Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Senator and Abortion

This weekend is the anti-abortionists's Woodstock, the anarchists's Annual World Bank meeting--the National Right to Life March in/on Washington, commemorating the now 33rd year since the arguing of Roe V. Wade.

The Senator is a pro-choicer of long-standing. He got his political start escorting female patients safely to clinic entries on Saturday mornings and working against his local, anti-abortionist blowhard congressman. But he recognizes the problem many well-meaning, thoughtful people have regarding the practice. The availability of ultrasound technology makes clear that even at very early stages in the fetus' life, that there is in fact, a life there. So regardless of how hypocritical the Senator believes the anti-abortion movement is, he concedes that abortion is and will remain a troubling issue of public policy, the flashpoint in the continual tiring culture war, for valid reasons. I know my feminist web-pals like Lauren at Feministe and Amanda at Pandagon hate liberal ambivalence like this, but the matter is what it is.

So if there's a life there, why isn't the Senator anti-abortion?

Because life's complicated.

For one thing, how do we agree about what constitutes the start of this life? At the point of sex, where the male sperm enters the woman's vagina? Um, no. Most if not all anti-abortion groups, especially those taking the Roman Vatican's position, are against the use of contraception, not just abortion. So the so-called "morning after" pills, which prevent ovulation or fertilization, are out, even though they don't come close to mimicking the destruction of the embryo as happens in abortions. No infant being stuck with scissors at birth here. So the anti-abortionists are not consistent or sensible on this point. Anybody ready to eliminate the use of contraception? So most anti-abortionists are really against sex, not abortion.

The Senator is also aware that the anti-abortionists, most of the prominent ones anyway, don't care about the "life of the unborn child". If they did, they'd care about people who are, you know, actually alive. I realize that those anti-abortionists who kill doctors and or patients represent a fringe component of all anti-abortionists. Nonetheless, anti-abortion killers have a lot of sympathy in the anti abortion movement. And its plain that from most of their public stances, leading anti-abortionists are more than willing to let the rest of the world burn from America's shocking and aweful war machine, having no objection to the taking of thousands of civilian lives for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. When was the last time you heard James Dobson condemn America's "War on Terror", prisoner torture, and the "collateral damage" from our air raids, like the one last weekend against Pakistan? And as for Americans outside the womb, many anti-abortionists are decidedly in the anti-gay following. If the idea is to be pro-life, why not celebrate these lives as well? If there's no good reason to be against gay people, and I've not heard a good reason, than why not apply the same if not greater value to the lives of gay Americans who are actually alive, outside the womb? We could go on here, death penalty (which the Senator supports), welfare reform, Medicare-Medicaid spending, etc. The fact is, the anti-abortionists's pseudo concern for the "culture of life" is bupkis, a smokescreen designed to obscure their real ambition, the roll-back of women's rights (and everyone else's).

Finally, perhaps the most severe and illogical implication of making abortion illegal concerns the treatment of women who undergo the procedure. What do the anti-abortionists want to do with them? Well, many anti-abortionists, at least publicly, take a benign stance to these women, preferring to label them as fellow victims in the relativistic left's "culture of death". But this won't wash. Anti-abortionists can't simultaneously claim, as one anti-abortion marcher today did on one of the national networks, that they opposed abortion because of its effects on the women getting them, while also claiming that abortion is "murder" and calling the number of abortions obtained since 1973 a "holocaust". If abortion is murder, than women getting abortions are murderers. There can't be a middle ground here. Women getting abortions would be subject to the same criminal charges as any other killer. I'm sure many anti-abortionists haven't thought this through to its logical conclusion. Maybe they imagine that if abortion was made illegal, that no attempts would be made to obtain one. The "problem" of abortion would then "go away".

I doubt it.

The Senator thinks that if abortion is finally made illegal, at either the state or federal level, that the stated concern so many anti-abortionist spokespeople now make on behalf of women who've had an abortion would evaporate as fast as you could say Phyllis Shlafly. Women who've had abortions, or who have been caught planning to have them, would be paraded across Faux Noose as betrayers of their sex and their nation. Wouldn't be long before they'd join the ranks of death row inmates awaiting execution.

Or maybe they'd be hung in public on the streets of Gilead.

So, in short, the Senator is pro-choice but wishes the practice would be "safe but rare".

As for the so-called "moralists" among the religious elite, hey, when you apologize completely for burning people at the stake for "heresy", when you confess you were wrong to support slavery, wrong to oppose the right to vote for women, African Americans, and working slobs who didn't own property, that you are and were wrong to oppose allowing workers to unionize, that you were wrong to oppose Martin Luther King Jr and desegregation, that you were wrong to oppose the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Acts of 1964-1965 (hey, Jerry Falwell, I'm talking to you), that you were wrong to oppose the New Deal, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, then maybe the "secular relativistic left" will give you and your ideas a hearing.

Until then, take your moral absolution and shove it.

Market Based Reforms

Hmmm. Another mine tragedy. In West Virginia. Again. Two more dead.

Bet there's a dandy "market based reform" just waiting to be implemented here, to ensure greater mine safety.

Friday, January 20, 2006

God's Own Circus

Wayward Christian Soldiers


Published: January 20, 2006
Charlottesville, Va.

IN the past several years, American evangelicals, and I am one of them, have amassed greater political power than at any time in our history. But at what cost to our witness and the integrity of our message?

Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.

Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims. Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular "Left Behind" series, spoke of Iraq as "a focal point of end-time events," whose special role in the earth's final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction. For his part, Jerry Falwell boasted that "God is pro-war" in the title of an essay he wrote in 2004.

The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.

Some preachers tried to link Saddam Hussein with wicked King Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical fame, but these arguments depended on esoteric interpretations of the Old Testament book of II Kings and could not easily be reduced to the kinds of catchy phrases that are projected onto video screens in vast evangelical churches. The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.

Such sentiments are a far cry from those expressed in the Lausanne Covenant of 1974. More than 2,300 evangelical leaders from 150 countries signed that statement, the most significant milestone in the movement's history. Convened by Billy Graham and led by John Stott, the revered Anglican evangelical priest and writer, the signatories affirmed the global character of the church of Jesus Christ and the belief that "the church is the community of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology."

On this page, David Brooks correctly noted that if evangelicals elected a pope, it would most likely be Mr. Stott, who is the author of more than 40 books on evangelical theology and Christian devotion. Unlike the Pope John Paul II, who said that invading Iraq would violate Catholic moral teaching and threaten "the fate of humanity," or even Pope Benedict XVI, who has said there were "not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq," Mr. Stott did not speak publicly on the war. But in a recent interview, he shared with me his abiding concerns.

"Privately, in the days preceding the invasion, I had hoped that no action would be taken without United Nations authorization," he told me. "I believed then and now that the American and British governments erred in proceeding without United Nations approval." Reverend Stott referred me to "War and Rumors of War, " a chapter from his 1999 book, "New Issues Facing Christians Today," as the best account of his position. In that essay he wrote that the Christian community's primary mission must be "to hunger for righteousness, to pursue peace, to forbear revenge, to love enemies, in other words, to be marked by the cross."

What will it take for evangelicals in the United States to recognize our mistaken loyalty? We have increasingly isolated ourselves from the shared faith of the global Church, and there is no denying that our Faustian bargain for access and power has undermined the credibility of our moral and evangelistic witness in the world. The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.

Charles Marsh, a professor of religion at the University of Virginia, is the author of "The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today."

From The Rainmaker:

Matt Damon's first year lawyer character, Rudy Baylor, to Jon Voight's slick, rich lawyer character, Leo F. Drummond:

"I'm just wondering, do you even remember when you first sold out?"

Stanley, Fallwell, Graham, Olasky and LaHaye are sell-outs. They're not Christians. They're conservative hacks, dressed up to look like Christians. Unfortunately, they come from a long, infamous lineage of pastoral elites who have always cowtowed to the conservative elite, embracing slavery, segregation, nationalism and homophobia as the situation has warranted. Now when they speak about matters of war, gay rights, and tax policy they expect to be taken seriously. By too many congregants I suspect they are.

But not by this Christian.

Must be time for another bloggers' ethics panel

From Atrios:


The guardians of our elite discourse.

MATTHEWS (1/18/06): Have you gone to see it yet? I've seen everything else but that. I just-

IMUS: No, I haven't seen it. Why would I want to see that?

MATTHEWS: I don't know. No opinion on that. I haven't seen it either, so-

IMUS: So they were-it was out when I was in New Mexico and-it doesn't resonate with real cowboys who I know.


IMUS: But then, maybe there's stuff going on on the ranch that I don't know about. Not on my ranch, but you know-

MATTHEWS: Well, the wonderful Michael Savage, who's on 570 in DC, who shares a station with you at least, he calls it [laughter]-what's he call it?-he calls it Bare-back Mount-ing. That's his name for the movie.

IMUS: Of course, Bernard calls it Fudgepack Mountain...

Thank God Matthews and Imus are credentialled members of the media. Thank God for the wonderful Michael Savage.

Sounds like it's time for another one of those "blogger ethics panels".