I my post yesterday about the truly loving care my mom gets in an old age run under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, I said that I resent the Church’s attitude towards Israel, but that I can’t fault it with regard to its care for the elderly. With perfect timing, NRO came out with an article today about the way the liberal US churches, including the Presbyterian Church, view Israel.
Yesterday, I riffed on James Taranto’s post regarding whether the sexual revolution bell can be un-rung. I don’t think we can go back to the way things were before — time does, after all, run forward, not backwards — but I do think we are still in a position to moderate its worst excesses. With that in mind, I looked to the way the staid, even repressive, Victorian era followed upon, and was a reaction to the licentious rapacity of the Georgian period.
Taranto provided more food for thought, because he published an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who spoke not only about ObamaCare but also about the sexual revolution. I think Dolan’s thoughts are a nice complement to my ideas about re-elevating sexual morality to a public virtue (emphasis mine):
What about the argument that vast numbers of Catholics ignore the church’s teachings about sexuality? Doesn’t the church have a problem conveying its moral principles to its own flock? “Do we ever!” the archbishop replies with a hearty laugh. “I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach. That’s a biggie.”
For this he faults the church leadership. “We have gotten gun-shy . . . in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality.” He dates this diffidence to “the mid- and late ’60s, when the whole world seemed to be caving in, and where Catholics in general got the impression that what the Second Vatican Council taught, first and foremost, is that we should be chums with the world, and that the best thing the church can do is become more and more like everybody else.”
The “flash point,” the archbishop says, was “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reasserting the church’s teachings on sex, marriage and reproduction, including its opposition to artificial contraception. It “brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us—and I’m using the first-person plural intentionally, including myself—kind of subconsciously said, ‘Whoa. We’d better never talk about that, because it’s just too hot to handle.’ We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day.”
Without my having raised the subject, he adds that the church’s sex-abuse scandal “intensified our laryngitis over speaking about issues of chastity and sexual morality, because we almost thought, ‘I’ll blush if I do. . . . After what some priests and some bishops, albeit a tiny minority, have done, how will I have any credibility in speaking on that?’”
Yet the archbishop says he sees a hunger, especially among young adults, for a more authoritative church voice on sexuality. “They will be quick to say, ‘By the way, we want you to know that we might not be able to obey it. . . . But we want to hear it. And in justice, you as our pastors need to tell us, and you need to challenge us.’”
That hunger is the beginning of the Victorian revival.
Long ago, in ancient Phoenicia, arose a religion reviled in Biblical as well as in Greek and Roman lore, that worshiped a deity most commonly known as Molock, Moloch or Moleck. To this deity, parents sacrificed their infant children by cremating them alive in the bronze hands of a bull-shaped statue of the deity (the golden calf all grown up?).
The religion generated revulsion among the Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and other Mediterranean peoples of that ancient time. In Judaic and Biblical lore, Molock was associated with demonology and Satan’s reign. The Romans purportedly destroyed the last vestiges of this religion in the rubble of Carthage, destroying and scattering every structure down to the last brick, so that it could never ever spring back anew. However, this rationalization for infanticide, just published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, makes me wonder if Molock isn’t stirring anew in the ebb-tide of the Judeo-Christian West.
In my lifetime, I have been witness to the normalization of promiscuous sex, throw-away children, abortion, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, and now, the open rationalization of infanticide should parents change their mind about a living baby. This is the end game of secular humanism, where there is nothing more transcendent about human beings than simple utilitarian sacks of meat. It was observed by G.K. Chesterton that when cultures (or cults) begin to kill their weakest members, their old and their children, such cultures are in the final stage of collapse.
I came to my Christianity relatively late in life. My faith in my faith is absolute. The existence and/or nature of a force for evil in the world, however, has been a more difficult concept to grasp, as there are so many other ways to rationalize evil behavior – e.g., bad upbringing, mean parents, schoolyard bullying, chemical imbalances, mental illness, hubris, etc. Now, though, I am coming to the conclusion that evil is a palpably real force in the world. Either that, or a violently real, contagious, psychic virus!
Ann Coulter’s most recent book, “Demonic”, relates the proclivity of the secular Left (Democrats) for mob violence and bloodshed, tracing its bloody trail from the French Revolution through the Nazi and Communist abominations of the 20th Century, to the social-justice proclaiming Liberal/Left movements of today (oh, heck, let’s throw in the Marxist Jim Jones Cult for good measure). The violence that our society increasingly wreaks on our weakest members is all part of the same disease and I fear that it is going to get much, much worse.
For me, it’s simple: babies are for loving, not killing — I know, I know…others disagree! The publication of such an article under the guise of “medical ethics” tells me that something truly wicked this way comes. Today, the secular Left may feign indignation at the thought that their revolution will ultimately involve killing those that do not fit their Utopian ideals, but we can see how easily they are getting comfortable with the concept over time. It will be what it will be. I hope that I don’t live to see it. But, as the New Age of Molock establishes itself, I certainly will resist it to the end. I know that you will, too.
And, now, in support of the Secular Humanist view of human kind as utilitarian pieces of meat, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shares her policy perspective that abortion and contraception means fewer babies, ergo fewer government expenditures. Human reproduction becomes a simple government-mandated budget line item.
One would have to be a total fool not to recognize that this is Government asserting its sovereignty over reproductive rights and life and death decisions.
As others have commented, the Catholic Church is making the loudest noises about the new Obama Care mandate regarding birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization, but the policy is really a strike against everyone who is pro-Life in America. If you’re a pro-Life employer, you have to pay for your employees’ abortion pills. If you’re a pro-Life health insurance company (or health insurance company employee) you must write policies that cover every woman’s birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients. If you are a health insurance consumer (as we all must be in Obama’s America), you will pay for abortions.
Anybody with a pro-Life conscience, even if that person has arrived at that position without benefit of organized religion, is in the line of fire.
But if you’re thinking that Obama is hostile to religion, you’re right about that too. Check out the first update to the Anchoress’ post about the health care mandate, and you’ll see that Obama is starting to put the squeeze on in other areas when it comes to people of faith.
I’m hoping that hubris is driving the administration’s unpopular decisions now, in an election year. To date, though, the administration has shown itself to be sufficiently Machiavellian that I wonder if it knows something about the upcoming elections that the rest of us don’t know.
UPDATE: Oh, and for the pointedly humorous take on Obama’s policy stand, I know you’ll enjoy this. I’ve come to the conclusion that we live in a very peculiar world, one that sees me, a loosey-goosey theist (sort of), deeply offended by the federal executive’s full force attacks on religious freedom in America.
(And please sign the petition.)
It’s a family stuff day, so blogging has been light, and will continue to be so. Fortunately, I’ve got friends who send me interesting things which I am so happy to pass on to you. In no particular order:
Wolf Howling has written a fascinating, scholarly dissertation examining the adversarial history of faith and socialism, and the way that history quite logically to Obama’s current fight with religious organizations over funding for abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization.
Samuel Jackson and Barack Obama are two minds with but a single thought: Make voting easy by examining your skin color and, if it’s dark, vote accordingly. Samuel Jackson, in a profanity-laced interview, freely admits that he couldn’t have cared less about the type of governance Obama would bring to the White House. The only thing that mattered was his color. That’s just one person. Our dear (black) leader — and, yes, his color is an important point in this post — has prepared an entire video imploring black people to vote for him because he’s black:x
As the friend who sent me this asked “I wonder what the backlash would be if Mitt Romney started a Mormons for Mitt campaign?”
Rhymes with Right suggests that the Catholic Church go medieval over ObamaCare [link fixed]. I think he’s right. Citizens in America are free to make decisions that implicate their religion — and the religion is free to make decisions right back. What cannot happen in America, however, is precisely what Obama is doing, which is to interject the state into the relationship between the religion and its followers.
Lastly, one of my oldest and dearest blog friends, Patrick O’Hannigan, looks at the Komen versus Planned Parenthood kerfuffle. I say “legitimate,” because they are both private organizations, as opposed to a government organization versus a religion. Within the context of the fight itself, of course, I think Planned Parenthood’s position and strategy are both entirely illegitimate and, as Patrick carefully explains, Komen, before it caved, was in the right.
You guys are all too smart to fall for the fake compromise the Obama administration offered to organizations that do not want to pay for women’s birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients. Just in case you missed the story, though, let me quote from Ace, who drills into the heart of the deceit behind this offer:
All Obama’s doing is mandating that employers enter into a contract with insurers in which both parties pretend that the base cost of the service is higher than it is, and that abortifacient coverage now costs zero dollars.
Obama’s mandate solution is now just to force the conscience-objectors to lie about it.
The old mandate was just to provide abortifacents. The “solution” just adds a new mandate on top of that one: That you lie about that fact in a legal contract.
Read the rest here.
The Daily Mail created a lovely matched set, showing side-by-side stories that perfectly illustrate the difference between life in a 21st century Sharia state and life in a 21st century Christian state:
Life in a Sharia state: “We, the state, are going to kill gays.”
Life in a Christian state: “I’d like to warn you (admittedly quite rudely) that, in the afterlife God is going to have problems with gays.”
If you’re gay, neither is very nice, but one is insulting, while the other is deadly. Those who live within a minority community, whether because of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., might want to think long and hard about whether they want to promote a culture that kills those it dislikes or a culture some of whose members yell at them. I mention this because the Leftist collective backs the first type of culture; while the much-reviled Western conservatives support the second.
(P.S. For those wondering why the Daily Mail is the most popular news website in the world, it might have something to do with the fact that it identifies Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed, and Razwan Javed as “muslim fanatics.” The American press would have wondered why these three men, who just coincidentally happen to have non-American names, suddenly turned against gays — and then would have posited, loudly and often, that Sarah Palin published an ad or made a speech using coded language that triggered this mass homophobia.)
Back at the end of the 16th century, Thomas Hobson ran a livery stable (which, in pre-auto times, was the equivalent of a car rental place). Unlike other livery stables, he refused to allow his customers free pick of horses. Instead, they were told that they could take the horse in the stall nearest the stable door . . . or they could take no horse at all. And so a phrase was born: A Hobson’s Choice is a situation in which the appearance of a choice is illusory, since the only alternative to the offered “choice” is nothing at all.
Centuries later, when Henry Ford started his assembly line, he is reputed to have given his customers the same choice Hobson did: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
It’s clear that the Obama administration has been studying the Hobson and Ford playbook. The headline in the New York Times copy of an Reuters report reads “White House Open to Compromise Over Contraception: Adviser.” That sounds heartening, doesn’t it? Except, as always, the devil is in the details:
Signaling possible room for compromise on the issue, David Axelrod said such religious institutions have a grace period to find a way to include health insurance coverage for contraception as part of the U.S. healthcare overhaul without going against Catholic Church doctrine.
“We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedom so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both guarantees women that basic preventive care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,” Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s re-election team, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Think about that for a minute: Under this so-called compromise, churches will still be required to pay for women’s contraceptives and abortifacients, but the Obama administration is kindly offering them the chance to figure out a way to subsidize these pills and treatments without offending their core doctrinal opposition to contraceptives and abortifacients. Sounds like a choice to me — a Hobson’s choice.
The Obama administration is not naive. It knows as well as we do that some things cannot be the subject of compromise. Just as one cannot be “a little bit pregnant,” there is no way to fund a repugnant practice without being a participant in that practice. These are binary issues. And this alleged offer to compromise is no compromise at all. One may as well ask the condemned man if he wants to be hanged from a gallows or a gibbet — he’s still dead at the end, and the Church is still being forced to bow down to government mandate on doctrinal issues.
Pathetic is a very strong derogatory word, but I think it’s apt when looking at Kathleen Sebelius’ defense for the Obama administration’s recent mandate that all employers must purchase insurance that provides their employees with birth control, sterilization and morning-after pills. A fisking is in order (all hyperlinks in original omitted):
One of the key benefits of the 2010 health care law is that many preventive services are now free for most Americans with insurance. Vaccinations for children, cancer screenings for adults and wellness visits for seniors are all now covered in most plans with no expensive co-pays or deductibles. So is the full range of preventive health services recommended for women by the highly respected Institute of Medicine, including contraception.
[Don't you love that concept of "free"? In fact, nothing's free. It's simply that the plan shifts the cost from employee to employer -- so that the employer has less money for salaries, other benefits, new job creation, facility maintenance, etc. But it's all good in Obama-land. I also like the way that the only one of the "full range of preventive health services recommended for women" that Sebelius names is the fairly non-controversial "contraception." To those who haven't been paying attention to the details, the message is clear: all those conservatives are getting their knickers into a twist for nothing.]
Today, virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives. And we have a large body of medical evidence showing it has significant benefits for their health, as well as the health of their children. But birth control can also be quite expensive, costing an average of $600 a year, which puts it out of reach for many women whose health plans don’t cover it.
[Again, in a marvel of sleight of hand, Sebelius is pretending that this whole uproar is about nothing more than contraception. As a matter of law, deceit includes misrepresentation through omission. This is deceitful. Also, note that careful language, to the effect that "birth control can also be quite expensive." Aside from the fact that those are wiggle words, she's doing the same thing that Babs Boxer did, which is to try to cast this as an economic issue, when it is, in fact, a much deeper one: the morality and Constitutionality of forcing religious institutions to subsidize a doctrinally offensive practice.]
The public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception is clear. But we also recognize that many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs opposing the use of birth control.
[Is that all she's got? The fact that for some people birth control can cost $600 per year is her entire "public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception" is her justification for a vast cost-shifting program that requires practically every employer in America to subsidize insurance that covers women in the workforce between age 16 and menopause? Remember, this "clear" case will cost employers a bundle, a cost that will inevitably be shared out to old people, infertile people, gay people, celibate people, etc. How nice of Sebelius, secure in her own lack of logic, to recognize that her little economic scenario might offend core religious beliefs. Fear not, though. She's got an answer for those offended people.]
That’s why in the rule we put forward, we specifically carved out from the policy religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith. This exemption includes churches and other houses of worship, and could also include other church-affiliated organizations.
[We covered this often, so I won't go on at length. The exemption is so narrow that it pretty much covers only the smallest of churches, the one staffed by two nuns and a priest, all three of whom do the janitorial and grounds maintenance work too.]
In choosing this exemption, we looked first at state laws already in place across the country. Of the 28 states that currently require contraception to be covered by insurance, eight have no religious exemption at all.
[This one really steamed me. Someone in the Obama administration forgot to read the Constitution. You see, states have broader rights vis a vis individuals than does the Federal government. This makes sense because (a) the feds have more coercive power than the states and (b) it's easier to relocate from a state you don't like, than to be forced to emigrate from a country that's oppressing you. If Alabama is too rough, go to California. If the Obama government is coming after you, though, it's a lot harder to find a safe haven.]
The religious exemption in the administration’s rule is the same as the exemption in Oregon, New York and California.
[See comments above.]
It’s important to note that our rule has no effect on the longstanding conscience clause protections for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception. Nor does it affect an individual woman’s freedom to decide not to use birth control. And the president and this administration continue to support existing conscience protections.
[Again, sleight of hand. What doctors can or cannot do is not the issue. The issue is that faith-based organizations are being forced by the federal government to subsidize a product that offends core doctrinal beliefs. If that isn't a violation of the First Amendment, I don't know what is.]
This is not an easy issue. But by carving out an exemption for religious organizations based on policies already in place, we are working to strike the right balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing women’s access to critical preventive health services.
[To which I have a last word: Feh!]
To its credit, USA Today, which hosted Sebelius’ advocacy piece, openly disagrees with her — and provides a link to its opposition right in the body of her dishonest little essay.
I hadn’t looked closely at what Sebelius said when promulgating the new ObamaCare rules that require religious organizations to fund birth control, sterilization, and morning-after pills. Hugh Hewitt, however, did look — and caught something interesting:
The press release that accompanied the new rule didn’t mention “Catholics” or “Catholic institutions,” but was as obviously aimed at Catholics and their institutions as the Blaine Amendment of long ago.
“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” said Obama’s HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-choice absolutist. “I believe this proposal strike the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”
To begin with: You cannot “balance” the right to free exercise of religion any more than you can “balance” the right of a newspaper to print stories that may injure national security.
You cannot “balance” the right to vote with the desire to save money in a time of extreme fiscal crisis.
You simply cannot indulge in social engineering when the Constitution of the United States declares the rights that you wish to engineer off-limits to the political forces of the day.
I’m about to wade into theology here, so feel free to beat me around the head (politely, of course), if I’ve committed some egregious doctrinal sin. Before you do, though, please follow my argument to its conclusion, to see whether I’m on the right track.
I got to thinking about evil today. In my earlier post, I took it upon myself to define what I believe constitutes good (as opposed to evil) at a societal level: Maximum individual freedom within a framework of stable laws. What I want to discuss in this post is the evil of the individual, whether it’s just a handful of individuals committing acts of great evil, or evil on the vast scale of Stalin, Hitler, Mao or Kim Jung-Il (as well as their minions, who kept the leaders’ hands free of actual blood).
As I contemplate evil men, what always strikes me is that they are distinguished from “merely” bad people by the way in which they view their fellow man. Your ordinary bad guy is motivated by greed, fear, anger, jealously, etc. His own feelings drive him. He’s not thinking about the relative worth of the people against whom he acts. He’s simply thinking about his own needs.
People who commit evil on a grand scale, whether their victims are small in number or large, may fall prey to these passions, but these all too human emotions are not what drive them. Instead, they commit their evil acts because they feel separate from and above ordinary humanity. In their own minds, they are a superior species, a pleasant fact that entitles them to starve the kulaks, kill the Jews and gypsies, or turn their own nation into a giant prison camp. The root cause of evil isn’t an unloving mother or a bourgeois upbringing or a racist society. Instead, it is the evildoer’s fundamental lack of humanity.
Which gets me to the birthday the Christian world celebrates on December 25. Christ was not like other gods. The Greek and Roman panoply of gods was filled with beings who, while they suffered from more than their fare share of human foibles, nevertheless were always aware of their separation from mankind, and treated mankind as pawns in the godly games. Christ, however, embraced human-kind. His passion was the human passion. Rather than rejecting human-kind, he took upon himself human pain and, in return, gave grace. By giving himself over to humanity, rather than holding himself above it, Jesus was the antithesis of evil.
(To those of you who are hoping I’ve converted, I haven’t. If there is any religion in me, my allegiance is to the Jewish God, an abstract, overarching figure that created human-kind, embraces His creation, and judges human-kind with a creator’s loving objectivity. To my mind, both good and evil are concepts too small to describe the enormity of the Jewish God.)
So, while I am not now, and probably never will be, a Christian, I join with all of you in celebrating Christmas — a holiday that truly celebrates the good in all of us.
As part of a larger rumination about religion, Barney Quick looked at the Christian notion of a woman’s submission within her marriage, since the media is going after Michele Bachmann on that point:
The recent dust-up over Michelle Bachmann’s statements on record that she feels Biblically commanded to be submissive in her marriage is another example of the kind of thing that hangs me up. She’s not alone. There is even a network of blogs maintained by women who are proud to be submissive.
I know, I know. The Christian view of marriage is that the man and woman become one, and the the man loves his wife like Christ loves the church, and therefore there is mutual respect, but ultimately there is no doubt that what is being asserted is that the man is the captain, the leader, the one in the family who makes the decisions to which the wife and children will defer. I like Michelle Bachmann a lot; she’s one of my top three or four Pub presidential candidates. But let’s be candid; she’s been dancing around the theological point since it resurfaced last week.
I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot myself, for years actually. Twenty-five years to be precise. Twenty-five years ago, in a single weekend, I went to two weddings. The first wedding was a yuppie New Age ceremony with a mail-order minister who waffled on about universal harmonies, shakras, karma, the joining of souls, etc. I found the ceremony peculiarly un-compelling. I couldn’t figure out if the bride and groom had committed to each other for life, or were taking some sort of oath before embarking on a spaceship for galaxies unknown.
The next day, I went to the wedding of two people who belonged to a small, deeply fundamentalist church. It was my first exposure to an evangelical wedding, which meant it was also the first time I’d heard a minister give voice to the notion that, just as Christ is the head of the Church, so too is the man the head of the married couple. The minister said that, for the man, this position carries with it tremendous responsibility to love, honor, protect and respect the wife, but that the man still has the dominant position. I was shocked to the core of my feminist soul . . . yet, even then, I had this sense that I had attended a real wedding, with the bride and groom committing themselves to each other and to God. I also had a sense of order.
Fast forward to today. I have a friend who has what is, without question, the most successful marriage I’ve ever seen. He would say that it’s because he’s married to the most wonderful woman in the world which is, of course, true. But she would say (I’m pretty sure), that it’s because she is married to the most wonderful man in the world, which also happens to be true. These two like and respect each other at a level that I’ve only seen a few other times. But here’s the kicker: on the rare occasions when they have disputes that reach an impasse, he casts the deciding vote. Because he loves, likes and respects her so much, he never casts a vote that is intended to hurt or demean her. Nevertheless, he is the tie-breaker.
Frankly, this strikes me as a good thing. When he finally makes a decision, she hasn’t lost, nor as he won. He’s simply exercised his position within the relationship to resolve stalemates. If you don’t have someone in the marriage who occupies that role, you end up with each dispute becoming a fight to the death. Neither party can afford to give ground, lest they be seen as taking a subordinate place in the relationship. Rather than tie-breakers, there are only winners (smug) and losers (demoralized).
If the Christian model is how Michele Bachmann’s marriage functions, fine. In every marriage there are disputes, and every married couple has to figure out how to resolve those disputes. It could be through a bloody emotional battle to the death (yeah, I know: crazy metaphors), or it could be by designating one partner as the tie breaker. Presidents always have their spouses at their side (or at their backs), and the spouse will always be part of the equation, regardless of the method they use for resolving their own disputes.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Obama recently offered an insight into his own marriage, which James Taranto examined in the second entry in his BOTW column. One gets the feeling that Michelle scares him, just a little bit.