t see much value in what the Sixties brought us at all. Civil Rights came by another route, in the 50s, through the Supreme Court, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, and, I suppose, LBJ, and the political process, under the guiding eye of people “over 30.” Let Civil Rights stand alone as a singular achievement and give credit where credit is due. The courage and witness of the black protesters in the South who faced beatings, dogs, prison, even death, should not be sullied by the muddy fields of Woodstock.
CORRECTION ON IRAQ CHURCHES
Just a short addendum to Mr. Kushiner's comments on the bombings of Iraqi Christian churches yesterday. Evidently, because Sunday is a normal workday in Iraq, Christians attend church normally in the evening after work, not on Sunday morning. Also, I read that in one bombing attempt the explosive killed an entire Moslem family living next door to the church.
--Arnold Conrad, Seattle
I had heard, perhaps in error, that one bombing did take place on Sunday morning at a Catholic Church with worshippers present. At any rate, I think it important to keep in mind what sort of people these terrorist are. They are in no way religious.
ONE OF THE “GREATEST” REPLIES
Re: Honoring the greatest generation (Sunday, August 1):
A very well said article. I just returned from a "One Last Look" Tour of the 398th Bomb Squadron with my old next door neighbor, a tail gunner in a B-17 and tour leader/arranger for about 15 trips over the last 17 years back to the old base near Cambridge and to celebrations with former enemies, victims and allies in Germany and Czechoslovakia. We attended 60th Anniversary D-Day Celebrations in Normandy (I got so close to GW Bush that I could see him with my telephoto lens...) and had memorial services for lost crew members at multiple places including the old base.
Almost all 11 veterans and 5 widows on the tour would agree with you but they did not voice this because one navigator/retired MD and one widow were looking from the left. Part of the "problem" is that they also didn't complain about bad leaders and they were polite. Even the president of the association didn't voice his politics except to me behind closed doors when he found out we agreed with each other. But they also believed that right would win even if they didn't speak out publicly because of their faith in God.
Certainly some believe that WW II might have been lessened or avoided if more people recognized what was happening in Germany and Japan and spoken up en masse. It is a difficult time because we must speak out even if we are not eloquent and we know we also are imperfect sinners ourselves, all the while confident that this is but a staging ground and God's Righteousness will win in the end.
An encouraging news story and leader (editorial) from The Daily Telegraph: the story is Dying man wins treatment fight, which reports that the General Medical Council
GMC [General Medical Council] guidelines published in 2002 tell doctors it is their responsibility, rather than that of the patient, to decide whether to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging treatment.
Paragraph 81 effectively allows doctors to withdraw artificial nutrition or hydration from a patient who is not dying because it "may cause suffering, or be too burdensome in relation to the possible benefits".
The leader Whose life is it anyway?
NEWS FROM OTHER DENOMINATIONS?:
The first two items in today’s “From the Inbox” provide links for Episcopal or Anglican news. That is the world I know, and I would be glad to have readers’ recommendations of similar news sources and blogsites for the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and others, which I will pass on to our readers.
FROM THE INBOX OCTOBER 3rd 2004:
— For those of you interested in Anglican affairs, perhaps the best source for news is CaNN, which stands for Classical Anglican News Network. The site also offers links to many other stories as well.
— And while I’m thinking of it, those of you interested in Anglican affairs may want to check out three blogsites: the Midwestern Conservative Journal, written by Christopher Johnson, a layman until recently an Episcopalian; Pontifications, written by an Episcopal priest whose name doesn’t seem to appear on the site; and TitusOneNine, written by Kendall Harmon, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of South Carolina.
— An interesting comparison of two formative Christian figures: Eduardo Echeverria’s Living Truth for a Post-Christian World, comparing Francis Schaeffer’s book Death in the City with the pope’s Sign of Contradiction.
— Another response to the string that began with What publishers can do to children and continued with Destruction of innocence, this one from a reader named “Will”:
Thanks for your essays about parents co-operating in corrupting their children. From my experience, one other aspect seems to be that some parents want their children to be “hip” or “in” — and hence push them to conform to the culture. I have known mothers, for example, who would push astrology on their children because they thought it was the fashionable thing to do — and this was even so thirty to forty years ago.
Now that he mentions it, I have seen this myself. I am appalled, but then I also wonder how many of us (more sensible parents) do this without even realizing it. It may be that we don’t push our children into sexual deviancy (I’m including fornication among the deviant behaviors), but we may press them on them more respectable pursuits because it is the fashionable thing to do in our circles. Academic achievement, for example, which we push so hard that we and they begin “to prefer intellectual excellence to moral,” as John Henry Newman described his own youthful temptation in his autobiography, the Apologia pro vita sua
(a great book, by the way).
— Mark Steyn on John Kerry: Could Kerry slum it in the White House?
from The Daily Telegraph
(the site may require registration).
A SOLDIER ON BUSH & REARDON:
The reader criticized in More on Turkey and Europe has sent a response.
Father Reardon has laid three charges against my view towards EU and US duplicity concerning Iraq: that it is inaccurate, impertinent, and unjust. I feel I need to address these charges, so here goes.
The charge of being impertinent is the most important, since it says that the topic of US intervention itself had nothing to do with his topic of the EU and Turkey. I disagree with this charge. After all, Father Reardon did bring up the Iraqi conflict, and he did criticize the EU for not getting involved, however underhanded his critique might have been. He also claimed the reason they didn’t get involved was because they didn’t care about Iraqi minorities, a charge which I partially agreed with, citing my evidence of EU duplicity with its business relations with Baghdad.
Knowing Father Reardon’s views on the US involvement with Iraq, and knowing Father Reardon’s critique of the EU in regard to US intervention in Iraq, I added my comments about US intervention to the discussion, trying to point out that every nation — even the US — is duplicitous and self-serving. This was my intention. This, in my humble opinion, reveals Romans 6:23: “For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Rich, poor, individuals, and even nations fall under this category.
As to the charge of inaccuracy, I remember saying that the Bush administration didn’t say much about the poor Iraqi people. I will admit this is a little inaccurate, although the plight of Iraqis was not the primary reason given by Bush and Co. for invading Iraq. In his speech to the UN on Sept. 12, 2002, in his Cincinnati speech, in the 2003 state of the union address and in Colin Powell’s testimony to the UN security commission in Feb. 2003 (the one with the drawings of semi-truck labs “proving” beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saddam was producing WMD), the constant mantra of the Bush administration was that Saddam was a threat to America’s national security.
This was the primary reason for going to war with Iraq, as it should’ve been. Lyndon Johnson said before he got involved with the Vietnam mess “Why should American boys do what Vietnamese boys should be doing for themselves?” The same should hold true for Iraq or any war in which the lives of America’s brave men and women in uniform are placed in harm’s way. I should know about the sacrifice of the American soldier, since I am one of them. I disagreed with the war, but I went anyways when my country called me.
This is why my comments have a tendency to be a little hyperbolic at times. Every time I hear of an American soldier dying, I take it personally, and I hold the Bush administration accountable for the life of every soldier who has died in this unnecessary conflict. How dare the Bush administration tell me and my fellow soldiers that this conflict is now about saving the lives of the Iraqi people when it was originally intended to protect the lives of our fellow American’s from Saddam’s supposed stockpile of WMD? As we have seen over and over again, the Iraqi people don’t seem to appreciate our charity efforts through the barrel of an M-16 A2.
As to the claims of injustice, I think it is the other way around. I think it is the Bush administration that is unjust for sending me and my fellow soldiers to a war under false pretenses, and then giving us another false pretense when that false pretense turns out to be, well, false.
Father Reardon mentioned that my charge of profiteering against Bush and Co. to be “ludicrous beyond further comment.” I respectfully but vehemently disagree with Father Reardon in this assessment. As soon as the first rounds were being shot by American forces, Bush and Co. were already planning re-construction efforts, efforts which largely involved a select few companies with ties to the administration.
The primary company I mentioned was Halliburton, which was headed by VP Dick Cheney from 1995-2000. A CNN article dated 3/25/2003 reported that “President Bush asked congress for $489.3 million to cover the cost of repairing damage to Iraq’s oil facilities.” The article goes on to say, “MUCH or ALL of which could go to Halliburton or its subcontractors under the terms of its contract with the Army” (see here). Another article in the British Guardian mentioned that Kellog Brown Root — a subsidiary of Halliburton — was awarded a $33 million contract to build the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay (see here). An MSNBC article claimed that it would cost the taxpayers $25 billion dollars to rebuild Iraq, “almost all of that money will go to private contractors who vie for lucrative government deals.”
This falls in line with order 39, which was given by Paul Bremer and which allows foreign (mostly US) companies to rebuild Iraq. I’m sorry, but if our intention is to build a democratic Iraqi society, then shouldn’t Iraqis also have the chance to bid for these contracts, since it’s their own country to begin with?! It’s also not a coincidence (at least in my mind) that most of these companies — Halliburton, Bechtel, Fluor Corp., Parsons Corp., Louis Berger Co. — have strong connections to the Bush administration.
To add to the cynicism, it has been reported that Halliburton traded with Baghdad through French affiliates WHILE Cheney was at it’s helm between 1997-2000 (see here). There is also evidence that a US company headed by Rumsfeld sold Saddam the chemical and biological agents he used to gas the Kurds in 1988, all under the pretense of fighting the Iranian government.
Today's e-mail brought the following message purported to originate with Bill Gates, who delivered it recently at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, CA. As a former teacher in a Junior High, I relished the thing:
Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one
If you agree, pass it on.
If you can read this - Thank a teacher!
If you are reading it in English-Thank a soldier!!
ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE IN IRAQ
The targeting of 5 Christian churches in Iraq on Sunday morning should remove any doubt about the sort of people the U.S. has been dealing with in Iraq. This was not an anti-American act, but anti-Christian Iraqi. Fanatical terrorists have also killed Muslims whom they consider to be too moderate, in other words, who don’t support terrorism.
The Iraqi Christian community in exile in the United States stood behind the war in Iraq. I remember when the war began, while certain American protestors were calling the war a crime, Iraqis staged a pro-war rally in Chicago. Many of them, as you would expect, had relatives in Iraq. And many of them had relatives in Iraq buried in the many mass graves created and filled by the maniac Saddam Hussein.
The Assyrian Christians of Chicago, many of them Iraqis, will be holding memorial services for the dead today, I am told.
DANIEL HUTCHENS, R.I.P.
I am saddened today to learn of the death of Mr. Daniel Hutchens on July 31, 2004. I was aware that senior editor Steven M. Hutchens’s father was gravely ill and that Steve had gone to be with him over the weekend. Like David Mills, whose father died last month, Steve was also with his father when he died.
Daniel Hutchens is a man that I was privileged to have known. He was a follower of Christ. He was also a long-time supporter of Touchstone, especially during its early days when it struggled to survive. We last saw him at our Fall 2003 conference in Mundelein.
Steve gave a memorable tribute to his father at our 1999 conference on Fatherhood. It was later published as “The Craft of Fatherhood” in January 2001. As a tribute to a very fine Christian gentlemen, an important friend of the ministry, I would like to quote briefly some of Steve’s words about his father from that article:
Fatherhood is a craft to be passed from father to son. However inattentive a son I have been, I am at least perceptive enough to recognize my own father’s mastery. . . .
My father taught his children to honor and serve God because it is meet and right so to do—because God is, and is Who he is, the Source and Ground of all that is real and true. . . .
It became clear early on that in our home we did not serve ourselves, much less paternal whim, but lived our lives according to an order that was outside my father’s jurisdiction, and to which he himself submitted.
…I am…a strong advocate of the manly, soldierly, reality-conscious faith my father gave me, not by preaching, but by doing his duty in serving God before his sons. He did not analyze it, but analysis shows it to be a great thing in a humble package, pursued less by calculation than by solid instincts undergirt by what the Romans called virtus--translatable as “manliness.”
May Daniel Hutchens, servant of Christ, know the eternal rest of all the saints who are in Christ Jesus.
HONORING THE GREATEST GENERATION
When I sat across the table from the President of the United States last May in the West Wing of the White House, I couldn’t help but think of my father. I couldn’t help thinking of his father too. The Memorial Day weekend was also coming up, and President Bush mentioned that he was going to dedicate the new World War Two Veterans Memorial just a few blocks away. Both of our fathers served overseas in World War II and had returned home safely after seeing combat.
When checking into my hotel earlier, I met a couple of veterans. They are looking old. My father just turned 83 and I have heard much lately about how those who survived the war are now dying by the thousands every week. They will not be with us much longer, I am afraid.
They have also been called “The Greatest Generation.” If this is true, and I wouldn’t want to argue that it is not, then shouldn’t Americans have some sense of what the moral values and virtues of this generation were, with the deepest respect and gratitude?
This is what bothered me in the White House. I know that the country for which my father and the President’s father fought has changed in many ways, some for the good, but many for the worse. Did my father fight at Monte Cassino and at Anzio to protect American liberties and the liberties of those under the dark shadow of fascism? He and his generation think they did.
But he is also saddened and deeply disappointed with what our country has done to those liberties, distorting them to the point that they do violence to first principles upon which civilizations have flourished for millennia. I mean the sanctity of life. I mean respect for marriage and family. I mean the rejection of immoral means for any desirable end.
My parents and millions of this generation now sadly fading one by one quietly into the night of failing human memory, do not believe it right for children to be violently removed from the wombs of those who conceived them. They do not believe that homosexual couples have a right to be accorded marriage. They do not believe it right for their grandchildren to be informed that they can either grow up to have sexual relations with either sex, or both, forced at young ages to hear graphic descriptions of various sexual practices. They believe the push to clone humans and harvest stem cells from human embryos has more in common with Brave New World and the Third Reich than it does with a humane respect for the mystery of human life.
The men and women of this generation may be the greatest generation, but many of them are not only the forgotten and ignored generation, they are the disappointed generation. Their disappointment grew over the years, with the mainstreaming of drugs, abortion, and a sexual “liberation” that demonstrably is bad for young people, couples, marriages, and families. Woodstock was the symbol of this new age.
At the recent political convention presidential candidate John Kerry said of events beginning from the early 60s, “It was the beginning of a great journey -– a time to march for civil rights, for voting rights, for the environment, for women, and for peace. We believed we could change the world. And you know what? We did. But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The march isn't over.”
To me, that sounds like all the work of the 60s isn’t completed and that’s what this election is about. Well, there is a point to that.
There really are at least two Americas, and to speak of this is not to be divisive, but merely recognize a division that already deeply exists. There are those for whom the 60s (late 60s and early 70s, actually) was the great awakening of cultural energy, a new chapter in liberty for mankind. And then there are those others, like my parents, who saw it for what it really was.
One need only ask certain questions to know whether it was for good or for ill. Are families better off? Crime, drug addiction, sexual abuse, gambling addiction, alcohol addiction, fatherlessness, teen suicide, teen depression, teen violence, domestic violence, child abuse, infanticide—all of these are commonplace items in the local and national news of our nation now. They have increased dramatically over several decades.
President George W. Bush told us that he views his job as helping to change the culture from a culture of “if it feels good do it” to one of moral responsibility: promoting a culture of life where “every child is welcomed into life and protected by law.” He views his role as President to be “a voice for cultural change.” He said it was “one of the reasons I got into politics.” Normally, I wouldn’t think that a president needs to focus on cultural change. But if a culture is decadent and likely to bring a nation down the path of perdition, his job to defend the United States might suggest he think clearly about cultural problems and the grim implications of the current vices our culture has mainstreamed—and do something about them.
America got into World War I rather late. It also took some time, and Pearl Harbor, to force us into World War II. We didn’t confront the Bolshevik poison until after World War II when after 30 years it had spread across much of Europe by force of arms. But we stood strong in the end and watched it fall of its own weight.
It is not too late, yet, to say No to the experiment of the 60s. Lines can still be drawn. The family can be strengthened by revisiting loose divorce laws and by restricting the reach of activist courts. Ultimately, the culture has to be healed one person at a time, something that also has been a theme of President Bush. His father and my father went through World War II. We all went through the 60s. If we want to honor the greatest generation, we should honor their virtues by upholding them. No, they weren’t perfect, they were not saints. But they also know that any society that has the problems that we have and doesn’t do something about them will never be great and certainly not worthy of the sacrifices made to protect the freedoms which it has so badly abused.