At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Joe Biden and Abortion

posted by Jack Kerwick

Near the close of the Vice Presidential debate in Kentucky on Wednesday night, moderator Martha Raddatz asked Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan about the relationship between their faith and their politics.

What she really wanted to know about, though, is their respective views on abortion.

Biden and Ryan are both self-avowed Roman Catholics.  As such, one would expect that the Church’s 2,000 year-old prohibition of abortion would count for something by their lights. 

And, to hear them both tell it, it does indeed.

Biden and Ryan insisted that, along with Catholics past and present, they reject abortion.  Biden’s answer was particularly interesting.

“With regard to—with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a—what we call de fide.  Life begins at conception.  That’s the church’s judgment.  I accept it in my personal life.”

To judge just from these remarks, the Vice President’s position on this issue appears unequivocal: he accepts the Catholic Church’s view that abortion is an intrinsically immoral act.  However, not unlike every other prominent contemporary Catholic Democrat, Biden is quick to qualify his stance with the assurance that, unlike his opponent, he would never attempt to “impose” it upon others.

“But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and—I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.”  Furthermore, Biden adds, “I do not believe that—that we have a right to tell other people,” particularly women, that “they—they can’t control their body.”

In an age when moral inconsistency is the rule of the day, it takes some doing to distinguish oneself as the moral idiot par excellence.  Yet this is just what Biden succeeded in doing here.

Biden claims that he agrees with the Church’s judgment that a human life comes into existence at conception. And he claims to agree with it that abortion is an evil. But the Church judges abortion as an evil simply and solely because it consists in the unjustified destruction of that innocent life that began at conception. 

Abortion, that is, is evil for the same reason that it is immoral to unjustifiably destroy any human being—regardless of whether he is in the womb or outside of it.

In other words, if Biden is sincere about agreeing with the teaching of his Church on abortion, then he has just as much an obligation to do what he can to prevent the destruction of unborn human beings as he has an obligation to prevent the destruction of those human beings who have already been born.

However, Biden maintains that he hasn’t “the right” to proscribe women from pursuing an abortion.  This, evidently, means that he holds that it is immoral for him or any other champion of the sanctity of human life to “impose” their belief upon others.

This is a most peculiar line of reasoning—especially as it is coming from a man who just finished informing a national audience that his “religion defines who I am.”  What in your faith, we may ask Vice President Biden, which teaching of the Church, prevents you from “imposing” this view of yours on abortion upon others?  

Biden says that it is his faith—“Catholic social doctrine” specifically—that motivates him to care for those “who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”  It is on the basis of this religious belief of his that he supports a robust welfare state. Democratic politicians from John Kerry to Barack Obama, Charley Rangel to Andrew Cuomo, Nancy Pelosi to, now, Joe Biden, routinely seek to justify their leviathan of redistributionist policies in terms of Christianity’s teachings on helping the poor.

That is, Biden certainly has no reservations about “imposing” this view of his upon those who either reject Catholic teaching in this respect or Biden’s interpretation of it.

To put this in perspective, Biden, for some reason that remains unclear, thinks that it is wrong—a violation his faith?—to “impose” upon those who don’t share his belief that abortion is unwarranted homicide, yet he does not think it is wrong for him to coerce his fellow Americans to part with their hard earned resources in order that others may take possession of them.

So, it is ok for Biden to impose some of his religious beliefs, but not others—or at least not his belief that abortion is immoral. 

Why?

We are left with one of two possible answers to this question.  The one possibility is that there is some Catholic doctrine or other that requires Catholics and Catholic politicians to put up zero resistance to abortion in public life.  The other possibility is that Joe Biden is full of the very same “malarkey” of which he accused Paul Ryan of being full.

As a practicing Catholic myself, my money is on the latter option.   

 

 

 

Blackism: Obama’s True Ideology

posted by Jack Kerwick

Over the span of the last four years, there has been much talk over whether or not our 44th president is a socialist.  Of course, that Barack Obama is a socialist will be denied only by those who choose to give his redistributionist agenda a different name.  But in the final weeks leading up to Election Day, we ought to realize that Obama is no less committed to another ideology, one that hasn’t been nearly as often remarked upon.

Obama, you see, is every bit as much a proponent of blackism as he is a champion of socialism.  In fact, it is his embrace of the former that explains his embrace of the latter.

Like any other ideology, blackism consists of a small handful of basic, interrelated principles.   

First, the blackist affirms an explicitly—and thoroughly—racial conception of history.  Historical actors, here, are nothing more or less than abstract racial categories—whites, blacks, etc.  And history is an epic melodrama, a perpetual contest between the forces of white “racism” or “supremacy,” on the one hand, and, on the other, the “oppression” suffered by people of color. 

Second, white racism is endemic.  This the blackist must believe with all of his heart.  Whatever gains black Americans and formerly colonized peoples of color in other parts of the world have made over the decades, white racism remains as formidable, and destructive, a force as it has ever been. This explains the blackist’s insistence that white racism, far from diminishing, has simply gone covert.

Third, blackism demands of all of its adherents in good standing that, whenever possible, they express some measure of indignation or rage regarding the historical injustices suffered by blacks and the persistent omnipresence of—what else?—white racism.

Fourth, the blackist unabashedly heeds the call of “social” or “racial justice.”  What this in turn means is that he must favor a robust and activist government, for only such a government will possess the power necessary to compensate blacks for the past harms that had been visited upon them by white racism.  And only such a government will be strong enough to protect them against its ravages in the present and future.

Finally, central to blackism is the idea of “racial authenticity.”  Racial authenticity can be achieved, it promises, by way of the very simple act of affirming blackism!

Like all ideologies, the ideology of blackism is a distillation of what we may call “black culture.”  It is the cliff note, so to speak, the Reader’s Digest version, of a complex of black cultural traditions stretching back centuries.

In theory, the tenets of blackism can be affirmed by anyone.  However, only a biologically black person can be a blackist.  That is, it is instant made for just those blacks like Barack Obama who, while biologically black, know next to nothing about black culture.  For those blacks, like Obama, who are in search of racial authenticity, the ideology of blackism is their Rosetta stone.  It is their salvation.  The reason for this is simple.

To genuinely know a tradition well enough to make it one’s own, it is necessary to immerse oneself in it.  In glaring contrast, the knowledge of an ideology can be mastered by anyone in no time at all, for an ideology is constituted by just a few simple propositions that any school child can effortlessly confine to memory.     

The blackist par excellence was, not coincidentally, the one person whose autobiography Obama alludes to more than any other book in his first memoir: Malcolm X. 

Malcolm would invoke “the authority of history,” as he put it, in condemning whites for having “stole our fathers and mothers from their culture of silk and satins” and bringing “them to this land in the belly of a ship [.]”  He famously declared that blacks “didn’t land on Plymouth Rock,” but “Plymouth Rock landed” on blacks.

Malcolm also blasted whites for having secured their “position of leadership in the world” through “conquering, killing, exploiting, pillaging, raping, bullying” and “beating.”  Throughout the white man’s “entire advance through history, he has been waving the banner of Christianity” in the one hand and, in the other, “the sword and the flintlock,” Malcolm charged.

The light-complexioned Malcolm, who, like Obama, was raised and schooled within a predominantly white environment, never spared an occasion to assert his racial authenticity.  In addition to decrying white racism from the rooftops, he was also fond of blasting other blacks—like Martin Luther King, Booker Washington, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Roy Wilkins—as “Uncle Toms.” 

Obama, obviously, is not of the same temperament as Malcolm.  But he is every bit as much of a blackist.

As its subtitle makes abundantly clear, his first memoir was designed to be “a story of race.”  This alone weighs substantially in favor of this thesis. But if this doesn’t convince, there is much more evidence ready at hand.

Obama has a long history of allying himself with the most radical and anti-American of types, it is true.  But it is his 20-plus year relationship with his pastor and friend, the self-avowed champion of Black Liberation Theology and Louis Farrakhan admirer, Jeremiah Wright, which most decisively determines his allegiance to blackism. 

Yet now that Obama has had four years to govern, we can see that he hasn’t governed in a manner that is appreciably different from that which we could expect from Wright himself. 

As Pat Buchanan and other commentators have noted, Obama’s redistributionist policies have the effect of disproportionately benefitting blacks while disproportionately harming those whites whose resources will be confiscated to fund these policies.

Obama has uttered not a word to stop his supporters from charging his opponents with racism.  He has actually exacerbated interracial relations by siding with those blacks, like Trayvon Martin and Henry Louis Gates, who were involved in nationally publicized confrontations with whites.  Flash mobs have formed all across the country during Obama’s tenure, yet he has been silent in the face of these orgies of black-on-white violence.

His appointments, from Eric Holder to Van Jones, further reveal Obama’s racial commitments.

Going into the voting booth on November 6, let us realize that while our current president is an ideologue, the ideology to which he is most attached—and that is most dangerous—is not socialism or leftism.

It is blackism.

Romney or Obama: A Choice Between Two Evils?

posted by Jack Kerwick

Many of my fellow Paul supporters insist that in this year’s presidential election, under no circumstances will they vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.  Even if one of these two candidates can rightly be judged the lesser of two evils, an evil is still an evil.

And one must never will an object that conscience has declared to be an evil.

The great Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas agreed.  However, he was quick to make two observations.

First, conscience, because it is nothing else than a species of reason, does indeed go wrong.  Just because my conscience declares this or that to be a good or an evil doesn’t make it so: each object of the will is good or bad independently of what we happen to think of it.

Secondly, one’s ignorance of the moral significance of an object may or may not be pardonable.  For instance, ignorance of right and wrong—the natural law, Aquinas would say—fails as miserably as a justification for evil doing as ignorance of the law fails as a justification in court for unlawfulness.

There are just some things of which we must be aware.

In light of this highly attenuated account of Aquinas’ ethical analysis, it is safe to say that while my fellow Paul supporters are correct in their judgment that conscience forbids us from deliberately choosing evil, it is their application of this principle to the presidential election that demands further examination.

Liberty is a good.  Paul supporters recognize this.  But what is liberty? Liberty consists in a decentralization of authority and a diffusion of power.  Paul supporters know this also.  They know that the more centralized a government, the less free are its citizens.  In desiring liberty above all, every Paul supporter seeks, then, a decentralized government.

Sadly, it has been quite some time—arguably a century-and-a-half—since Americahas had anything even remotely approximating a federal government of the scope and size delineated by our Constitution.  So, Paul supporters know—or at least should know—that if such a lost governmental structure is ever to be restored, it is not going to happen over the next four to eight years—regardless of whether our President over this time is named Obama, Romney, or Paul. 

We must judge matters from where we are at.  In other words, ignorance of our reality—ignorance of the immensity of our national government, say, and ignorance of the sheer powerlessness of any one person or even group of persons to scale it back to so much as a shadow of its counterpart from the eighteenth century—is inexcusable.  To make a decision regarding something as momentous as the future of our country on the basis of this sort of ignorance—even if it accords with one’s conscience—is to condemn oneself.

You should know better. 

From the standpoint of liberty, I agree that Paul is a better choice than Romney.  As I have already indicated, though, this is not because Paul would necessarily be able to do all that much more than Romney would be able to do in the way of freeing up the American citizen.  But he would at least be willing to do more than Romney.  And, at this stage in our national life, this makes him a better choice. 

Paul, however, is no longer an option.  Still, the same reasoning that drives the liberty lover to choose Paul over Romney should drive him to prefer Romney to Obama: though Romney is not going to be able to dramatically reduce, or reduce at all, the size of government, he is resolved to prevent it from growing to the size that Obama desires.

There are a number of policies that Romney advocates that are less inimical to liberty than are those advanced by Obama.  The latter—like Obamacare, for example—Romney promises to repeal.  Will Romney follow through?  No one–maybe even Romney himself–can know for sure.  But even if he doesn’t, that he has pledged to reduce the scope of the federal government while Obama has pledged to expand it yet further should be enough to bring the lover of liberty around to his side.

Think of it this way: if your loved one, your child say, had a terminal illness and there was the slightest—just the slightest—chance that he could be either saved or maybe even kept alive longer in the hope that, in the meantime, a cure may be discovered, would you not jump at the chance to stop the Grim Reaper from claiming him then and there? 

Our country is our loved one, and it is sick.  It is very sick.  We should attend to it with all of the care and concern, all of the sobriety, with which we would attend to our children.

But, the Paul supporter will object, even if Romney is the lesser of two evils, the lesser of two evils is still an evil, and it is always wrong to choose an evil!

To meet this objection, we should again turn to Aquinas.

Aquinas articulated what has since been recognized by theologians and ethicists as the doctrine of “double effect.”  The doctrine asserts that since moral worth hinges primarily upon an agent’s intention, it is permissible for a person to will a course of action that he foresees will have bad consequences if the consequences are unintended and the action is necessary in order to prevent a greater evil. 

For example, suicide is always immoral.  Even if a person is terminally ill, it is not permissible for him to intend his own death.  But suppose a terminally ill person seeks not to end his life, but to administer to himself dosages of morphine sufficient to relieve his pain but equally sufficient to end his life.  This would be permissible, for though death is a foreseeable consequence of his action, it is not an intended one.  It is an unintended side effect of a non-suicidal act: an act intended to relieve pain—not end life.  

It is indeed always and everywhere unacceptable to willingly choose what one thinks is evil.  Yet even if one is convinced that Romney is the lesser of two evils, in voting for him, one need no more be guilty of choosing an evil than a terminally ill person who consumes a lethal dosage of morphine to relieve pain can be said to be guilty of having chosen evil.  A liberty lover needn’t be any more attracted to any of Romney’s policies in order to vote for the Republican nominee than need the prospect of a fatal drug overdose appeal to the terminal patient in search of pain relief, or chemotherapy appeal to a cancer patient.

The liberty lover simply (yet reasonably) needs to believe that the only way to achieve some measure—any measure—of relief for his country from Obama’s liberty-eroding agenda to “fundamentally transform” it is to vote our 44th president out of office.

However, the only way to do this is to vote for Mitt Romney.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Political Talk Threatens Liberty

posted by Jack Kerwick

American political talk has always revolved around the concept of “liberty” or “freedom.”  This remains the case.  However, what often goes unnoticed, at least by the more vocal champions of liberty, is that much of this talk militates decisively against liberty.

Our founding fathers, recognizing that liberty requires as wide a dispersion of power and authority as possible, bequeathed to their posterity a government that is self-divided.  In spite of the singularity of the term, the American “government” actually consists of many governments, each sovereign in its own specifically delineated arena. Even the federal government is comprised of multiple branches, and within these branches, authority and power is further distributed.  As the founders conceived it, the federal government—precisely because it was a federal, and not a national, government—was severely limited in its scope.

Although we still talk the talk of liberty, our vocabulary reveals that we have long since stopped walking the walk.

For example, we insist on crediting politicians when they “lead,” and blaming them when they fail to do so.  But this concept of leadership in politics is inimical to liberty.  The last thing that a liberty-loving people should want is a political leader.  Indeed, a champion of liberty who elects a leader is a contradiction in terms: the lover of liberty is not about to “follow” any politician anywhere. 

Although our elected representatives are custodians of our laws, they are as much bound by them as is every other citizen.  We are a nation of laws, not of men, as we are fond of saying.  Law—as opposed to commands or orders—doesn’t tell us what to do.  It simply tells us how we must do whatever it is we ourselves decide upon doing.

Law doesn’t lead.  It has no destination, no end or purpose.

The lover of liberty abhors the notion of a political leader.  He wants nothing more or less than for his representatives to govern or, what amounts to the same thing, to rule in accordance with constitutionally sound law.

Interestingly, right-leaning commentators seem to have a glimpse of this insight when they decry as condescending or even “racist” the idea of the black leader.  Why is it, they facetiously ask, that it is only blacks who allegedly need leaders?  What they appear to be getting at here is that blacks should be treated like every other American as self-governing agents.        

Another word that I would like to see go the way of the dinosaur is “capitalism.”  This is a term that was originally coined by communists in the nineteenth century.  What it suggests—and what it was meant to suggest—is that societies differ from one another principally in terms of their economic systems or ideologies.

In reality, however, what is derisively referred to as “capitalism” is neither an economic system nor an ideology of economics.  It isn’t a system or an ideology of any sort.  “Capitalism” is what happens when people are free.  That is, it is what occurs when political authority is decentralized and power diffused. 

Terms like “free enterprise system” and “economic liberty” are better than capitalism.  But they too fail to do justice to the liberty that we at one time prized.

As for the former,America is not an enterprise at all.  An enterprise is defined by its goal, some satisfaction that it wishes to achieve.  A business, for instance, is as clear an illustration of an enterprise as any, for the primary goal of a business is to procure the goal of profit.  In a business, there are leaders—CEO’s, say—who everyone in its employment are expected to follow.

“Economic liberty” is a misnomer insofar as it too implies that there is some kind of liberty that is distinct from other kinds.  In other words, it obscures the fact that the liberty to trade material goods is part and parcel of the very same liberty of people to do whatever they want to do so long as their activities conform to law.

There is no “economic liberty.”  There is only liberty.

Americans from across the political spectrum have a penchant for lamenting “divisiveness” and longing for “unity.”  In some contexts, this is appropriate.  Yet the context of the political arrangements of a liberty-loving people isn’t one of them. 

Our liberty depends upon a divided government. It can thrive only if there is divisiveness—lots of divisiveness.  Indeed, if people are at liberty to formulate their own beliefs and pursue their own ends, how can there not be conflict?  How can there be unity in such an environment?

The words we use are crucial. They are the terms in which we think.

If we wish to think clearly about liberty, then we need to recognize and rid ourselves of those words that promise to impede this task.      

originally published at World Net Daily

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