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Saturday, October 30

FORGIVENESS AND ORTHODOXY

Years ago I subscribed to a journal produced by the intellectual leadership of a small American denomination that was known for its theological orthodoxy and commitment to the life of the mind.

As such it had produced leading intellectuals far out of proportion to its size, many of whom were internationally known for their integration of Christianity with the liberal arts and sciences. I was surprised to find the magazine full of resentful criticism of its own heritage. Many who wrote for it simply didn’t seem able to separate the great and valuable gifts they had received in their patrimony from what I imagine was the rather strict, humorless, and yes, probably bigoted preservative in which they had come packaged.

That denomination has since split, as one might have expected, much of its leadership now functionally, if not explicitly, liberal. It still professes devotion to the life of the mind, but not the orthodoxy of its fathers—an epitaph that may be found on many similar graves, such as the one intellectual leadership of American Evangelicalism, ever resentful of its fundamentalist parentage, has nearly finished digging for itself.

The Lord commanded on pain of eternal death that we forgive. I have come to believe that one of the reasons for this is that we cannot inherit anything good from those who have gone before us if we cannot, through the understanding possible only in forgiveness, separate their sins from their virtues. If we insist — a tendency, perhaps, of the national character of the denomination of which I am writing here — in treating them as an amalgam, we cannot take the virtues without the faults, or we will reject the virtues, leaving us the long task of finding them elsewhere, or abandoning them as irremediably connected with something bad. The people I am speaking of here apparently could conceive of no alternative between liberalism and conservatism of the ugly sort. My own experience indicates that there are many minds that are constructed this way, and their conversion, as well as their education, can only be accomplished through the willingness to forgive

Here also, however, is a warning for those who wish for their children to follow their faith, in which many of the fathers of this denomination apparently failed. You cannot accomplish this through false means. You cannot make or preserve Christians by “mere conservatism.” It must be done through love. You cannot accomplish through law what can only be done in grace. You must do more than train your children, you must train them in love, for only love can propagate desire for the orthodoxy that is truly Christian. Only in love can they comprehend the ratio of right doctrine.Divide these from one another, and you have disinherited them.


11:09 AM


PLANNED PARENTHOOD & CHRISTIANITY TODAY: A SORRY TALE

From a reader: "On Mr Kushiner's comment and link to CT: Maybe the young woman needs to check out Dawn Eden's dumpster-diving into Planned Parenthood's 'Teenwire' site to regain a bit of moral alarm about Planned Parenthood's malevolence."

Right, I had forgotten about Dawn's great work on PP and teens. They have something to apologize for. Dawn Eden has a blog, the Dawn Patrol, where she writes on that very article today (Oct. 29), and also has additional material on PP's Teenwire there. Read it, and then decide what you think about the CT article.


1:20 AM


Friday, October 29

RESPONSE: WHITHER CHRISTIANITY TODAY?

Ray Keating, columnist for Newsday, replies to yesterday's “Big Fat 'Single-Issue' Vote” blog:

You are right on target. I read CT's editorial with some bewilderment. However, it follows on an editorial the previous month focusing on global warming. That editorial read more like the social justice tripe one expects from liberals in mainline Protestant churches and parts of the Catholic Church in the U.S., rather than sound biblical, Christian doctrine. It seems the magazine is starting to wander down the path of saying something on everything, and thereby losing its authority on clear biblical issues.

I wrote a Newsday column recently addressing the issue of church and politics in general. You guys know the arguments, obviously, but thought you might be interested in the piece. Link is here.
I didn't mention the article in the same issue of CT that I critiqued, "Why I Apologized to Planned Parenthood."


5:45 PM


PRO-LIFE DEMOCRATS IN THE KEYSTONE STATE

Paul Kengor, a professor at Grove City College, writes about pro-life Democrats in Pennsylvania in today's Post-Gazette. He notes that abortion just might be a swing issue in this hotly contested state, especially if the numerous pro-life Democrats take John Kerry's votes and positions seriously and contrast them with President Bush's record. Of course, he helps them do this:

On Aug. 2, 1994, on the Senate floor, [John Kerry] stated: "The right thing to do is to treat abortions as exactly what they are -- a medical procedure that any doctor is free to provide and any pregnant woman free to obtain. Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure.... [A]bortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice."

In April 2004, Kerry took a rare timeout from the presidential campaign to appear on the Senate floor to vote against a bill that would make it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on the mother. Kerry also joined a Senate minority in voting against a ban on partial-birth abortion.
There is also a story circulating that Kerry actually favors a ban on abortion in the third trimester, a position he failed to mention in the debates or on the campaign trail. The story is based on Kerry's 1997 vote in favor of a change to a partial-birth abortion bill that would ban all abortions in the third trimester, but with the usual liberals' exceptions of the life of the mother and her “health.” Health can mean emotional health, social health, mental health, as the patient and her doctor might deem it. Which is, of course, no ban, at all really. Asked about Kerry's position on this, his campaign said that he stands by his vote. So the story goes that he supported and supports such a ban “after the fetus becomes viable.”

The story might make a pro-life Democrat think Kerry really is more pro-life than he lets on. But he isn't, as his record right up through 2004 makes abundantly clear. It's just a story to confuse the voters.

Dr. Kengor does a good job summarizing the pro-life initiatives of President Bush, by the way, and it's worth reading to see what has been done, so far. None of these things, dare I say, would have been done under a President Kerry, and he has pledged to reverse one of them, the Mexico City Policy, as his first executive order.

Pennsylvania, home of pro-life Democrat Robert Casey, might prove to be a swing state in more ways than one.


2:57 PM


BALLOT BOX BLUES:

One of our Touchstone contributors, J. Budziszewski, has a regular column entitled "Ask Theophilus," out on Boundless Webzine. His latest entry, Ballot Box Blues narrates an encounter between Budziszewski's fictional Dr. Theophilus and two college students pondering how to vote in the current election. If you know a college student who's trying to wade through campus political rhetoric in the closing days of the election (or anyone for that matter who needs to clarify the issues and make distinctions among them, as our editors have been trying to do in this space), send them to Dr. Theophilus for sound advice.


1:32 PM


LUTHER NEWS

A curiosity, sent in by one of our contributing editors, Kevin Offner, a Protestant Christian, a friend, who works in D.C. with InterVarsity and graduate students. In case you're interested, it's here and it begins:

German archaeologists have discovered the lavatory on which Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses that launched the Protestant Reformation.
If you want to know more, you can take it from here. I refuse to even think about puns or double entendres.


11:43 AM


ROBERT HART RESPONDS TO BIG FAT “SINGLE-ISSUE” VOTE

From contributing editor Robert Hart:

As I was driving across the Bay bridge to my home on Maryland's Eastern Shore, I saw a most disturbing anomaly attached to the back of a woman's car. It expressed the sort of mindless contradiction that epitomizes all that is wrong with Maryland voters. As with most Western readers, my eyes naturally scan from left to right; and so I saw first the bumper sticker to my left. I was pleased to see those familiar words "It's a child not a choice." Amen! Preach it sister--another pro-lifer, probably a real Christian. Then my eyes scanned the other side of her car, on my right. In blue and white, with a dash of red, was a sticker that I assumed would say "Bush/ Cheney." But, as I got closer, I saw that it said "Kerry/ Edwards." Over the loud organ music of J.S. Bach, I could hear myself exclaim "Good God woman, make up your rabbit-a---d mind!"

What does this seemingly pro-life woman think that a President Kerry would do for the child who is not a choice? She might be satisfied that he "personally" believes that the child is a human life, just one not worth saving- perhaps the way Jews were not worth saving for loyal members of the Nazi party. She may even admire him for being a man who, in the words of Walter Williams, can "rise above principle and do the 'right' thing." After all, he expressed his personal, very personal and terribly private conviction, by which he must loathe, hate, and condemn his public "duties" — for which he must forsake his private conscience (she must not have seen A Man For All Seasons). She may be proud to temper her pro-life sentiments by demonstrating that she is above "single issue" voting, and that she is above any sense of priorities.

On the other hand, she may just be an old fashioned Maryland voter, the type who enters the voting booth in the spirit of the three monkeys who stopped ears, eyes, and mouth, saying "see no evil", "hear no evil", "speak no evil." Mr. Kerry has already told us that he will only appoint as federal judges and Supreme Court justices, people who "will protect a woman's right to choose," meaning that a pro-abortion prejudice is going to be his litmus test. He would probably be able to appoint at least four Supreme Court justices, enough to seal the fate of unborn children for several more decades. The ban on Partial Birth Abortion would be dead, and Roe vs. Wade could never be challenged. Furthermore, we could expect such a Supreme Court to uphold every anti-life ruling some judge might hand down in the lower courts, defeating every legislative effort to prevent tax money for paying for these abominable procedures, or to in any way lessen the number of abortions.

In other words, this woman thinks she can be pro-life in her heart, but with her hand take part in the actual performing of mass murder. Like her candidate, she will not impose her private conscience on anyone, except for that malformed part of conscience that calls her to "rise above principle and do the 'right' thing" too. She would have made a good SS officer, because she would have felt guilty about all the people she was murdering; after all, it's the thought that counts.

Bob Hart +


11:11 AM


Thursday, October 28

REVOLTING VOTE

The internet and airwaves are thick with commentary on politics, and religion's role in the election is probably getting more attention than ever. I do think that the so-called divide you see between the red states and blue states is also a divide that runs between Christians in most, if not all, churches.

There really are no thorougly red and blue states, but there are red and blue states of mind. Where the opinions are strongest in each, there is voter revulsion at the thought of voting for the other candidate. Anti-Bush sentiment is no secret, while anti-Kerry sentiment is also there, but perhaps not as pronounced because he has not been the president for the past four years.

Now my question to Christians who are conflicted on the matter. For some, voting for Bush is probably revolting for various reasons. As I argued earlier, the life and marriage issues are at stake, and most active Christian churchgoers do not support abortion and gay marriage I would wager. To those who feel revulsion at George Bush for whatever reason I ask, do you have a similiar strong revulsion when it comes to pulling the lever for a pro-abortion liberal like John Kerry? If not, then I have to wonder how strongly you value the unborn and really see abortion as the evil that you say you do. There's rhetoric, and there's sentiment, and then there's gut reactions.

Character, it is said, is what you do when no one is looking. In the voting booth, can you really pull the lever for Kerry? A man who has said that his very first executive order will be to overturn the Mexico City policy that till now has not allowed funding for organizations that promote abortion overseas? What does that tell you about him? Isn't that revolting enough? Shall we become accomplices in this holocaust?


11:08 PM


MY BIG FAT “SINGLE-ISSUE” VOTE

If you so happen to be one of those “single issue” voters on pro-life issues, like me, and perhaps a few million other thoughtful and concerned Christians in this country, then Christianity Today has a word for you: unwise.

In the interest of wising up, read their November lead editorial (“For Whom Would Jesus Vote? Single-issue politics is neither necessary or wise”). You will learn that CT agrees with the wisdom of a document from the National Association of Evangelicals called “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.” CT says that it

encourages evangelicals of all political stripes to work together not just for the sanctity of human life, but also for religious freedom, family life, the poor, peacemaking, and creation care. While sanctity-of-life issue will always be of vital interest to Christians, today's context demands that believers engage a broad spectrum of issues.
(It's not clear whether the last sentence is CT or the NAE speaking. It doesn't matter.) We have already argued in “First Things First” that such a list of issues gives no biblical guidance as to the priority of some issues over others. Thus it does not help voters make truly biblical decisions, and worse, misleads them into treating secondary and prudential questions as if they were as important as the primary and certain.

The Bible is crystal clear that the sanctity of human life and marriage are the pillars of human society. Destroy them and you ruin everything on that “broad spectrum of issues.” It is not crystal clear on other matters, like what the government should do about poverty.

Well, where doesCT stand on the matter of abortion and related pro-life issues? We read in various paragraphs of the editorial that:

1) they are “of vital interest to Christians.”
2) “abortion is the wrongful taking of innocent human life and a grave sin.”
3) “the sanctity of human life is a given.”
4) “abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and like issues should be prime concerns for us all.”
5) “Abortion is a monstrous tragedy for the nation.”

But number 4 is followed by: “But we can't stop there. Jesus is Lord of all.” And then comes another appeal, from the NAE, that “while individual persons and organizations may rightly concentrate on one or two issues, faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda.” Number 5 is followed by another But: “but our Christian commitment to a culture of life does not permit us the luxury of abandoning other important issues.”

The editorial ends: “While single-mindedness in following Christ is always wise, single-issue voting may not be.”

So how should abortion affect our vote? Every Christian will agree with CT that “faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda.” But what is that balance? How is it expressed in the voting booth? Why is a balance in which life issues have the most weight unwise? Why is opposition to “a grave sin” and “a monstrous tragedy” to be treated as if it were of the same importance as differences over (apparently) welfare payments or the minimum wage? This the editorial does not explain.

The editorial makes much of its case negatively. It has you in mind, single-issue voters, when it says, “Many Christians think they at least know for whom the Lord would not vote, based on one issue.”

After mentioning senatorial candidate Alan Keyes's remark about Jesus not voting for opponent Barack Obama because of his anti-life vote in the Illinois Senate, CT notes
James I. Lamb, executive director of the pro-life group Lutherans for Life, also thinks he knows. “A candidate who favors abortion should be disqualified from receiving a Christian's vote.”
If this sounds like what a number of Roman Catholic bishops have said, it's because they have. But CT seems to muddy the Catholic waters as well. In invoking Cardinal Ratzinger's much-publicized and misunderstood clarification about “proportionality,” CT, ignoring the ample commentary by Catholic bishops, effectively resorts to misrepresentation by asking a question designed to frame the issue as they prefer to see it: “But how do you measure whether a candidate's goodon other issues outweighs his or her bad on the question of human life?”

The reader is supposed to think that Cardinal Ratzinger agrees that single-issue voting is unwise. But for Ratzinger the sort of “proportionality” which might allow someone to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate comes into play only when the alternative is doing something demonstrably worse than allowing or creating an abortion holocaust.

As some Catholics have rightly pointed out, it's hard to imagine a scenario today in which the Christian would be morally free to not vote for a pro-life candidate or to vote for a pro-choice candidate when a pro-life candidate is running. It certainly wouldn't be okay just because the Christian thinks the pro-choice candidate has better tax, education, welfare, medical, and/or environmental programs.

Read the editorial for yourself. See if you gain some moral clarity about your responsibility as a Christian in the voting booth. It seems entirely designed from beginning to end to assert the folly of those who vote “single-issue” (in this case, for George W. Bush), without a word of warning for those who might go too far in the other direction and who do not give life issues the weight even CT gives them, if only rhetorically. While telling readers what it thinks “unwise,” it does not tell them what wisdom is. (I will be surprised if the editorial was approved by executive editors J. I. Packer, Timothy George, and Thomas Oden.)

The editorial effectively muddies the waters for those whose consciences cannot endure the thought of supporting the slaughter of innocents, and salves the consciences of those who wish to vote for a candidate who is “pro-choice.”

The subtext of this editorial (and most other pieces decrying single-issues voters that I have read) seems to be “single-issue” equals “simple-minded.”

Single-issue, simple-minded, voter? No, not me. Just for the record, I've changed my mind. I am going to vote based on my concerns on a number of top-priority issues, not just abortion. Such as:

Human embryonic experimentation and research.
Human cloning.
Euthanasia.
Assisted suicide.
Defense of marriage as a man-woman institution. With the acceptance of gay-marriage as a constitutional right, public schools eventually will have to accept this redefinition of marriage and teach it. The traditional view will be termed “religious doctrine” and ruled as unsuitable for public schools, and perhaps considered as “hate speech.”
The appointment of federal court and Supreme Court justices who respect the sanctity of life and marriage.
The appointment of federal court and Supreme Court justices who respect freedom of religion in the public square.
Rolling back the activist judicial state that is demonstrably increasingly anti-religious.

After 1973, “single-issue voting” meant “voting against abortion.” But even then the wisest saw that they were not voting on a single issue, but against a legal, moral, and social evil that would express itself in more and more ways as people grew used to it. The other evils above have come in under the dark wings of that beast.

The list grows, and this evil affects matters like poverty policy as well. Over time, it will cheapen our society's view of all human life. If an unborn child has no right to live till birth, will people begin to ask why he has a right to food, housing, and education once he's born? Is a society indifferent to the claims of the vulnerable unborn likely to be one that cares much about the vulnerable born?

If Christianity Today can't see Brave New World lurking, and the need for Christians to vote against it as a “single issue,” it has lost its vision of “faithful evangelical civic engagement.”


5:01 PM


MORE ON THE CATHOLIC VOTE:

J. Bottum, books and arts editor of the Weekly Standard, gives a brief tour of Catholic political history in America and wonders if there is (or ever was) a definable Catholic vote in American politics (warning: the article is on the longish side). Also, reader Patrick O'Hannigan directs us to an online debate out at Mirror of Justice, a “blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory,” on which Professor Russell Hittinger, a leading proponent of natural law, responds to Catholic colleagues who pronounce solidarity with the unborn whilst supporting Senator Kerry's election.


4:25 PM


THE SMART EVANGELICAL

When American Evangelicals cast their ballots next Tuesday, the vast majority will vote for George Bush and the Republicans. The majority, but not all. Some will vote for John Kerry, some for Ralph Nader, and some not at all. No, these are not examples of the Stupid Vote of which I have written, and which the Democrats court so assiduously. Quite the opposite, in fact. These are the Smart Evangelicals. They read lots of books, and are therefore not your (or their) father’s Evangelical. Their education has brought them a great deal more objectivity on matters political than Evangelicals of the Common Sort, along with a heavy dose of cynicism on the motives and operations of politicians and political parties.

In them one finds none of the idealism that would support Mr. Bush because his party says it stands for a strong business community, smaller government, personal responsibility, and a forthright, proactive national defense. The Smart Evangelical knows the other side of this coin: greed, self-interest, self-serving hypocrisy in fiscal matters, imperialism, substructural classicism, racism, and sexism--with a strong military to support it. The Republican Party, the Smart Evangelical knows, is excellent cover for certain kinds of devil. Bush’s personal qualities, while admittedly attractive, are overshadowed by the fact that he is clearly not a member of the intelligentsia, to which guild the Smart Evangelical desperately wishes to prove he belongs, and to which this candidate makes no particular appeal.

To support Bush, and to let this support be known, would be to identify with someone the liberals to whom he has always applied for authentication as an Intelligent Person have declared to be Stupid, and there is nothing—not death or the fires of hell--the Smart Evangelical fears more than this. He will do whatever is necessary to avoid being called a fundamentalist, that is, someone who might vote for a candidate principally because he believes in God, prays daily for guidance, and supports (O sancta simplicitas!) common sense and the traditional order. The liberal who learns this secret has Smart Evangelical firmly in hand. (And let me do my ecumenical duty here by saying that he has his counterpart in the Smart Catholic, whose vote Mr. Kerry, being one of them, will most certainly receive.)

I am thankful for the very good judgment of the Evangelical publication Books and Culture for publishing my very Protestant review of Pearce’s C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, which Touchstone found inappropriate for an ecumenical journal, in its November/December 2004 issue. I am not so impressed with its serving, in that same issue, as a nearly perfect example of what I am referring to above. Its front cover, shot against an American flag, features a handsome photograph of the rock star Bono under the caption “Bono For President.” Beneath him are unflattering photographs of the President and Mr. Kerry, and inside is a chart of mostly non-political types, including Bono and his band members, that are, with tongue at least halfway into the cheek, suggested by the editors as a more authentic cabinet than anything the Republicans or Democrats, political creatures that they are, could put together.

The reference is to a book reviewed in the magazine that emphasizes the charitable mind of the rock star, and his praiseworthy efforts to relieve poverty and sickness. The message all of this carries, however, is unmistakable to those familiar with the Evangelical subculture: This magazine is produced by a class of people who are above politics, who know that the righteousness of politicians is as filthy rags, and who are therefore free to make light of it by caricaturing the candidates and emphasizing the goodness of the St. Francis’s of our day, like Bono, whose practical Christianity is far better than what mere politics can give us. Those who put their trust in princes (like Kerry and Bush) have not reached this level of understanding and maturity. We may have problems with Kerry but you can be sure of this: We Have Equal Problems with Bush Because We’re Intelligent. We’re “Books and Culture” People, People Who Admire Characters as Interesting, Diverse, and Provocative as Bono, Stanley Hauerwas, Wendell Berry, Bob Dylan, Mary Ann Glendon, Jason Bourne, and Eugene Rivers. We’re not, rest assured, your typical Bush-league Evangelical.

And yet, given the binary character of “real reality”—life being comprised of Yes or No choices, choices between One or Another, the presidential candidates on the slate are two, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry. One or neither of them will have to be voted for by Americans who take their responsibilities as citizens seriously, and if our actions in life have any meaning before and in the life of God, as we have been told they do, we will have to answer to the Lord for our action or inaction in this regard. We will have to explain to him why, given the realities contingent on the outcome of our voting, we voted for one or neither of the candidates.

As for me, I would not like to have to explain to the One to whom I cannot lie, that I voted or did not vote as I did in that election because I was Smarter than Politics, for I think I can guess what the next question would be: Why did you fail to identify, in the face of those you wished to impress, with what George Bush, with fair credibility, to their minds and yours, stood for?


2:02 PM


GRIM TALES & TERROR

I know this may seem odd, but I am puzzling a little over the subjects of two books that are being read in my home this week.

I should back up first and say that I picked up 6 books at our Touchstone conference last week from our regular bookstore vendor, Eighth Day Books, who always comes to our conference and sets up shop. Warren Farha, the owner, sets up a wonderful display and selection of books unlike any you will find elsewhere. Conferees are sorely tempted to blow their book budgets beyond repair.

I am no exception. I chose 5 of the books mainly for reading and research for a book that I am still working on. I did worry my wife would question their necessity. When she saw them, to my relief, she said they were great choices and which one could she read first?

We both settled on separate books to read first. For me, it's The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria by John W. Kiser. For her, it was To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne by William Bush, about sixteen Carmelites who were guillotined in 1794 during the Reign of Terror. The first book is about 7 Trappist monks in Algeria who were decapitated by Muslim extremists in 1996.

You see why I am looking at these two books and note that I am reading one at the same time my wife Patricia is reading the other.

There are many connections between the two stories: monasticism. France. Terror and terrorism. Guillotine and decapitation. One of the contrasts might be the earlier French terror perpetrated by those aiming to bring in a secular world order and the later terror in Algeria by those aiming to bring in a theocracy. In the latter case, at least some of the motives sprung up and grew in the aftermath of a French occupation of the country as a colony that resulted in what the Muslim radicals viewed as secularism.

To many Muslims, the French in Algeria seemed godless, and many of the Christians, to them, seemed to not really be believers. They didn't seem to take supernatural religion seriously, they didn't pray every day, they seemed to relegate religion to an hour or so on Sundays and the rest of the week lived like any agnostic or atheist. God had little to do with everyday life.

Of course this was not something they could so easily say about the monastics, whom many respected. Many, but not all.

Abou abd al-Rahmen Amin, representing the terrorist group that had taken the Trappists hostage, wrote that

The good Lord has helped the mujahideen of the GIA [his group] kill a large number of unbelievers, Jews, Christians, polytheists, and atheists. God helped them again, a few days ago, to kidnap seven proselytizing [not true] monks in the region of Medea, who are still alive and well.
An attempt was made to rescue the monks, which failed. Amin wrote that the GIA “believes neither in dialogue, nor truce, nor reconciliation with the impious ones. For these reasons, we will not engage in a dialogue with this filth and despicable trash.”

He offered to free the monks for some prisoners. “You have a choice. If you free our prisoners, we will free ours, and if you refuse, we will slit their throats.”

Not long afterwards, seven heads were found in a tree. The bodies of the monks were never recovered.

We are seeing the very same ideas expressed and actions taken today, in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other places under the threat of the Terrorists.

I asked my wife last night if she was enjoying her book. She just looked and me and said, “Enjoying?” One can only read so much grim material. We look forward to the next book, and for one of us it will be a more pleasant read: Thomas Howard's The Secret of New York Revealed.


1:38 PM


Wednesday, October 27

FROM THE INBOX 27 OCTOBER 2004:

Just a few items for today, almost all on politics (well, it's that time of year). A couple of these I got from the digest of CaNN (Classical Anglican News Network), which is an excellent source of news about the Anglican world and also carries a lot of news about the religious world in general.

— For those of you interested in the state of American conservatism, two writers from The Economist review George W. Bush’s effect on the movement in ”Bushism”, subtitled “Win or lose, the president has remade the politics of the right.” Among the interesting observations they make:

Mr. Bush's position in the culture wars is much easier to categorize than his position on big government: He has shifted power dramatically in favor of social conservatives. Modern American conservatism has been based around a coalition of antigovernment libertarians (many of them based in the West) and social conservatives (many based in the South).

Reagan did a virtuoso job of keeping both sides happy, giving the social conservatives just enough to keep them on side, but never so much that he risked alienating the libertarians (who always suspected that a divorced actor was one of them). In his first term, Mr. Bush has tilted in the direction of social conservatives. Wherever you look stem-cell research, gay marriage, abortion rights or drug policy he is joined with the religious right.

This may make short-term political sense. A quarter of voters are born-again Christians and Karl Rove blames his boss's failure to win a resounding victory in 2000 on the failure of four million of these voters to turn up at the polls. But Mr. Bush plainly is also worried about the effects: Both the stem-cell decision and the constitutional amendment on gay marriage came about only after a great deal of angst in the White House.

Both weaken the GOP in socially liberal states such as Reagan's California (where Arnold Schwarzenegger won the governorship only because he managed to avoid the primary process). The stem-cell decision gives the impression that the GOP is opposed to science, not to mention the Reagan family. And it risks giving too much power to a clique of aging culture warriors. Gay unions may be an obvious evil to the likes of Paul Weyrich and James Dobson; but younger evangelicals are torn on the issue.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if "aging culture warriors" is right.

— Something entertaining from Peter Kreeft: Perfect Fear Casts Out All "Luv". He discusses the modern educator’s and liturgists’ habit of downplaying the “fear of the Lord” and explains why they have grossly misunderstood the phrase:
First, what the Bible means by "the fear of the Lord" is far deeper than mere "respect." You can have respect for policemen, and for debating partners, and even for money. But the "fear of the Lord" is something that takes its specific character from its object, from the Lord. It is awe. It is worship. It is wonder. It is absolute adoration. It is "islam," total "submission" to God. This is precisely the thing absent from both modern religious education and from modern liturgy. The reason is simple: You can't give what you don't have; you can't teach what you don't know yourself.

The second part of the claim is also false. The church did not instill terror in the past, nor is traditional religion based on terror. You have terror toward an enemy, like cancer, or a lion, or a bullet. It is a dead, dread, doomsday kind of feeling. "The fear of the Lord" is exultant and wonderful.

The church used to instill this awe. The main reason she is so weak and wimpy today is because she no longer instills this awe. For this awe is "the beginning of wisdom" and the heart of all true religion.
He goes on from there to explain the difference between terror and fear and what fear — the proper fear of the Lord — does for human happiness.

— In Jewish World Report, an Israeli writer, Jonathan Rosenblum, writesIn praise of the President's faith. While doing so he offers a good summary of the currently dominant alternative:
[T]he President's critics remain trapped by their own religion — what might be called the rationalist folly. "Rationalists" view all people as basically alike — each seeking to maximize his share of the desired goods. That model, however, cannot account for the power of religious belief, positive or negative. It must continue searching for the "real causes" of religious fanaticism — e.g., poverty, Israeli settlements. Since no rational human being seeks death, rationalists cannot comprehend societies that have elevated martyrdom to their highest value.

Teresa Heinz Kerry's sunny prescription for dealing with terrorists expresses the naďve optimism of rationalism: "The way we live in peace . . . is not by threatening people, is not by showing off your muscles. It's by listening, giving a hand, by being intelligent. . . " Yet expressions of understanding for Islamist terrorists and sympathy for the backwardness of Moslem societies only inspire the Islamists' contempt and further fuel their rage.

Attachment to old paradigms prevented John Kerry from comprehending the meaning of 9/11. "[It] didn't change me much at all," Kerry admits in a October 10 New York Times interview. " He simply placed Al Qaeda into the framework of international crime cartels, with which he was familiar as "a former law enforcement official." His goal, says Kerry, is a return to a pre-9/11 world in which terrorism was no more than a nuisance, like prostitution or illegal gambling.

Kerry's words fully capture the limits of the liberal imagination in the face of faith-driven terrorism. The analogy to crime syndicates is ludicrous. Drug lords may be bad guys, but they are also profit-seekers. Make their business unprofitable and you have defeated them. Not so, theologically-driven terrorists whose goals are unlimited and who do not mind dying to achieve them.
Readers interested in reading more about rationalism should look for Michael Oakeshott’s essay “Rationalism in Politics,” which is collected in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays.

— Something else on Bush, this from an English journalist in The Daily Telegraph: Only one candidate is telling the truth by Janet Daly. She makes a point similar to the previous articles about the nature of the differences in worldview:
America is engaged in a battle with forces as wicked as any we have known: not the "nuisance" terrorism of the dismissive Kerry world view, but a form of nihilism so dark and sinister that it is almost impossible for Western democratic thinking to get its mind around it.

Those who prefer to see Islamist terror as a kind of analogue of the Cold War communist threat - an enemy which can be contained through military stalemate and diplomatic horse-trading behind the scenes — have got it seriously wrong. There is nothing negotiable about a death cult. There is no diplomatic common language for dealing with those who kidnap and murder people who are trying to bring aid to their own countrymen and co-religionists.


7:10 PM


SYNDICATING MERE COMMENTS:

For those of you who've wished to add Mere Comments to your automatic news readers or who want to syndicate Mere Comments on your websites, our XML-based syndication site is now active. There's also a permanent link to our syndication site at the top of the gray bar on the left.


4:45 PM


NEW ECUSA RITUALS PROMOTE IDOL WORSHIP:

This is not, believe it or not, an exaggeration. Mere Comments readers, David Fischler and Judy Warren, advised us of this breaking story reported by Ted Olsen of Christianity Today Online. It seems that the Office of Women's Ministries for the Episcopal Church (USA) has released a worship rite modeled on modern Druid practices, which features food offerings to feminine deities that were expressly condemned and ridiculed in Hosea and Jeremiah.


4:38 PM


CAN'T VOTE AT ALL OR CAN'T VOTE FOR BUSH:

Cathleen Falsani, religion editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, finds her Wheaton alumni peers will mostly vote for Kerry. While a noted Wheaton history professor, Mark Noll, finds he can't vote for Kerry or Bush. Notre Dame's Alasdair MacIntyre, the renowned Catholic philosopher, is in the same abstaining mood.


1:51 PM


CRUCIAL ABORTION, OR, BERNARDIN WAS RIGHT:

Kevin Offner, one of our Presbyterian contributing editors, sent this article by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life: Distorted Citizenship. It begins:

We seem to have a major problem in the Church in the area of reading comprehension. The problem is most obvious when the reading material asserts the primacy of abortion among issues that voters have to consider in elections.

Statements of the Pope, various Vatican officials, committees and officials of the USCCB, and the entire body of US bishops, all point to abortion as the fundamental human rights issue of our day. Even Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who during his life was a key spokesperson for the “consistent ethic of life,” pointed out repeatedly that the fundamental right is the right to life.
He then offers two reasons why some Catholics can't — won't — read well. The latter two-thirds of the article is a helpful compendium of statements by popes and bishops on this subject. It includes this section on Cardinal Bernardin, the late archbishop of Chicago often claimed as an authority by the pro-choice crowd who want to use his “seamless garment” idea to disarm those who make abortion a fundamental question.
Following are some statements by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who was one of the key spokespersons on the “consistent ethic of life.”

In 1984, Cardinal Bernardin wrote: “Our “Statement on Political Responsibility” has always been, like our “Respect Life Program,” a multi-issue approach to public morality. The fact that this Statement sets forth a spectrum of issues of current concern to the Church and society should not be understood as implying that all issues are qualitatively equal from a moral perspective . . . As I indicated earlier, each of the life issues — while related to all the others — is distinct and calls for it's own specific moral analysis. “ (A Consistent Ethic of Life: Continuing the Dialogue, The William Wade Lecture Series, St. Louis University, March 11, 1984).

“A consistent ethic of life does not equate the problem of taking life (e.g., through abortion and in war) with the problem of promoting human dignity (through humane programs of nutrition, health care, and housing). But a consistent ethic identifies both the protection of life and its promotion as moral questions” (Wade lecture, as above).

A year later, he declared, “The fundamental human right is to life-from the moment of conception until death. It is the source of all other rights, including the right to health care” (The Consistent Ethic of Life and Health Care Systems, Foster McGaw Triennial Conference, Loyola University of Chicago, May 8, 1985).

On Respect Life Sunday, 1 October 1989, Cardinal Bernardin issued a statement entitled “Deciding for Life,” in which he said, “Not all values, however, are of equal weight. Some are more fundamental than others. On this Respect Life Sunday, I wish to emphasize that no earthly value is more fundamental than human life itself. Human life is the condition for enjoying freedom and all other values. Consequently, if one must choose between protecting or serving lesser human values that depend upon life for their existence and life itself, human life must take precedence. Today the recognition of human life as a fundamental value is threatened. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of elective abortion. At present in our country this procedure takes the lives of over 4,000 unborn children every day and over 1.5 million each year.”
Readers will remember that James Kushiner dealt with this matter in First Things First.


1:09 PM


Tuesday, October 26

THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION

An event definitely worth attending if you are anywhere near D.C.(details further down the page):

A Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World
Speaker: Wesley J. Smith , Author and Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute

Scare headlines about the first human clones appear in our newspapers. Biotech companies brag about manufacturing human embryos as “products” for use in medical treatments. Events are moving so fast - and biotechnology seems so complicated - that many of us worry we can't keep up. But now, Wesley J. Smith provides us with a guide to the brave new world that is no longer a figment of our imagination, but a reality just around the corner of our lives. Smith unravels the mystery of stem cells and shows what's at stake in the controversy over using them for research. He describes the emerging science of human cloning - the most radical technology in history - and shows how it moves forward inexorably against the moral consensus of the world. But at the core of this highly readable and carefully researched book is a report on the gargantuan “Big Biotech” industry and its supporters in the universities and the science and bioethics establishments. Smith reveals how the lure of huge riches, mixed with the ideology of “scientism,” threatens to impose on society a “new eugenics” that would dismantle ethical norms and call into question the uniqueness and importance of all human life. “At stake,” he warns, “is whether science will continue to serve society, or instead dominate it.”

With commentary by: David A. Prentice, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, Center for Human Life and Bioethics, Family Research Council

Host: Patrick F. Fagan
William H. G. FitzGerald Research Fellow in Family and Cultural Issues, The Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, The Heritage Foundation

Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Time: 12:00 noon

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Van Andel Center

Refreshments will be provided.
All events can be viewed live at heritage.org.

214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002-4999
ph 202 546 4400 | fax 202 546 8328
jason.murphy@heritage.org


5:02 PM


ARCHIVES UPDATE:

All major articles from our September 2002 and October 2002 issues were published to our online archive this afternoon. As we are able, we will publish content from 1998 and before. Stay tuned.


4:02 PM


TOUCHSTONE AND THE GOSPEL:

A reader wrote this evening:

The website of Touchstone says that the mission of the Fellowship” is to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church.” What are these fundamental doctrines?

Specifically, what is the belief of the Fellowship with respect to the Gospel? I ask because I believe the Gospel to be among the fundamental beliefs of the Church, yet not all who confess such ancient creeds as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, are in agreement as to what the Gospel is.
We get this kind of question from time to time, often from people who seem to want to get at the core of our beliefs or want to expose the (alleged) incoherence of our ecumenical fellowship. I say the latter because I’ve discussed this questions with some people who eventually get to the point of declaring the magazine unprincipled and their own little group (sect) to be the superior example of purity, logical as well as religious.

I have no idea what this writer wants, and assume he's sincere. I wrote him that I thought “What is the Gospel?” not the right question to ask if he wants to know where we stand. He noted that people who accept the Creeds may disagree on the definition of the Gospel, but it is equally true that people who will agree on the definition of the Gospel will disagree rather radically on Christian doctrine and morals, and indeed on the basics of Christian doctrine and morals.

Unless filled out as we’ve tried to do with our appeal to the authorities almost everyone — mainstream Christian believers, that is — recognizes, “the Gospel” is an abstraction that does not offer the content needed to share in a communal enterprise. When, as in a magazine like Touchstone, diverse and divided Christians gather to engage and challenge the culture in which they all live, they need to know in some detail what it is that they’re defending and promoting.

Whatever one means by “the Gospel,” it does not supply the needed detail. Witness the arguments of the conservative homosexualists who speak of “the Gospel” in the words and tones of a Billy Graham-type Evangelical and as far as one can tell completely sincerely. To them, the Gospel means that Jesus loves Bob and Bruce and is happy for them to go to bed with each other. It means that Jesus saves them not only from their sins but from life-destroying moral rules imposed by Christians who don’t understand Jesus, who derive those rules from misreading some ancient documents written when no one knew that what kind of people Bob and Bruce were.

We — the people given the stewardship of the enterprise — do not believe that we can run an ecumenical magazine if we profess only a belief in “the Gospel.” We do not believe that we can run a useful magazine if we profes only a belief in “the Gospel.” We think the meaning of the Gospel we all confess must be filled out a great deal more, in doing which we are only following the example of the Apostolic writers and their successors. Supplying the needed detail for the gospel narrative was one of the reasons for the development of the New Testament and then the development of the Christian doctrinal and moral tradition and its focused articulation in the ecumenical Councils.

We go as far along this development as we can, accepting that different Christians will put the point at which everyone else fell into error at different times and that we will disagree even on the interpretation of the creeds we all accept, and accepting also that achieving Christian unity in this world requires some comfort with disagreement and even (to borrow one of the liberals’ favorite words) ambiguity.

But not nearly so much disagreement and ambiguity if we all just agreed to agree on “the Gospel.”


1:57 AM


FROM THE INBOX 26 OCTOBER 2004:

Here are a few things, quite random in subject and of varyng value, collected over the last few days.

— For what it’s worth: Baptist minister and head of the Interfaith Alliance C. Welton Gaddy preaches on “Will the Fundamentalists Win? . The excerpt contained in the press release I received:

“On May 21, 1922, from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in New York City, Harry Emerson Fosdick, who later became the founding minister of the great Riverside Church of New York City, posed the question, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” As an eyewitness to a mean-spirited divisiveness reeking havoc in American churches, Fosdick issued a clarion call for tolerance.

“That historic Fosdick sermon on the fate of fundamentalism was delivered in a context heavily populated by self-designated protectors of truth who were seeking to cleanse their churches of all persons deemed to possess a progressive or liberal mindset. . . .

“My immediate response to that question is “Yes. Yes, very likely, the fundamentalists will win for a while.”

“But-but!-long term, fundamentalism will weaken in strength and fade in influence. . . .

“I grew up among fundamentalists. I did not have to study the methodology of fundamentalism to know the power of its punch and the consequences of its victories; I have felt the power of its punch in blows to my gut and I have seen the success of its attacks and the devastation left in the wake of its missions among friends and institutions for whom I continue to grieve.

“Christian fundamentalism will not be defeated by the strategic, targeted opposition of people like us so much as, eventually, it will self-destruct. Fundamentalism carries within its very nature the seeds of its own demise.”
He may well be right, but liberals should note that hoping the opposition will kill itself is a bad sign for any movement.

— An interesting article from Belief.net: Please, Don’t Throw Me Into the Friar Patch, which asks “Is it possible that the attacks by conservative Bishops are helping Kerry?” I think the writer might be right, which suggests that had the bishops done their job a long time ago and excommunicated those Catholic politicians who promoted abortion, their belated attempt at discipline wouldn’t now be helping a Catholic politician who promotes abortion.

— Here is a story that deeply appalled our eleven-year-old, Hannah: High in protein, low in fat — it’s chargrilled super guinea pig. It announces that Peruvian scientists have developed a “Raza Peru” guinea pig for eating which offers 2 1/2 pounds of meat, supposedly very healthy meat too.
Guinea pigs are already a staple food for Peruvians, who consume about 65 million each year, often eaten fried or chargrilled, with rice, potatoes and salad. . . .

Fernando Ramos, the general manager of Tito’s Peruvian Restaurant in London, said that . . . “There are many delicious ways of serving guinea pig, such as fried in a peanut sauce or a guinea pig stew, in which the meat is marinated in beer before being cooked.
We have two Guinea Pigs, Ron and Francis, and Hannah told me that she shall not be visiting England, nor Peru. I don’t think either country has thought through the effect of eating Gunea Pigs on their tourist industry.

— Two articles from the Daily Telegraph reflect on the significance of popular movies: No greater love hath a woman . . . reflects on the popular Bridget Jones books and movies and their appeals to women and What’s it all about? More than Jude Law’s Alfie would have you believe, compares the 1966 Michael Caine version of the movie Alfie and this year’s Jude Law version.

— Here is something for those of you interested in the Victorian period in England and/or looking for interesting trivia. Despite the title, A surprising interest in sex, the article offers various interesting stories of life in England as viewed through the pages of The Daily Telegraph for the last 150 years.

— From the Wall Street Journal, Harvard’s Prof. Ruth Wisse comments on John Kerry U. After reporting that at one point early in the campaign, the Harvard the faculty had donated $150,000 to Kerry and about $8,000 to Bush (“The figures have since changed but not the percentages,” she notes), she writes:
The Federal Election Commission could not have foreseen that when it required employment information on political donations of over $200, it would expose scandalous uniformity in a university community that advertises its diversity. The Sacramento Bee reported that the University of California system gave more to the Kerry campaign than any other single employee group, and that Harvard was second, with only 15,000 employees to UC’s 160,000. Campus bloggers computed the percentages of Kerry contributions over Bush: Cornell 93%, Dartmouth 97%, Yale 93%, Brown 89%.
Emergent Evangelism offers summaries of two talks from a recent conference at the Billy Graham Center: “postmodern Evangelical” Brian McLaren speaking on absolute truth and the response from Wheaton College’s president Duane Litfin. I think Litfin gently points out that all the new things McLaren is advocating are true, or true enough, but actually rather old hat. If you are interested in the subject, you can find McLaren’s paper here and Litfin’s response here. (These are both pdf files, that need to be opened by the Adobe Reader.)

For you Albert Mohler fans, I notice that the 2001 conference included his paper on Prayer, Evangelism, and Divine Sovereignty (it’s a pdf file too).

— Here is an article to set the cat among the pigeons: Why the planet needs nuclear energy by Hugh Montefiore, the retired Anglican bishop of Birmingham (the English one). He is not one whose theology I would endorse, but he is nevertheless an interesting and unclassifiable thinker on other subjects.

— And finally, something suggested by our contributing editor Robert Hart, An Atlanta ob-gyn on abortion, Kerry & the Catholic Church. It is enlightening reading.


1:52 AM


Monday, October 25

MEXICO CITY POLICY: KERRY ON THE RECORD

A reader request:

In Mr. Kushiner's post Pessimist or Optimist?, he stated that John Kerry has announced that his first executive act would be to reverse the Mexico City policy banning the use of federal funds to support abortion around the world. Is there a source he could point me to on this claim? That is probably one of the most damning things that I've heard yet about Kerry's true position on moral issues, and I'd like to be able to pass that information along to some undecided voters I know.
The first source I have for this comes from a Feb. 26, 2004 candidate debate. This transcript from the Washington Post shows Kerry clearly on the record on this issue:
Complete Transcript: Democrats Participate in Calif. Debate
FDCH e-Media
Thursday, February 26, 2004; 10:55 PM
Following is the full text of the Democratic presidential debate sponsored by CNN and the Los Angeles Times, and moderated by Larry King. Participants include Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Los Angeles Times Editorial Page Editor Janet Clayton and Political Correspondent Ron Brownstein asked the questions.

KERRY: ….

And you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to issue an executive order that prohibits anyone from going from lobbying -- from government directly into lobbying for a period of five years. And we're going to make every meeting of a lobbyist and a public official a matter...

KING: Dennis?

KERRY: ... of public record subject to the scrutiny of the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: And Dennis wants to say something.

Would that be the first executive order you'd issue?

KERRY: One of the first.

KING: What would be the first executive order?

KERRY: Reverse the Mexico City policy on the gag rule so that we take a responsible position globally on family planning.

(APPLAUSE)
I found this excerpt through Google linked from this obviously “pro-choice”-friendly website,which argues that Kerry's intention is reason enough to vote for him. It also provides links to other articles on the subject, including a link to one of Planned Parenthood's articles on why reversing the policy is so very important to the “pro-choice” people.

Another article in Human Events online describes a recent effort in Congress to overturn the “gag rule.” What opponents of the policy (instituted by Ronald Reagan, reversed by Bill Clinton, and reinstated by George W. Bush) will argue is similar to what they argue for in the U. S.: more women will die without access to abortion.

What kind of Catholic is one whose first executive order as President would be to lighten up on abortion? Not just an order, but his first order. If first things are indeed first, then what would be President Kerry's First Thing?


4:00 PM


COLSON ON VOTING

I was encouraged to see this item from Chuck Colson on Breakpoint. It's on the duty of voting, written in response to an article stating the reasons for sitting out this election. Colson points out that disengagement was precisely the tactic chosen by fundamentalist Christians in the United States 100 years ago, a group generally castigated for their lack of involvement in the culture, in politics, and the academy.

Now, it seems, some in the academy think that intellectual integrity means that they can sit this one out. I really think that in some cases this is because they perceive, correctly sometimes, that some Christians assume God belongs to one of the parties on offer. These are the sorts of Christians with whom they prefer not to associate, and even if such an "intellectual" Christian might, in a vacuum, vote for the candidate of choice of these "simple-minded" ("single-issue"?) Christians, in his gut he doesn't want them to get their way and be confirmed in their views of things by winning, and he certainly doesn't want to be associated with them in any way politically by voting for the same candidate. Is this too cynical? Perhaps, but I think I'm right.


11:33 AM


THE POST-TRUTH ERA:

Writing for The New Republic Online Gregg Easterbrook finds that “whether something is believed has become more important than whether it's true.” As evidence, Easterbrook introduces us to The Post-Truth Era, a new book by Ralph Keyes. In an article (requires registration) that touches on the recent presidential debates, LBJ, Jesse Ventura, Jacques Derrida, and Werner Heisnberg, Easterbrook grapples with the new American appetite for lies.


11:11 AM


PESSISMIST OR OPTIMIST?

I am just back to work after the Touchstone conference, which ended Saturday afternoon. It was, I think without exaggeration, our finest conference to date. One question that came up in conversation was our progress in the "culture war." Some said it was over, we had lost, others saw signs of hope. I think in most cases the context for discussion and assessment was political and legislative action, such as pro-life legislation and "gay marriage" amendments and such things.

I have thought about this a bit myself and come to the conclusion that I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic. Perhaps I am being too much above it all here, but indulge me for a moment. On the matter of political activism from the religious right, versus the religious and political left, the thing I keep coming back to is the observation that we are talking apples and oranges. Or at least some of us are.

For many if not most on the political and religious left, politics really is a means of salvation and progress toward a better world of peace and prosperity. A vote for a party or a candidate is one of the most powerful weapons one has, along with political protests, lobbying, and so on.

For me on the right, I don't place a lot of stock in politics. That doesn't mean that I don't value my vote. I am not that worked up over whether supporting a marriage amendment, for example, is the last straw, the final defense, or the thing that will start to turns things around. It may or may not be any of these things.

Voting pro-life may or may not save a child (theoretically; in the current election it most assuredly will), but in any case, as with a marriage amendment, it's the right and necessary thing to do. As a Christian I have been given a vote, a voice; but I realize politics is not salvation, so I don't place a lot of stock in votes.

But I didn't say I place no stock in my vote. It is, if you will, perhaps only a farthing's worth of talent entrusted to me, when other things may constitute talents of silver (such as our position in life, our skills, families, inherited wealth, earned wealth) with which we might be able to accomplish a great deal for the kingdom of God, or at least try to.

But as Christians we are called to be faithful in both little and great things. And if I have the power to vote, I must vote well and faithfully. What I don't do is worry about the outcome. Regardless of who is president next year, Christians will have much work to do to reach out to souls lost in the swamps of post 60s familial devestations.

Again, this doesn't mean that I am indifferent to the election. I am not. Nor does it mean that I am not inclined to write about it. What has prompted me to write about it of late has been other Christian voices who have confused the principles upon which one should determine his investment of that farthing, that vote. It's simply my job to write when I see Christian truth and principles being distorted, even if it applies to so mundane an issue as politics.

We are called to be faithful in little and in much. On November 2 I have a responsibility to take care of, and I will do so, as there are certain things that do hang in the balance. It is a matter of public record, for instance, that John Kerry has promised that his first executive order as president will be to reverse the Mexico City policy that bans federal funding of abortions overseas. (What does that tell you about this candidate?)

But I am under no illusion that a Republican victory wins the culture war. I started with a point I never really finished: Because those on the left put all their eggs into the political basket for salvation, they assume everyone on the right (if I may please use labels for the sake of convenience) is equally a political activist and sees political victories in the same way as they do. They see using politics to advance an agenda, and to change the world. I see it is a necessary evil, not the only show in town, but since I have a vote, I must use it wisely and based upon the Christian principles of respect for life and marriage.

I put not my trust in princes, but given a chance to choose which prince will sit on the throne for a season, I am not indifferent to even a farthing's weight which might tip the scales. After I vote, I go back to doing all the other things I have been given to do. And always, always, pray for our leaders.


10:03 AM




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