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    January 23, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I am really going for a head-in-the-sand approach to the next four years. There is nothing a classical liberal like myself can do when there is a socialist majority in both houses of Congress and the White House as well {other than pray}. However, I just can’t overlook the bad thinking that produced this election.

    I almost told Si last night that I thought he should pull out Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic and offer to teach it to our friends, neighbors, church members, whoever was willing to come. If a people cannot think, they cannot make good decisions. In fact, it is hard to say in what capacity they can make decisions at all. It seems any action taken would have to fall into the category of reflex or instinct.

    But I digress.

    Why is Brandy irritated this morning? The plain truth is that I cannot tell you how many Christians I encountered online and in real life who thought that Obama’s abortion stance didn’t matter. The line of {bad} thinking went something like this: presidents do not actually make law, therefore his stance on x {here x is defined as abortion} matters not.

    Besides the fact that this completely ignored the tendency of our modern presidents to rule like emperors by virtue of Executive Order, and besides the fact that it overlooked the power of Presidential Veto, it also overlooked the influence of the President. After all, Obama is now leader of the Democratic Party, the party that happens to be in the majority in the legislative branch of government.

    And, as my title today states, it starts. In fact, today is the Big Day. Today:

    President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order ending the ban on federal funds for international groups that promote or perform abortions, officials told The Associated Press on Friday….

    The policy bans U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of U.S. Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. It is also known as the “global gag rule,” because it prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that even talk about abortion if there is an unplanned pregnancy.

    I think that, whoever we voted for, now is the time to write down exactly what we predict for this presidency. In is important to see whether our expectations are true and well-founded. I challenge my readers to write this down somewhere and keep it for reference. For instance, if you hoped Obama was going to bring peace and justice for all, write that down. If you think he’s going to pay your mortgage, write it down. If I think he’s going to cause millions more abortions than we are already seeing in this country, I should write that down. At the end of four years, I can look at my predictions and see whether or not I was being reasonable.

    If I had written down what I had expected from Bush {I voted for him, I confess} I would have to say that I was almost completely wrong. I expected a Classical Liberal {well, maybe I just hoped for one, but there it is} and we got a Big Government education reformer {which was unconstitutional, by the way} with serious shades of Socialism.

    So write it out. Be specific. And then look back occasionally to see how well you did, how well you were thinking. If I missed something, if I was totally and completely wrong, I promise to admit it. We have to see ourselves in light of reality, folks.

    I repeat: write it down.

    And now, a bit of Ruskin {emphasis mine} to celebrate the progress of the Culture of Death:

    At this instant, a faint cry fell on his ear. He turned, and saw a gray-haired old man extended on the rocks. His eyes were sunk, his features deadly pale, and gathered into an expression of despair. “Water!” he stretched his arms to Hans, and cried feebly: “Water! I am dying.”

    “I have none,” replied Hans [{lying}]; “thou hast had thy share of life.

    [And later…]

    And as Schwartz climbed the steep rock path, the thirst came upon him, as it had upon his brother, until he lifted his flask to his lips to drink. Then he saw the fair child lying near him on the rocks, and it cried to him, and moaned for water.

    “Water, indeed,” said Schwartz; “I haven’t half enough for myself,” and passed on.

    Ruskin’s work illustrates two brothers, Schwartz and Hans, who have embraced an inner culture of death. Thankfully, in their time they were exceptions and not the rule. But their reasoning, when they deny water to the thirsty is very interesting. It is appropriate to relate this to abortion because abortion is part of a larger issue, and that is the embrace of the culture of death, the embodiment of Survival of the Fittest.

    The old? Have they not already enjoyed their share of life? The helpless? Well, there is only so much water to go around. Because resources are limited, the strong has the right to the limited portion. Or, more aptly, no one who is weak can stop them from doing so.

    Abortion, and issues like it, puts a price on life and then declares that one life is more important than another. One life deserves water more than another. We’re all thirsty, after all.

    Yesterday was the 36th anniversary of that tragedy called Roe v. Wade, which was really the logical consequence of the cultural embrace of birth control as an idea.

    Who needs war when we can kill our enemies in a much more subtle way? All it takes is one unborn child at a time. Pretty soon, the future has been destroyed.

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    10 Comments

  • Reply Brandy January 27, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Nate the Great,

    1. As far as Group B goes (Christians who voted for Obama AFTER carefully weighing his stance on abortion.)…I know they exist. I do. I think such action fails to consider the character issues involved in such a stance. After all, Obama wasn’t just a token pro-choicer because he was conforming to the party platform, but he was out there saying that it would be his honor to sign FOCA as his very first act as President. When someone says that something will be their first action in a new job, they are making something a symbol of their leadership. Obama chose to make abortion that symbol. There is something deeply wrong with a man who thinks the best way to lead a nation is to kill off its future. Not only is this deeply sinful, but it reveals a complete lack of understanding of the world and its created order.

    In other words, I think such a vote was completely wrong. Completely. Now, if a friend of mine voted in such a way, we could still be friends. Our children could still play together. And so on. But I can’t find room in myself to say that such a vote was at all wise.

    So I suppose this means that there is more to it than thoughtfulness. Even though I know that two people can both be thoughtful about something and come to different conclusions, and even though I will say that I don’t think everyone has to agree with me (and I know they don’t and I’m okay with that), there is a difference between thoughtfulness and actual wisdom.

    So I guess my response would be that Group B practiced thoughtfulness but not wisdom.

    2. I think that whether someone would “self-identify” with socialism (or fundamentalism or whatnot) is beside the point. I like to think this country is still open enough to call a toad a toad. If, for instance, I do not like to be called postmodern, and yet I believe that I essentially define my own truth and hold to other tenants of postmodern philosophy, the fact that I don’t like to be called such is irrelevant. Socialism is a socio-economic theory. It’s not an epithet. The characteristics are basically: collective/governmental ownership of the means of production and distribution and/or society in which there is no such thing as private property. That is socialism in a nutshell, unless you read Marx and agree that, besides what I already said, socialism is also the transition point between capitalism and communism.

    What I call the socialist majority in DC (which includes most Republicans, by the way…there are probably five guys up there who qualify as something other than socialist) supports federally funded collectivist education. It supports federally funded and managed health care. Through this mysterious phenomena known as the Bailout Plan, we have seen strides made to nationalize banks, insurance companies, automotive companies (who own some of the last large factories left in the nation), and other financial institutions. Until the price of oil dropped to a point where there was no money to be made in it, many sessions of Congress included demands to nationalize or control oil companies on all levels: production, distribution, etc. We still technically have private property rights, but many strides have been made by the courts to eliminate such rights in their purist form, making large allowances for eminent domain.

    My friend, this is socialism. There is no other term in our language that is more appropriate. My use of this term is not at all flippant. I use it deliberately because I firmly believe it is most fitting for this conversation.

    Which means we might have to agree to disagree. 😉

    3. As far as your interpretation of history goes…Well, I’m a bit baffled. I know that there have been times when a leader professed Christianity and yet the actions taken were entirely inappropriate for a Christian. I know that there have been dark times in history. But I think that you need to be careful here. Amazing things have been accomplished for the world in the name of Christianity. There have been wonderful Christian leaders of nations (two come to mind quickly, George Washington and Abraham Kuyper). I also think we should consider Proverbs 29:2 very compelling: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”

    However, I will concede that it is very difficult these days for an actual righteous man to reach a position of power.

    I don’t want to make the nation a Christian nation in the sense of the Church ruling it. That is not the place of the Church. I believe in the Christian version of division of powers: that there is Biblical precedent for authority within families, churches, and governments and those powers are separate and should not interfere with one another if at all possible. In fact, to go full circle, one of the major problems with socialism is that it lacks respect for these other spheres of authority and tramples them at every turn. This is dangerous because it conflicts with created order.

  • Reply Nate January 27, 2009 at 2:29 am

    1. On the abortion issue. I think all posters are close to being on the same page here. Overturning Roe v. Wade is surely a worthy goal, one that pro-lifers shouldn’t abandon. Like Dana, I was only pointing out that overturning the law is just one part of a more wide-ranging strategy. The only thing I’d add now (on abortion) is that there’s a big difference between people belonging to the following groups:

    (Group A) Christians who voted for Obama WITHOUT carefully weighing his stance on abortion;

    (Group B) Christians who voted for Obama AFTER carefully weighing his stance on abortion.

    I know several evangelical Christians in the latter group, and do not think less of them for voting as they did. Most of these people thought that a vote for McCain would be a vote wasted as far as the abortion issue is concerned. They therefore decided to base their vote on other issues (e.g., foreign policy). Given what they had to go on, it’s not at all clear to me that this was a bad decision. In any case, I think we can all agree that it’s important to avoid treating people in group B as though they were second-class Christians.

    2. Regarding socialism (and other “isms”). You said:

    “there is nothing a classical liberal like myself can do when there is a socialist majority in both houses of Congress and the White House as well (other than pray). However, I just can’t overlook the bad thinking that produced this election.”

    Irrespective of whether Obama is or is not a socialist, this takes things too far. I’m willing to bet a high percentage of my miniscule salary that very few elected democrats would self-identify as socialists. Indeed, I’ll bet that many of them would reject that label outright. And in general I think it’s uncharitable to attach to someone a label that she would be loathe to attach to herself.

    More substantively, it’s true that these democrats sign on to some of the same political tenets as true socialists do. But that is not enough to make them socialists. Compare: all evangelical Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word, that salvation comes through Christ, and so on. But it would be a mistake to move from a few important commonalities to the claim that these evangelicals are fundamentalists. The general worry here is with the move from: (1) All Xs resemble Ys in several important respects to (2) All Xs are Ys. That move will work only if there aren’t relevant differences between Xs and Ys. And plausibly, there are such differences between many current democrats and socialists.

    3. On Calvin’s Geneva. I don’t know a lot about this, and I was (sloppily) inserting the quip about Calvin’s Geneva as a substitute for a more general point. The point is that over the course of church history, Christianity has fared quite well during some periods of serious persecution (see Ancient Rome, present day China). When, on the other hand, Christians have been in power, it’s not clear that things have gone so well (see Inquisition and Religious Wars). Those who seek political power are often tempted to abuse that power for what they view as good reasons. And like everyone else, Christians have often proven ill-suited to resist that temptation. The lesson here, I think, is that we should think twice before we seek to exert political power in order to “further the Kingdom”. To be clear: I’m not advocating political inactivity. But I am wary of those who want to make the United States a “Christian nation”. Such a goal is not Constitutional. And I’m not sure it’s Christian, either.

    As for reading on Calvin, two books are

    1. Alister McGrath, _A Life of John Calvin_.
    2. T.H.L. Parker, _John Calvin: A Biography_.

  • Reply Brandy January 26, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Anonymous,

    Was Obama actually a member of the Communist Party? I knew that the Communist Party in Illinois had endorsed him (proudly!), but I don’t think I knew he had ever been anything other than a Democrat…

  • Reply Brandy January 26, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Kim,

    Thanks for providing a topic of conversation for our 6.5 minute drive to church. 🙂 Si and I were trying to balance the idea of the moral responsibility to protect life with the obligation to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Si’s thought was that we are still obligated to pay taxes (though I would argue that if there was ever instituted a SPECIFIC tax that benefitted ONLY abortion, his answer here would have to be different).

    There will soon be responses that will be required of Christians. My understanding is that Democrats are trying to hurry up and pass the Freedom of Choice Act. If you recall, Obama boasted during his campaign that his first act as President would be to sign this into law. FOCA would, if I understand it correcly, make it illegal for hospitals and doctors to refuse to provide abortion services on the grounds that their consciences forbid it. In response, the Roman Catholic Church has threatened to close all of their hospitals in the United States, which is approximately 1/3 of all hospitals nationwide. FOCA is interesting at the level of political philosophy because it seeks to nationalize abortion, which to this point has been governed by state and local law. So now the beltway will dictate abortion policy for all states. It is a HUGE power grab.

    But back to abortion. Besides closing hospitals, there are other alternatives. Folks could just continue doing the right thing and see what the fallout is. I recently read a blog post where someone was praising their elderly relative who, when she was younger, had been a teacher during the time when prayer had been outlawed in schools and religious talk had also become illegal, etc. This woman simply continued to do as she had always done, and so she lived righteously among the unrighteous. I suppose there are many different correct responses, and we all need to be prepared to live righteously.

    By the way, I thought it was so beautiful for you to dedicate Lincoln today on Sanctity of Life Sunday. For some reason, it seemed so symbolic to me to have the dedication be on this day.

  • Reply Brandy January 25, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Nate,

    I told Si I’m going to start calling these sorts of posts “Bait Nate” posts, where I manage to get our Resident Philosopher to comment on the situation. 🙂

    I can see why you find my use of “socialist” unhelpful. I go back and forth on whether using it the way I do actually accomplishes my purposes. I tend to hold the opinion that Americans aren’t actually socialists and don’t automatically identify Obama’s ideology with what it is–which is socialism. I would honestly go so far as to call him a Marxist, since much of what he says he intends to do matches up with Marx. When I call him this, I am trying to point out something about him, just like I am when I call myself a classical liberal (which is a way of also distancing myself from the likes of the Republican Party and identifying my actual beliefs). But, like I said, I’m not sure this has the effect I’m going for.

    I understand you saying that we shouldn’t focus all of our attention on Roe v. Wade. This remark actually echoes a bit of Dana’s previous comment about taking local action. And I really do think that local action matters and is also more practical in the sense that it is a place we can focus our restless energies whenever we hear of all the babies dying and despair that there is seemingly nothing we can do.

    However, comma…I have to admit that I have been influenced by Chuck Colson here. When Si was studying with the Centurions, one of the nuances of law that was often pointed out was the concept of law as a moral tutor. The example given most was the idea of outlawing segregation. Before segregation was outlawed, most folks thought that segregation was morally correct. Not long after the law was instituted, the moral sensibilities of the people changed, and the majority believed that segregation was wrong. When something is made legal or illegal, there are a certain number of folks who will have their morality shaped by that fact. It takes a lot of deliberate thought to transcend written law and consider what is universally right and wrong, and I’m not sure how many people (even Christians) actually do that.

    All of that is to say that I hesitate to take too much emphasis off of Roe v. Wade because overturning it would provide helpful moral instruction to the citizens not just of this country, but also the watching world.

    By the way, your final comment intrigued me. I am familiar with the history of the Empire under Nero, but I have studied Calvin without actually studying Geneva. Any good books out there for a person like me who lacks knowledge in that area?

  • Reply Brandy January 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Dana,

    I agree whole-heartedly! Actually, I tend to wonder whether this particular action (ending the ban on federally-funded international abortions) would have been different had McCain won.

    As far as local involvement goes, I was wondering if you were familiar with STOPP? My understanding is that they were able to, as they say, “prayerfully and peacefully” encourage the eventual closure of all 19 Planned Parenthoods in the Texas panhandle! I expect to familiarize myself with their written plan (which I linked to above) in the coming weeks.

  • Reply Anonymous January 25, 2009 at 6:23 am

    To make the jump from socialist to red commie pig is a little extreme. Since the word socialist actually means something. Liberals continue to extrapolate definitions into name calling but since Obamaq actually was a card carring commie either way it fits.

  • Reply Dominic and Kimberly January 25, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Oh, Brandy. I have so many thoughts about this topic and the lack of integrity on the abortion issue with Christians.
    I had a thought tonight after reading your blog: If our taxes are going to pay for abortion, and our religion says that it is wrong, do we have to pay taxes? I think it would be awesome if Christians got together and decided not to pay taxes because of religious reasons. What better way to send a message to the government.

  • Reply Nate January 24, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    The egalitarian and free-market positions are both legitimate democratic traditions. And right, Obama is even more toward the socialist side of the spectrum than some egalitarians would be comfortable with. But given the connotations that go along with calling someone a “socialist” (=”red commie pig”), I’m not sure that the rhetoric is helpful here.

    On another note, you’re right that Obama’s position on abortion matters. Right now I’m agnostic about whether we’ll have more or fewer abortions under Obama than we had under Bush. What seems clear is that the way to fewer abortions is *not* focus all our attention on reversing Rowe v. Wade. That would just put the legality of abortion back in the hands of the states. This might, in turn, make it somewhat more difficult for some women to obtain abortions–but only if several neighboring states have made the practice illegal as well. (NB: I don’t think you’ve said anything incompatible with all this.) A necessary condition for a long-term decline in abortions is that we change the way people think about the issue. Of course, that’s a tough assignment. And by now I’m preaching to the choir…

    Finally, I completely identify with your frustration about Xians’ unwillingness to think about politics. Equally frustrating, though, are Christians who spend more time fretting about Obama’s election than asking how Christians can serve and contribute to our society over the next four years. There’s lots of good work for us to do out there, just as there would be lots of work had McCain been elected. So let’s get to it! (And remember: Christianity flourished under Nero. We can’t say the same about Calvin’s Geneva.)

  • Reply Dana January 24, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    RYC: I cannot tell you how many Christians I encountered online and in real life who thought that Obama’s abortion stance didn’t matter.

    What bothered me more were McCain supporters who thought he would make a difference for the pro-lifers.

    Bottom-line level of influence for me on this topic – local involvment, i.e. boycotting GYNs who perform the procedure and supporting crisis pregnancy centers.

    I dont think your head is in the sand per se…. more maybe that we should wear blinders and not allow ourselves to see every.single.unfortunate.thing. that Obama does.

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