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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Catholic Bishop’s Tardy on FOCA Outrage

Where was this outrage two months ago? Where was this outrage six months ago, or 18 months ago? On December 8 of this year, columnist Ray Kerrison (see column here) of the New York Post wrote that “Obama's commitment to FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) dominated [the U.S. Catholic Bishops’] discussions at their annual convention in Baltimore last month.”

Writing a few months ago, I noted that Barack Obama said, “The first thing I'll do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).” FOCA, as co-sponsor Barbara Boxer has said, “supercedes any law, regulation or local ordinance that impinges on a woman’s right to choose. That means a poor woman cannot be denied the use of Medicaid if she chooses to have an abortion.”

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has stated that “FOCA will supersede laws that restrict the right to abortion, including laws that prohibit the public funding of abortion.” NOW adds that, “FOCA prohibits states from enacting laws intended to deny or interfere with a woman's fundamental right to choose abortion,” which would include laws that limit the access of minors to abortion.

In his column Kerrison notes that FOCA “would also compel taxpayers to fund abortions and provide abortions in military hospitals. Most provocatively of all, it would force religious hospital and health-care institutions to perform abortions in violation of their convictions.”

Kerrison also states, “If President-elect Barack Obama goes through with his campaign pledge to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, holy hell is going to break loose.” He adds that, “FOCA means war.” It should have meant war BEFORE Obama got elected.

Catholic Bishops are stepping up the combative rhetoric. Kerrison points out that “US bishops have always been united in their moral condemnation of abortion. But they have stopped short of flexing political muscle, evading a head-on confrontation. That may now change.” Too bad they didn’t do more political “flexing” BEFORE Obama got elected.

Kerrison quotes the Bishops’ saying things like, “[FOCA] would threaten Catholic healthcare institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would divide our country and the church should be intent on opposing evil. Chicago's Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki…said flatly that if the Obama administration attempted to force Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, they'd shut them down rather than comply. ‘This is not a matter of political compromise or finding some common ground,’ said Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steuvenville, Ohio. ‘It's a matter of absolutes.’” Too bad more Catholics didn’t go to the polls with such a mindset.

Catholics voted for Obama over McCain to the tune of 54% to 45%. Obama’s 54% is two points higher than Bush’s Catholic support in 2004. Twenty-seven percent of the U.S. electorate is Catholic, with significant numbers in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. I doubt that Catholic support for Obama would have been as great if Catholic Bishops had taken this grave a tone BEFORE Obama got elected.

We should not be surprised. Obama was given a pass on many issues. Perhaps a closer look at exactly what he was saying, how he had voted, and with whom he associated would have given not only Catholics, but a majority of Americans a different view of him.

With Obama due to take office in less than a month, we can’t afford to continue to look back and wonder what would have happened if he had received more scrutiny. However, it is worth noting that, just like all of our major decisions in life, elections have consequences. We all can learn from our mistakes. Here’s hoping the lessons of the Obama administration will not be too painful.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good Tidings of Great Joy

“I guess hard times have flushed the chumps; everybody’s lookin’ for answers,” said Ulysses Everett McGill mockingly, as a congregation sang and filed toward the river for baptism in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. The film is set in Mississippi during the Great Depression when times were indeed hard. Our current economic woes have some folks harkening back to the Depression era and comparing the two periods. However, history reveals that at present there is little real comparison.

During the Great Depression, in 1933, unemployment peaked at 25% and remained over 10% until 1941. On July 7, 1932 the stock market, as measured by the New York Times index, bottomed out at 33.98, a decline of over 89%. Between 1929 and 1932 national income dropped by more than 50%, which included a 70% decline in manufacturing income and an 80% decline in construction income. By 1931 farm income had fallen by 50% and during the 1930s over 9,000 U.S. banks failed. Undoubtedly, many people were “lookin’ for answers.”

Of course, no one in this world knows for sure how bad our existing economy will get, but it’s safe to say that we have a long way to go before we get to real Great Depression comparisons. Nevertheless, many people today are hurting and looking for answers. Given that we are so near to Christmas makes things that much more difficult for folks, and, unlike the fictional Mr. McGill and those in the real world who share his views, I believe that the hope of Christmas provides the answer to all that ails us.

With our current economic situation, scores of people seem to believe that our hope is in government. Others think that free-market capitalism holds all the answers. Now I, of course, tend toward the latter, but I know better than to think that free enterprise alone will get people to the place where they really need to be.

Both government, albeit a limited one, and capitalism play a vital role in keeping our economy humming along, but one must have the proper world view before either will work as it should. A true examination of Christmas yields such a view.

Around 2000 years ago, an angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Christians celebrating Christmas are celebrating more than just a birthday. Christians believe, as C.S. Lewis put it, that Christmas is the story of how “the rightful king has landed.”

Just prior to His death, as Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman governor, Pilate asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” After some discussion Pilate concluded to Jesus, “You are a king, then!” Jesus answered him saying, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world…”

Speaking of Christ, the book of Colossians states, “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him…and in him all things hold together.” Thus, no matter what may come our way in this world, whether good times or bad, we should always look to the King of the universe and the Creator of all things for our direction.

Christ and His word will help keep us humble in the good times and give us peace, hope, and even joy in the difficult ones. As we look for answers to our most challenging questions, whether they are about the economy, war, global warming, marriage, abortion, immigration, and so on, we would all do well to remember to “seek first the kingdom of God.”

Furthermore, just as Pilate asked the crowd before handing Jesus over for crucifixion, we need to remember to have the right answer to the ultimate question that we all must answer: “What shall I do, then, with Jesus…?”

Have a truly merry Christmas.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Justified War

A holy end, no matter how glorious, can never be vindicated by unholy means. To many Americans the Iraq war was, and is, unnecessary. To some Americans the Iraq war was, and is, unjust. (I happen to believe that it was neither of these, but that is not the point of this column.)

The pacifist sees no war as just. With the same reasoning, pacifists, or like minded individuals, oppose the death penalty in any and all circumstances. In other words, in the minds of some people the taking of human life is never justified (unless, of course, it is still in the womb). I believe that these folks could not be further from the truth. In fact, I think that such placatory thinking is not only wrong, but subversive to true peace and justice.

On this matter C.S. Lewis wrote, “All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army; nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major—what they called a centurion.”

Loving your neighbor as yourself, of course, does not mean ignoring his evil deeds or saying that he is nice when he is not. The word of God tells us that, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. For in the image of God has God made man (Gen. 9:6).” In other words, as the pacifist would agree, life is indeed precious. This is why good government, for the sake of justice and civil harmony, must hold those who shed innocent blood to the ultimate accountability.

As noted historian David Barton puts it, “Life is God-given; He formed us, made us, and breathed life into us. Therefore, He gave clear commands both on preserving innocent life and on punishing those who take it (See, for example, Exodus 23:7, Deuteronomy 27:25 & 21:8-9 & 19:10, Proverbs 6:16-17, 2 Kings 24:4, Psalm 10:2,8, et al.)”

Just as Scripture supports capital punishment, it also supports the idea that a nation may go to war when the cause is just. The author of Hebrews in chapter 11, the champions of faith chapter, describes men such as “Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice…became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight…” Thus here we have deeds of war lauded as acts of faith.

Abraham, with whom God covenanted, promising him descendants “as numerous as the stars in the sky,” waged war against and defeated five kings. He was then blessed by Melchizedek who was “priest of God Most High.” Christ Himself, being zealous for His Father’s house, made a “whip of chords,” which was no instrument of peace, and drove the money-changers out of the temple.

Founding Father John Jay, member of the Continental Congress, one of the three coauthors of the Federalist Papers, and first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of letters expounded on the biblical view of war. In them he goes into great detail of how Scripture supports the waging of justified war. In his first letter Jay asks, “If every war is sinful, how did it happen that the sin of waging any war is not specified among the numerous sins and offenses which are mentioned and reproved in both the Testaments?”

In his second letter Jay notes that, “The depravity which mankind inherited from their first parents, introduced wickedness into the world. That wickedness rendered human government necessary to restrain the violence and injustice resulting from it…The law of all the nations prescribed the conduct which they were to observe towards each other, and allowed war to be waged by an innocent against an offending nation, when rendered just and necessary by unprovoked, atrocious, and unredressed injuries…It is true that even just war is attended with evils, and so likewise is the administration of government and of justice; but is that a good reason for abolishing either of them? They are means by which greater evils are averted.”

Given all of this, some might wonder, what then is the difference between Christian morality and the rest of the world? There is a great deal of difference indeed, for the Christian knows that we are all eternal beings and this world is not our home. Death, though tragic, is not the end of all things. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves—to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.”

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World