September 2008


The PCUSA is preparing for one of the high points on its church calendar: United Nations Day, celebrated this year on the Sunday nearest October 24. In anticipation of this great church festival, it has made some resources available to enhance your congregation’s worship (what of is for you to judge). For instance, we have this “Prayer for Peace in our Time,” from Peacemaking Through Worship, Volume 1 (it’s not ascribed to any author, though it might be from Neville Chamberlain):

O God, Our Father, O God, Our Mother:
we pray for all your children on earth,
of every nation and of every race;
that we may be strong to do your work.
We pray for the Church in the world.
Give peace in our time, O God.
For the United Nations, the World Court, and for all governments and their leaders,
give peace in our time, O God.
For worldwide agencies of caring which bind wounds and feed the hungry:
give peace in our time, O God.
For all who seek to transform systems that wound
give peace in our time, O God.
For all who work for justice and peace:
give peace in our time, O God.
Amen.

Then there’s Satish Kumar’s “World Peace Prayer,” which isn’t actually addressed to anyone, and so may be more of a mantra than a prayer:

Lead me from death to life,
From falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
From fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
From war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.

Shannon Parks-Beck of the Seattle Presbytery has a “Prayer for United Nations Day”:

Merciful and life-giving God,

We long for a world where justice and peace thrive
We want to be proud of our communities, our countries, our world
And, we know that we are your instruments in bringing that peace

Ground us in a counter-cultural hope that has power to transform us and our world
For we are a generation prone to skepticism and self-centeredness
We are overwhelmed with our over-scheduled lives

Remind us that we are first humans on this planet
Then nations, tribes, religions, families
Help us to plant and water the seeds of peace
From our personal spirituality to our engagement in civic and political life

We give thanks for those leaders who call us to our best selves,
Who offer a vision of an involved and compassionate world
Who do not run from sacrifice or dismiss the powerless
And who call us lift our gaze to see find you and ourselves in the other

Return the church to our prophet, Jesus, who called us into community
to care for the poor, to welcome the stranger, and to set the oppressed free.

Amen.

There’s more, but you get the point. The interesting thing to me is both how vague all these prayers are, how devoid of any particularly Christian content, and how child-like in their faith in the UN. The UN has, as anyone who actually follows what goes on there knows, become an extraordinarily corrupt institution whose primary purpose, aside from providing perpetual employment for a coterie of international dandies, is to offer a platform for the world’s demagogues, anti-Semites, and haters of freedom. Yet folks like this still act as if all good things will, if we just wish for it hard enough, flow from the largess of Turtle Bay.

Somewhere, George Orwell (author of the epochal essay “Politics and the English Language,” which to judge by the following article is no longer read in Great Britain) is wagging his finger and saying, “I told you so.” The reason is the politically correct manipulation of language described by this article from the London Telegraph:

Publishers and universities are outlawing dozens of seemingly innocuous words in case they cause offence.

Banned phrases on the list, which was originally drawn up by sociologists, include Old Masters, which has been used for centuries to refer to great painters – almost all of whom were in fact male.

It is claimed that the term discriminates against women and should be replaced by “classic artists”.

The list of banned words was written by the British Sociological Association [BSA], whose members include dozens of professors, lecturers and researchers.

None of whom have ever heard of George Orwell, or have any common sense of which they are aware.

Prof Frank Furedi, a sociologist at the University of Kent, said he was shocked when he saw the extent of the list and how readily academics had accepted it.

“I was genuinely taken aback when I discovered that the term ‘Chinese Whisper’ was offensive because of its apparently racist connotations. I was moved to despair when I found out that one of my favourite words, ‘civilised’, ought not be used by a culturally sensitive author because of its alleged racist implications.”

Because these folks are against civiization, I assume, or think it over-rated. Among the institutions using this guide are the University of Bristol, the University of Leeds, King’s College London, and Napier University in Edinburgh. Policy Press, which publishes “social science” textbooks and journals, has also sent it to prospective authors. The list of forbidden terms included on this leftist Index is amazing:

Immigrants is said to have “racist overtones” because of its association with “immigration legislation”, while developing nations – intended as a more sensitive replacement for Third World – is “prejudical” because it implies a comparison with developed countries.

Although not included on the Policy Press list, the BSA warns authors against using civilisation because of its “racist overtones that derive from a colonialist perception of the world”.

Among the “sexist” terms to be avoided are “seminal” and “disseminate” because they are derived from the word semen and supposedly imply a male-dominated view of the world.

Authors are also told to “avoid using medical labels” when writing about disabled people as this “may promote a view of them as patients”.

In addition, the list says “special needs” should be changed to “additional needs”, “patient” to “person” and “the elderly” to “older people”.

“Able-bodied person” should be replaced with “non-disabled person”, it is claimed.

In response to such twaddle, Orwell’s words are worth remembering:

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

(Via MCJ.)

One organization that was conspicuous by its absence from the dinner with the Iranian president last week was the National Council of Churches. In a statement that NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnimon made at a rally against Ahmadinejad last week, we indirectly find out why:

Provocative, belligerent rhetoric is the enemy of peace!  Therefore, those who claim to be peacemakers must know when to say No! to rhetoric that threatens the neighbor.  Now is such a time.

President Ahmadinejad’s hateful language, denying the Holocaust and apparently calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” must be persistently and forcefully denounced by all who value peace.  The Rev. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ and a leader in the National Council of Churches, has put it this way: “Revisionist history of genocide must never be accorded credibility among civilized people of any faith tradition.  Anti-semitic efforts to rewrite evil events—not new in history or unknown even in the United States—endanger the Jewish people, disgrace faith communities who perpetuate them or choose to remain silent in their presence, and degrade the value of human life everywhere.”   Indeed, we must not be silent when others use their voices to incite violence.

Such rhetoric has another consequence: It makes it difficult to trust other things that the person says.  If President Ahmadinejad has so little regard for the verifiable facts of history and the legitimacy of a state created by UN decision, it is hard to believe he means it when he insists that Iran’s nuclear program is only intended for peaceful purposes.  And as he continues that program in defiance of Security Council resolutions, he also shows his contempt for the community of nations.

The National Council of Churches has, throughout its history, been actively committed to dialogue, even with enemies.  But dialogue cannot be built on the basis of truly reprehensible public positions.  Those who would be peacemakers must know when to say No! to rhetoric that threatens the neighbor.  And now is such a time.

There’s stuff I could quibble with in here, and the tone could be stronger. But overall I appreciate Kinnimon’s rejection of Ahmadinejad, and implicitly of meeting with him (the fact that the NCC was not represented at the dinner shows that that’s what this statement was pointing toward). I applaud Kinnimon for it and hope that it represents a turn toward a more realistic view of world affairs for the NCC.

UPDATE: By way of contrast, here’s what the news story from the World Council of Churches, which was one of the sponsors of the event, had to say:

Critical questions of how religions inform human rights and concerns over human rights violations, nuclear arms, religious oppression, and environmental abuse, in countries including the United States, Israel, Palestine and Iran, were all part of the evening’s dialogue.

“While there were points of contention and clear disagreements, the event reaffirmed that religious traditions insist on dialogue, respect and love for peace making,” Ferguson said.

The latter is the Rev. Christopher Ferguson, executive for the WCC UN liason office. He later summed up the evening’s presentations:

Ferguson, who presented the evening’s summation, noted the commonalities presented by the panel – all affirmed the place of dialogue for engagement, the fundamental place of justice to people of faith, and that our religious traditions direct us to love, dialogue and defend the rights of all persons.

Ferguson also noted that the evening was an example of the place of religion in dialogue and peace building. “In the midst of the current international crisis and tensions it became clear that religious leaders have much to contribute in peace making,” he noted.

This, of course, was two days after Ahmadinejad spewed Protocols of the Elders of Zion-type nonsense all over the UN General Assembly about “Zionist” designs on dominating the world. The story ended with this:

The WCC has a long history of dialogue and relationship building with religious, cultural and political leaders in Iran.

Just as it did with the Soviet Union and every other anti-democratic, anti-Western, anti-Christian regime that it could fawn on. Some things never change.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a group whose work I usually appreciate, organized an effort by several dozen pastors to defy the Internal Revenue Service regulations prohibiting political candidate endorsement from the pulpit. This was presented by the ADF as an initiative to secure freedom of speech for the pulpit, but I think it a foolhardy move on the part of the pastors.

Earlier this week, ADF senior lawyer Erik Stanley said this:

Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights. If you have a concern about pastors speaking about electoral candidates from the pulpit, ask yourself this: should the church decide that question, or should the IRS?”

ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit. Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don’t want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates. The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple: the IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status. We need to get the government out of the pulpit.

Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954. That’s when the unconstitutional rule known as the “Johnson Amendment” was enacted. Churches are exempt from taxation under the principle that there is no surer way to destroy religion than to begin taxing it. As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, the power to tax involves the power to destroy. The real effect of the Johnson Amendment is that pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS.

Stanley is right about the constitutional history, and the story surrounding the Johnson Amendment (named for author Lyndon Johnson, who wrote it while in the Senate as a way of muzzling non-profits giving him fits back in Texas) is more than a little sordid, and it should be repealed if for no other reason than for being a blight on the freedom of speech. He’s also right about the tax exemption for churches, which isn’t a gift from the government for good social works, but a protection for religious freedom.

All that said, pastors should not have gotten involved in this. It’s true that you can’t bring a court case on an abstract question, but have to have real people with real interests involved, but that’s ADF’s problem. Pastors who are getting into partisan politics in the pulpit are abusing their office and their calling. Preach about moral issues in light of Scripture and theology all you want, but when you get partisan you wind up portraying God as a mere politician. You also, incidentally, buy into the fallacy of the religious left (which contends that they have some kind of mandate to stamp God’s imprimatur on to prudential political, social, and economic measures), since choosing between political candidates is by its very nature a matter of prudential judgment. That’s something that all Christians are called to do as they live as citizens of a democratic polity, but it has no place in the proclamation of God’s eternal Word. By helping the ADF pursue their legal crusade, these pastors are doing an enormous disservice to their congregations, and the ADF is doing one to the churches that it is supposed to be dedicated to serve.

While Quakers, Mennonites, and World Council of Churches reps were yakking with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Thursday, some of the latter’s friends were getting ready to celebrate Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran. According to Agence France-Presse:

Iranians chanted “Death to Israel” on Friday as Islamist students unveiled a book mocking the Holocaust in an Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day annual parade to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

The book “Holocaust,” published by members of Iran’s Islamist Basij militia, features dozens of cartoons and sarcastic commentary.

The cover shows a Jew with a crooked nose and dressed in traditional garb drawing outlines of dead bodies on the ground.

Inside, bearded Jews are shown leaving and re-entering a gas chamber with a counter that reads the number 5,999,999.

Another illustration depicts Jewish prisoners entering a furnace in a Nazi extermination camp and leaving from the other side as gun-wielding “terrorists.”

Yet another shows a patient draped in an Israeli flag and on life support breathing Zyklon-B, the poisonous gas used in the extermination chambers.

The commentary inside the book includes anti-Semitic stereotypes and revisionist arguments, casting doubt that the massacre of Jews took place and mocking Holocaust survivors who claimed reparations after World War II.

One comment, in a question-and-answer format, reads: “How did the Germans emit gas into chambers while there were no holes on the ceiling?” Answer: “Shut up, you criminal anti-Semite. How dare you ask this question?”

So what, you say? This is vile, to be sure, but it’s just a bunch of pin-headed students. The government doesn’t have anything to do with this, does it? Well, here’s the punch line:

Education Minister Alireza Ali-Ahmadi attended the official launch of the book in Tehran’s Palestine Square.

(Via Little Green Footballs.)

I haven’t been able to find anything about last night’s dinner between the Iranian president and various Christian types and others in the mainstream press yet, so I’ll have to go with a story from the Mennonite Central Committee:

Arli Klassen, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee, gave welcoming remarks on behalf of the sponsoring organizations. She lit an oil lamp as a symbol of faith and invited participants to reflect on peacemaking from their own faith perspectives.

“As a Christian, I believe that we are following Jesus Christ’s example and his teaching as we eat together and hold this dialogue despite our many differences,” Klassen said.

Klassen noted several areas of high tension in relations between Iran, the United States and other nations. Addressing President Ahmadinejad, Klassen raised concerns about his statements on the Holocaust and Israel, Iran’s nuclear program and religious freedom in Iran.

“We ask you to find a way within your own country to allow for religious diversity, and to allow people to make their own choices as to which religion they will follow,” Klassen said.

Ahmadinejad will no doubt respond, “you didn’t say ‘please’.” Given recent developments in Iran regarding religious freedom, or rather the lack thereof, this seems like a pretty lame request.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a leader in the Jewish Renewal movement, spoke about Jewish traditions of peacemaking and nonviolence and drew upon her work for reconciliation between Muslims and Jews and Palestinians and Israelis. She also spoke about the significance of mourning the deaths of all victims of war, including the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, World War II and wars in Iran and Iraq.

“Because of the Holocaust, I learned from the rabbis who ordained and guide me, to be active in preventing further suffering of all human beings as a primary religious call to action,” Gottlieb said.

Rabbi Gottlieb is making the questionable assumption that Iran’s leading anti-Semite believes that the Holocaust took place, or, if it did, that it was a bad thing. As for “preventing further suffering of all human beings,” once again, that’s a meaningless response to the tyranny of Ahmadinejad and his buddies.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke about Islamic principles for alleviating poverty, caring for the environment and working for peace and justice. He encouraged his interreligious audience to cooperate more closely toward these goals.

“Has not God created us?” Awad said. “Yes — and he wants us to work together.”

One can always count on CAIR to try to help others understand and appreciate Islamic fundamentalist dictators.

Although Klassen, the Rev. [Kjell] Bondevik [former prime minister of Norway] and others raised concerns about religious freedoms and human rights in Iran, President Ahmadinejad did not address these issues directly.

Gee, what a surprise.

President Ahmadinejad spoke at length about theological issues, such as monotheism, justice and commonalities among religions.

“All divine prophets have spoken of one truth,” the president said. “The religion of Islam is the same as that offered by Moses.”

Which would be a big surprise to Moses, I suspect.

President Ahmadinejad spoke in broad terms about “challenges facing the human community,” including poverty, declining morality and a lack of religion in public life. He decried the humanitarian costs of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon and spoke extensively about the hardships suffered by Palestinians. He criticized nations such as the United States for maintaining nuclear weapons and did not deviate from his previous statements that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Look! Over there! A bunny!

The evening’s program ran later than scheduled, and President Ahmadinejad departed shortly after concluding his remarks without taking questions from the audience as had been planned.

Again, what a surprise. I can’t help but think that his hosts breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he left, knowing that they were spared the necessity of actually questioning any of his nonsense. I’m sure this evening will soon be trumpeted as a triumph of good-will and dialogue, even if there wasn’t actually any of the latter.

UPDATE: The Layman Online reports that in addition to the sponsors, the PCUSA sent three representatives to the dinner. Joel Hanisek of the PCUSA’s UN office, said that a primary reason for going “revolved around the arrest of an Irani minister who has close ties to the Outreach Foundation, an evangelical mission-sending agency:”

“We will raise the issue of Rev. Soodmand,” Hanisek said, adding that he did not know the minister’s first name. “Rev. Soodman is being detained and is imprisoned by the Iranian government. We are aware that the constitution of Iran grants freedom of religion.”

I hope that Hanisek was able to talk to Ahmadinejad about Pastor Soodmand and win his freedom. Given what we know about the dinner, I’m afraid it was a forlorn hope.

Faith MacDonnell of the Institute on Religion and Democracy writes at FrontPage magazine about the dinner this evening between the president of Iran and his American Christian friends:

Arranging the Iftar at Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, accompanied by obsequious verbiage about “the significance of religious contributions to peace,” and “building mutual understanding between our peoples, nations, and religious traditions,” the event’s sponsoring committee is just the latest example of the pattern of Western behavior towards Islam that has been so well described and foretold in the work of Bat Ye’or and others. In some cases, these mainline Christian leaders are toadies, hoping to avert a jihad-level catastrophe by assuming the position as submissive “People of the Book.” In other cases, mainline Christian leaders have reached the point where the doctrines of the Christian faith (for which many Iranian Christians have been willing to die) have no meaning anymore, and all religions are equivalent.

Perhaps it would be worth it to hold your nose and dine with the devil if it meant an opportunity to speak out about Iran’s repression and persecution, to be a voice for those who are suffering, and to demand that Islam offer reciprocity for the freedom of religion and decency of treatment that Muslims have received from Christians, Jews, and Baha’is. With Iran on the verge of a new level of repression, and religious minorities in Iran facing a new level of siege because of the proposed apostasy penal code, an American Christian leader is needed to speak with courage and forthrightness over a dinner plate. To use the phrase that mainline liberal church leaders are so fond of when it comes to attacking George Bush, a prophetic voice to speak truth to power. Ahmadinejad will hear such voices, but he will not hear them in the posh dining rooms of the U.S. mainline church leaders. He will hear them in the prison cells and court rooms of Iran.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post,

Thursday’s dinner is framed as an “international dialogue” on the topic, “Has Not One God Created Us? The Significance of Religious Contributions to Peace.” President Ahmadinejad has manipulated such dialogues repeatedly into a platform for spreading intolerance, and there is no reason to think that this event will be any different.

It is disturbing enough that a leader who has worked so ruthlessly to close off channels for free expression at home should be given an opening to expound his views here. But the invitation to President Ahmadinejad comes amid a rapidly accelerating deterioration of religious freedom and other human rights in Iran, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions often based on the religion of the accused.

Gaer and Cromartie then recount some of the latest depredations in the Islamic Republic, including religious repression, suppression of political dissent, jailing of journalist, and Holocaust-denial support. They then conclude:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is convinced that inviting the New York community, UN officials and the media to join him in a dialogue undermines the legitimacy and seriousness of religious contributions to peace. Worse, the invitation offers President Ahmadinejad a new, prestigious podium for espousing his ideology of intolerance.

Another way to put this is to say that the Christian leaders are being as tools, unwitting dupes of a tyrannical regime. Way to go, folks.

Sam Harris, founder of the incorrectly named “Reason Project,” author of Letter to a Christian Nation, and scourge of all things and all people religious, has written a screed for Newsweek that demonstrates just how far he is from being an apostle of reason. It focuses on Sarah Palin, and warns against the coming right-wing apocalypse. It’s longish, so I urge you to read it all, but here are some high lowlights:

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with millions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either.

Someone should clue Harris into a little secret–most of our presidents have, in some form or another, believed this. Methodist George W. Bush, Southern Baptists Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Episcopalians George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford, Presbyterian Ronald Reagan, Disciple Lyndon Johnson, Catholic John Kennedy: whether they articulted it this way or not, they all on some level or another saw God as overseeing the world. Heck, Abraham Lincoln staked the future of the Union on this conviction. But apparently in Harris’s world, only atheists and agnostics are fit for the presidency. I guess he won’t be voting for Obama and Biden either, huh?

Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the “end times.” Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves.

I believe the proper expression for this passage is “malicious fantasy.” Harris doesn’t actually know any of this about Palin, so he uses weasel words such as “likely” and “suggests.” Well, you know anyone can play that game–I suspect, given what Harris writes in this article, that he burns crosses on his front lawn and eats weasel meat for lunch. But that’s just my suspicion.

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps.

This is where he’s going to talk about Obama’s long-time affiliation with Jeremiah Wright and Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers, right? Wrong:

In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” “miraculous healings” and “the gift of tongues.” Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin’s spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of “the final generation,” engaged in “spiritual warfare” to purge the earth of “demonic strongholds.” Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: “All options remain on the table”?

Harris seems unwilling to recognize that Palin left the Assemblies of God church because it was “extreme.” Of course, he would consider the Archbishop of Canterbury extreme, because he believes in God, which no rational person can do. The point is that he insists on imputing to her stuff that she walked away from years ago because she disagreed with it. Given this standard of “reason,” we can also assume that Obama believes that the United States government developed the AIDS virus to kill African-Americans, since that’s what the leader of the church he was a member of for 20 years preached. Is that what we want in a president?

Teen pregnancy is a misfortune, plain and simple. At best, it represents bad luck (both for the mother and for the child); at worst, as in the Palins’ case, it is a symptom of religious dogmatism. Governor Palin opposes sex education in schools on religious grounds.

It’s sad when supposedly smart people like Sam Harris demonstrate that they have a hard time reading simple news accounts. Palin does not oppose sex education in public schools. Period. I believe that’s what Al Gore would refer to as an “inconvenient fact.”

There’s more, but most of it isn’t an argument; rather; it’s a fact-free, speculation or fantasy enhanced collection of Sam Harris prejudices projected on to someone about whom he knows even less than what has been in the newspapers. Take the time, if you’re so inclined.

(Hat tip: Hampton.)

UPDATE: It isn’t exactly a response to Harris, but Michael Gerson offers another view of Palin and those supporting her:

Americans who support Palin are not fools, peasants or theocrats. They have reasons, which elites may not agree with, but cannot dismiss. Many are attracted to her because she embodies the values of the American West, which they find superior to the values of coastal elites. This was part of the appeal of Goldwater and Reagan—a log-splitting, range-riding conservatism that emphasizes freedom. (Palin adds moose hunting to the list.) It’s not irrational or simplistic for voters to prefer candidates who reflect their deepest values.

To others Palin represents a different kind of feminism—feminism without liberalism. Many women seem enthusiastic about supporting a woman leader who struggles with the balance of work and family, takes on the old-boy network and yet rejects the agenda of the National Organization for Women. And Palin appeals to many voters as a pro-life symbol, with a family—including a son with Down syndrome—that exemplifies a culture of life. Elites may dismiss this as trivial or backward. But there’s no deeper question of political philosophy than this: whom do we count as a member of the human family and protect as our own? Palin welcomed a disabled child—the kind of child often targeted for elimination through eugenic abortion. It’s not irrational for Americans to support a candidate who is willing to protect the weak.

Harris, like so many of those who have attacked Palin, sneered at her having a Down Syndrome child and being pro-life, for being ordinary, for not being one of the “elite.” Gerson’s response gets it just right, I think.

(Hat tip: Hampton again.)

One might have guessed that there would be more than the usual amount of nonsense in the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” column this week as they asked the question: “John McCain and Sarah Palin say it’s time to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Do you agree? What is the right moral choice?”

They could have asked the question, “Barack Obama thinks it is morally acceptable for doctors to allow infants who survive abortion to die. Do you agree?” But that was as likely as Barbara Streisand endorsing Bob Barr for president. So what kind of answers did the Post get to their question?

First up, we have the Rev. Gardner Calvin Taylor, senior pastor emeritus of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn. His answer is succinct and beside the point:

Government has a right to attack Roe v. Wade only when it guarantees that the fetus will have a quality education, adequate food and housing, quality healthcare, and a favorable community in which to advance. Anything short of this is infanticide in stages and wanton hypocrisy.

I’m not sure, but I think he’s saying that abortion should be legal until the United States embraces Communism. I do know that his contention that abortion is OK unless a child is guaranteed “a favorable community in which to advance” is utopian and reprehensible. I’ve got to wonder how many of his congregants in Brooklyn he would have counseled to have abortions if Bed-Stuy didn’t turn into the Upper West Side overnight.

Next, we have old dependable Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite:

Women died when abortion was illegal. Women were butchered when abortion was illegal.

Well, yes, but women have also died from botched abortions since 1973. And because the numbers tossed about by the pro-abortion lobby were made up out of thin air, we actually can’t say for certain whether the numbers show legal or illegal abortions to be more numerous. She also writes:

Abortion is a decision that people sometimes make after wrestling with competing moral claims. Abortion is also the end product of a society that fails to protect women from violence, fails to give young people truthful explanations of their own reproductive capacity and the tools to be able to act responsibly their whole reproductive lives and often fails to provide even the minimum needed to earn a living and care for your family in dignity and health.

An ethical way to address abortion reduction is to give truthful sex education, safe and widely available contraception, health care for pregnant women and their children, and support for day care so that women and their families are not forced into having an abortion because they cannot afford to raise a child.

She needs to stop time-traveling and return to 2008. Sex education is nearly universal, and contraception is available to anyone who lives within walking distance of a convenience store. The problem is neither lack of education nor lack of contraception; it’s the lack of self-control and self-discipline of human beings. Because people can neither keep their pants on nor take adequate measures to stop pregnancy once they get them off, and don’t want to accept the consequences of their actions, abortions in the hundreds of thousands are the result. With Dr. Thistlethwaite’s full approval, one might add.

Then there’s Susan Jacoby, who’s convinced that the only people who don’t celebrate abortion as a sacrament are those conservative Christians who think A Handmaid’s Tale was a manual rather than a novel:

[Overturning Roe] would leave the entire matter of abortion up to individual states, where (especially in the South and the Middle West) the religious right has much more influence in state legislatures than it does in Congress. The result will be a return to the pre-1973, pre-Roe reality: the only way for a woman to obtain an abortion, for any reason, will be for her to travel to a state that allows the procedure. This means that abortions will, de facto, be available only to women with enough money and sophistication to travel.

Hmmm. Only women sophisticated enough to get on a bus or drive a car to another state would be able to get abortions. I never really thought of either of those things as being marks of sophistication, but maybe in the circles Jacoby travels in, they are.

But in one respect, she’s correct. Because people who respect life are a greater percentage of the population in places like Alabama than in places like New York, it is likely that Alabamians would be able to outlaw abortion in most instances, whereas New Yorkers would not. That’s called democracy, and it’s what happens when New Yorkers aren’t allowed to impose their morality on Alabamians. Personally, I’m not much on democracy in regards to abortion, because I think it’s a grotesque evil that should be outlawed everywhere, like slavery. But it’s people like Jacoby that are so outraged at the idea that conservative Christians might “impose” their opinions on everyone else, whereas she and her ilk are perfectly happy imposing theirs on others.

The Rev. Susan Smith of Advent UCC in Columbus, Ohio is confused about the whole right-to-kill thing:

I do not for the life of me understand why the government should have that kind of power over what should be a personal choice of a woman.

Is that the way a democracy is really supposed to function? I am so confused anymore about what the government can and cannot do, but this I am not confused about: I would resent it if my government prevented me from making a choice I felt I had to make.

The other Susan Smith–the South Carolina mom who decided she had to drown her children, rather than giving custody to her husband so she could pursue and affair–must have felt the same way. See, Rev. Smith, abortion isn’t about choice, it’s about killing, and what you want is not the right to make your own choices, it’s the right to kill your children, and the prevention of killing is generally taken to be one of the primary purposes of government.

She also doesn’t seem to understand the difference between killing and deprivation of goods:

But isn’t it murder as well to let a hungry child go hungry, a poor child remain homeless, and a poorly educated child lose hope and end up in prison? If we want the babies – all babies – to come into the world, we ought to be willing to take care of them once they are in the world.

I wonder if people like Smith ever stop to think that this position is tantamount to saying that millions–tens of millions–of children who are currently alive in the world, some even in the United States, should be killed because they can’t have it as good as the Susan Smiths of the world? Are hunger, homelessness, lack of education, or even imprisonment good things? Of course not. But it is possible to overcome all of them, whereas it is not possible to overcome never having been born.

UPDATE: I had to add one, from Arun Gandhi, that is a triumph of liberal political ideology over moral sense:

There can be nothing moral about abortion

So abortion is wrong–no ifs, ands, or buts. There is nothing moral about abortion, indeed there cannot be, which means we may thus put in a category with genocide, slavery and racism.

but there are times in one’s life when one is called upon to make a choice that may go against the ethics of society. Abortion is one of those issues. I believe it is strictly the choice of the woman concerned and it is not society’s business to dictate morality and ethics to individuals.

So, despite the fact that there is nothing moral about abortion, despite the fact that it involves a horrific evil that can have nothing good about it, despite the fact that society “dictates morality” all the time (and on lots of far less serious moral issues than abortion), this is one of those about which society should say absolutely nothing.

I for one do not want a President or a Vice President to tell me how to lead my life and preach morality to the nation.

Actually, Gandhi has made clear in “On Faith” columns that he is perfectly happy to have the president, vice president, Congress, in fact the whole government preach morality. This is a man who said of this year’s presidential candidates, “will turn the United States into a truly Christian country that will put the Sermon on the Mount where it belongs: front and center of our Constitution.” So we need the president to put the Sermon on the Mount in the Constitution, but not say a word about a practice that has nothing moral about it.

A Supreme Court that is dominated by men has no business poking its nose in the affairs of women.

Because men have nothing to do with bringing children into being, I guess.

The prresident of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke to the United Nations today. Among his other pearls of wisdom:

In Palestine, 60 years of carnage and invasion is still ongoing at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists. They have forged a regime by collecting people from variosu parts of the world and bringing them to other people’s land by displacing, detaining and killing the true owners of that land.

In case it’s not immediately clear, he’s not just talking about the West Bank or Gaza here; he’s talking about Israel itself as illegitimate and “criminal.”

The dignity, integrity, and rights and of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner….

This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will.

If you need to know where Ahmadinejad got this paranoid drivel, check here.

The thoughts and deeds of those who think they are superior to others and consider others as second-class and inferior; who intend to remain out of the divine circle, to be the absolute slaves of their materialistic and selfish desires, who intend to expand their aggressive and domineering nature, constitute the roots of today’s problems in human societies.

That would be the Joooooooos.

On Thursday, this grinning psychopath, who would love to finish what Hitler started, is going to sit down for dinner with some friends of his: representatives of the World Council of Churches, American Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee, Quaker United Nations Office, and Religions for Peace. The General Secretary of the AFSC, Mary Ellen McNish, writes in anticipation of the festivities:

This is our fourth meeting with the Iranian president over the past three years.  Each meeting has made me hopeful for what could happen if the U.S. participated in a diplomacy without preconditions with the Iranian government.  I have great hopes that this dialogue continues to build understanding between our two countries and will allow time for a frank and honest exchange of views.

More to come.

(Ahmadinejad speech link via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: As Chris Johnson, ace reporter for MCJ, asks in the comments, what do you suppose the chances are that the Iranian president will be asked about this:

The Iranian parliament has passed the first reading of a bill that imposes the death penalty on Muslims who convert to another faith. By a vote of 196 to seven, with two abstentions, the Majlis passed the “Islamic Penal Law” bill on Sept 9.

The law, which will now be referred to committee for final drafting and possible amendment, mandates the death penalty for male adult Muslims who convert to another faith. Women converts are to be jailed for life. Those who practice witchcraft will also be condemned to death.

The law’s reach extends beyond the borders of Iran, and gives the government the authority to enforce the death penalty on any Muslim anywhere in the world who leaves the faith.

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