At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Bi-Partisan Confusion Over the Planned Parenthood Scandal

posted by Jack Kerwick

As many (but not enough) people now know, for quite some time, Planned Parenthood has been designing their abortion services for purposes of harvesting and selling the organs of the human beings that they routinely kill.

It would appear that this has gotten folks from across the political divide pretty upset.

But the outrage raises questions.

Either abortion is morally reprehensible or it is not. If it is reprehensible, then it is so presumably because abortion is the unjustified killing of an innocent, defenseless human being. The fate of the corpse is either of no moral relevance or, at the very least, of far less moral significance than the fact that a corpse was produced to begin with.

If abortion is not morally reprehensible, then the fate of the aborted human being that’s been separated from its mother should no more concern us than should the fate of a wart, cyst, tumor, or a skin tag that’s been removed from a patient concern us.


In both cases, the shock and indignation expressed by both Republicans and Democrats, “conservatives” and “liberals,” to the latest revelations regarding Planned Parenthood are morally confused.

Some Republicans, like presidential contender and Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, now advocate on behalf of defunding Planned Parenthood. They now call for this. Indeed, Planned Parenthood most definitely should be deprived of government monies. It’s a disgrace that taxpayers were ever forced to subsidize it.

But if Planned Parenthood should be defunded, it is because it has been routinely slaughtering the most vulnerable human beings for decades. Do Senator Paul and his cronies mean to suggest that it is only because of what Planned Parenthood does after it has killed a human that it deserves to be denied government funds? And since everyone has known that this organization has been killing human beings for years and years, are not Paul and his colleagues now implying that it is permissible to fund abortion services, as long as the corpses are disposed of, rather than harvested?


The Republicans’ demand to defund Planned Parenthood is the right one. Yet given their timing, this sounds more like politics and less—much less—like sound, moral reasoning.

Of course, those Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, that now claim to be “disturbed” or “concerned” about this Planned Parenthood scandal also sound disingenuous.

The Democratic Party has been America’s official “pro-choice” party since the early 1970’s. According to the party line, mothers are morally entitled to kill their offspring—as long as their posterity remains in their wombs. This has been Democrats’ position, a position that they have spared no measure in defending.

Of course, Democrats never frame their view in quite these terms: They defend not “mothers’” rights, but “women’s” rights. And it certainly isn’t a right to “kill their offspring” that Democrats advocate, but the right to “choose,” or the right to “abort the pregnancy.


All talk of a child or baby or even a human being is conspicuously—intentionally—absent from the vocabulary of the proponents of “choice.” Instead, there is the “fetus.”

Are we now expected to believe that these same Democrats are bothered to discover that agents of Planned Parenthood are selling the body parts of “aborted” “fetuses?”

Democrats can’t even bring themselves to refer to abortion as a form of killing at all. Thus, they insist upon speaking—and have been remarkably successful in convincing others to speak—of “abortion.” There is and can be no talk of “killing,” lest it become suspected that the object of abortion is human.

But this being so, on what grounds could any proponent of “choice” be troubled by the trading in body parts that’s occurring at Planned Parenthood?


No one should be surprised that those who support the killing of human beings in the womb would be unperturbed by using their remains for ostensibly noble purposes—or any purposes: If it is permissible to extinguish “fetuses’” lives, then why should it matter, morally, what one does with the dead?

But neither should those who regard as a moral evil the killing of human beings in the womb be all that troubled by the purposes to which their remains are put, for the grave moral evil here is the killing of human beings in the womb.

Again, either abortion is immoral or it is not. In terms of moral relevance, whatever happens after the abortion comes in a distant second to the abortion—if it even registers at all.



Trump: Rhetoric vs. Record

posted by Jack Kerwick

As much as GOP politicians and their apologists in the media despise it, Donald Trump is, deservedly, the GOP presidential frontrunner at the moment. To Trump’s eternal credit, he has made it acceptable (or at least somewhat less unacceptable) to openly discuss the scourge that is American immigration policy.

Still, intellectual honesty demands that we contend with Trump’s record, as opposed to his rhetoric.

If “Romneycare” divested Mitt Romney of the moral capital that a GOP presidential candidate needed in 2012 to defeat Barack Obama and Obamacare, then how much worse does Trump promise to fare if he has to go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton—who he’s supported over the years?

That’s right: Hillary Clinton is among the many Democratic politicians who Trump has supported over a period of decades.


However, as Jonathan S. Tobin, a writer for Commentary, notes, Trump wasn’t just “a major donor to” Clinton’s “campaigns for the Senate.” He as well “gave $100,000 to the thinly-disguised political slush fund that is the Clinton Family Foundation [.]”

Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry are some other notable Democrats to whose coffers Trump contributed.

In 1990, Trump told Playboy that if he ever ran for office, he “would do better as a Democrat than as a Republican.” Admittedly, Trump immediately qualified this judgment by stressing that he was a “conservative,” and that it was only because “the working guy would elect me” that he would be more successful running as a Democrat.


But this idea—the idea that “the working guy” votes for Democrats—is itself a Democrat’s prejudice.

Years later, in 2004, he gave Wolf Blitzer a different reason for why he is more sympathetic toward Democrats: “In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat.” Trump explained: “It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.”

Throughout the last 26 years, when we adjust for inflation, Trump has contributed $1.4 million to politicians. Overall, about one-third of this money has gone to Democrats. But it has only been within the last five years that the lion’s share of his donations has gone to Republicans.

In 1999, Trump described Republicans as “too crazy right.”


Trump is now claiming that his support of Democrats like Hillary Clinton was purely “transactional,” that as a “businessman,” he needed to have leverage when dealing with such big wig politicians. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.” Trump says that he “need[s] that.”

This may very well be the only reason that Trump lent enormous sums of money to the task of insuring that the Clintons and Kennedys would maintain and increase their power. However, there are two reasons why this explanation fails to clear him.

In fact, the explanation for having contributed to Democrats and their causes reflects far worse on Trump than the fact that he made these contributions in the first place.


First, if Trump is telling the truth and he gave roughly $500,000 to Democrats over a span of decades, and until fairly recently, for the sole purpose of advancing his own material interests, then doesn’t he reveal himself to be a narcissist extraordinaire? Presumably, he recognized that the Democratic Party was destructive of the well-being of the country—this, after all, is why his relations with Democrats was purely “transactional.” Yet he put his own purposes above those of his compatriots who he supposedly knew were suffering under Democrat Party policies.

So, even if Trump persuades us that he is sincere in what he says on this score, he wins by losing, for few people (if they think about this) will want a person like this in the White House.


On the other hand, Trump may not be sincere at all. Why not think that he is just faking it now in order to get something else, like greater power, fame, etc. that he thinks will serve his own interests?

Either way, by his own words, he stands convicted.

Trump has also supported an assault rifle ban and a single-payer health system. He has never been pro-life. Actually, in supporting Democrats, he has strengthened the cause of abortion.

And perhaps most telling of all, given the popularity that he’s enjoyed as of late over his comments on immigration, Trump has very recently suggested that he favors essentially the same kind of “comprehensive immigration reform”—i.e. amnesty—favored by every other Republican and Democratic candidate.


Trump said that he supported an immigration system that would rid the country of the “bad” illegal immigrants while arranging for the “good” illegal immigrants to remain.

As a result, Americans for Legal Immigration Pac (ALIPAC) added Trump to their “Cantor List”—a list, named after Eric Cantor, comprised of “amnesty supporters.”

Numbers USA now gives Trump an overall grade of “C” on immigration. For their “Amnesty Rating,” Trump receives a “Harmful.” As far as “Reducing Legal Immigration” is concerned, Trump received an “Unhelpful.”

It’s a blast watching Trump shake things up, for sure. And it’s far from obvious that he is any worse than any other Republican candidate (of whom more will be said at a later time).

But anyone who thinks that Trump is either a conservative or a libertarian is willfully blind to his record.

The record goes so far as to suggest that he isn’t even a GOP loyalist.

He is, rather, a crass political mercenary.



What’s a War “Hero?”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Donald Trump’s remarks concerning John McCain’s status as a “war hero” elicited much hand-wringing from both his fellow Republicans as well as from Democrats.

However, the truth is that the reasoning that proceeds directly from the premise that someone fought in war to the conclusion that he is a war “hero” is illicit. As for those who for nearly 50 years have been denouncing the Vietnam War as both “immoral” and “unjust,” but who now sing praises to McCain and other ‘Nam vets, matters are even more troublesome.

First, at the peak of the war, Martin Luther King, Jr. exemplified the left’s view when he charged his country with being “the greatest purveyor of violence” in the world because of its actions in Vietnam.


It’s difficult to see how the legions of American soldiers without whom there could’ve been no war can be anything other than war criminals given this assessment of the bloody conflict in ‘Nam.

Second, to avoid this conclusion, many of the war’s critics—like the critics of the wars in Iraq and elsewhere—excuse the “immoral” and “unjust” conduct of the troops by chalking it up to their ignorance or helplessness: The soldiers were “lied to” by their government, they say, or they were “just following orders.”

This line, however, gives rise to new challenges:

Soldiers entering combat jeopardize their lives. They leave their families and loved ones behind, potentially forever. They also consent to take as many lives, to shed as much blood, to destroy as much property, as their commanders deem necessary for victory.


When it comes to a decision as momentous as this, a decision that could come at the cost of everything—including, potentially, one’s own soul—it is the height of recklessness for anyone faced with it to accept the word of another, particularly that of the government.

In other words, all soldiers should exhaust themselves scrutinizing “what they’ve been told,” especially when it is the government that is the source. If at all possible, they should make sure that they aren’t being deceived.

As far as following commands is concerned, this is the old Nuremberg defense. No Commander-in-Chief has the authority to command anyone to act criminally. Such commands, then, are, ultimately, nothing of the sort. Thus, the “I was just following orders” defense is no defense at all, for these are not, and cannot be, legitimate orders.


Soldiers can no more exempt themselves from the charge of wrong-doing by way of appealing to obedience than can mafia hitmen do so.

Tellingly, those who seek to excuse American soldiers who fought in “immoral” and “unjust” wars never think to rely upon these same sorts of arguments when it comes to, say, Nazi soldiers. But if the arguments work in the one case, then they must work in the other. And if they don’t persuade in the one case, then they don’t persuade in the other.

Thirdly, Professor Chris Gazarra, an English instructor and colleague of mine, suggested that it’s possible to distinguish the character of those who participate in a cause from the nature of the cause itself. So, though (say) the Vietnam War is “immoral” and “unjust,” those American soldiers who fought in ‘Nam can still be credited with having conducted themselves heroically and honorably.


This may be a possibility, but, on its face, this position gives rise to multiple paradoxes:

For starters, it implies that eminently virtuous human beings—for heroism and honor belong to the best of the best—can nevertheless be “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world,” criminals responsible for the most vicious of actions.

Moreover, consistency demands that if American soldiers who fight in “immoral” and “unjust” wars nevertheless deserve to be commended for their heroism and honor, then Nazis, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other non-American soldiers who fight for “immoral” and “unjust” causes could be equally deserving of commendation.

Yet what this in turn suggests is that if Nazi soldiers and Islamic State militants conduct themselves heroically and honorably, then, since bravery and honor aren’t just virtues, but the greatest of virtues, in aiming to kill them, America’s military aims to kill, not the vicious, but the virtuous!


Fourthly, even if we assume that the Vietnam War was morally righteous and just, why assume that those Americans who fought in it are, ipso facto, war heroes?

A hero is a person with the virtue of courage. As Aristotle noted in his classic analysis of courage, a genuinely courageous person, i.e. one who habitually acts courageously and delights in doing so, is neither a person who simply surmounts fear nor, much less, one without fear. Rather, a courageous person acts in spite of his fear, yes. But he is also distinguished on account of his wisdom, for he knows what he should fear and how he should do so.

In contrast, the reckless person, who is not infrequently confused with the courageous person, is ignorant of the proper object of fear. He knows not what he should fear, when he should fear it, and the extent to which he should fear it. The reckless person may act courageously or heroically on occasion—in this regard, he is no different from the cowardly person who is not beyond doing the same—but he is not a courageous person.


If soldiers are simply following orders, or if they are deceived, then they are in a state, not of knowledge, but of ignorance. But knowledge, as Aristotle notes, is a prerequisite of virtue generally, and courage specifically. No knowledge, no virtue.

This is not the final word, but given the prize virtue that is courage, it is worth thinking about.

And by the way: Aristotle served in the military.




A Reply to Jeff Jacoby’s “Analysis” of the Confederate Flag

posted by Jack Kerwick

The “conservative” Boston Globe columnist, Jeff Jacoby, thinks that the Confederate flag is “anti-American,” “an ugly symbol of oppression,” “the most poisonous ideologies in our national history,” “racial bigotry and victimization,” “racial hatred,” and “the right of white Americans to buy and sell black Americans.”

The flag is also “the banner of slaughter” that “represents armed rebellion against the United States.”

In the interest of intellectual and moral cogency, I offer the following points for Mr. Jacoby’s consideration.

First, Jacoby has succeeded in resolving the single most complex, controversial issue in our nation’s history into a verdict that can fit into a hashtag or bumper sticker: The Confederates fought for “racial hatred.”


On its face alone, it is painfully clear already that Jacoby prefers the ad hominem attack for thoughtful argument.

Second, despite the “poisonous” cause that he assigns to the Confederates, Jacoby doesn’t doubt that legions of “men and boys” were “noble” in having “fought with courage and died with honor.”

This is a perhaps impossible position to defend. If the Confederates’ cause was the unmitigated evil that Jacoby says it was, then the Confederates were evil. However, if the latter is true, then they were ridden with vices, not the virtues that Jacoby attributes to them, for virtue is the stuff of good character, and those with good character can’t defend “oppression,” “racial hatred,” and the like.


Third, in light of the facts that well over 90 percent of Confederates didn’t own any slaves; of the six percent that did own slaves, half owned no more than five slaves per person; and free blacks fought alongside their white counterparts so that the Southern states could secede from the Union, Jacoby’s assertion that Southerners sacrificed all for nothing more or less than “the right of white Americans to buy and sell black Americans” is patently absurd.

Fourth, even assuming (counterfactually) that slavery is the only reason that Southerners wanted to secede, either they had a right to secede from the Union or they did not. The South’s critics, like Jacoby, invariably make two claims that, at least implicitly, contradict one another: (1) The Southern states—and by implication, any and all states that contracted to be party to these United States of America—had no right to secede; (2) The Southern states had no right to secede for the reason of slavery.


Now, if (1) is true, then it matters not whether the South’s reasons for wanting to secede were odious or noble. All that matters is that it had no right to secession. But if (2) is true, then the implication is that there is a right to secession, but this right can be exercised only for morally sound reasons, i.e. reasons that others find acceptable.

Both (1) and (2) can’t be correct.

If Jacoby and company maintain (1), then there are no states. A state, being a sovereign agent, must have the right to secession, for the latter is nothing other than the fundamental right to freedom of association. To deny this right is to deny a state’s sovereignty over itself—or to deny that it is a state.


If Jacoby and his ilk maintain (2), then, again, they deny the very existence of states. To repeat, there can be no genuine right to freedom of association—a right to secession—if a state must seek permission from others before it is allowed to charter its own destiny.

Finally, only if Jacoby assumes that morality is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing can he pass judgment upon those Southern whites who fought for the Confederacy. But if morality consists of timeless universal principles, then by those standards we must condemn just as forcefully those Southern whites who founded America.

Washington, Jefferson, Madison and many others—massive slave holders—Jacoby must affirm, are at least as guilty as their Southern descendants for promoting “racial hatred, “oppression,” and all of the other hideous charges that Jacoby levels against the men and women of the Confederacy.


By his own reasoning, Jacoby implicitly demands that we cleanse our nation of all reminders of our Founders.

To avoid this conclusion, Jacoby could say that it is unfair to judge Washington and company by the moral standards of today. There are, though, three problems with this move.

First of all, if this claim is correct, then, contra Jacoby’s starting point, there are no universal timeless moral principles: Moral standards are historically and culturally-specific.

Furthermore, if it is unfair to judge the Founders by the moral standards of today because there are no timeless universal principles (like “natural rights”), then the Founders were wrong when they enshrined such principles into the Declaration.

Thirdly, if it is unfair to judge the Founders by the moral standards of today, then it is unfair to judge the Confederates by the moral standards of today.


Jacoby has some thinking to do. And while he’s at it, he should pray to God that millions of white Southern men and women (and some black Southerners too) don’t read this breathtakingly offensive piece of his.

If they do, they may think that his thoughts on them and their ancestors represent those of the GOP.






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posted 5:21:29pm Aug. 03, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 12:37:15pm Jul. 31, 2015 | read full post »

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Donald Trump’s remarks concerning John McCain’s status as a “war hero” elicited much hand-wringing from both his fellow Republicans as well as from Democrats. However, the truth is that the reasoning that proceeds directly from the ...

posted 11:45:59pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

A Reply to Jeff Jacoby's "Analysis" of the Confederate Flag
The “conservative” Boston Globe columnist, Jeff Jacoby, thinks that the Confederate flag is “anti-American,” “an ugly symbol of oppression,” “the most poisonous ideologies in our national history,” “racial bigotry and ...

posted 11:16:36pm Jul. 12, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 11:00:14am Jul. 11, 2015 | read full post »


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