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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Is the Catholic Church Opposed to Abortion or Not?

posted by Jack Kerwick

On the Sunday before Election Day, a relatively small group of demonstrators gathered outside my church in Moorestown,New Jersey.  They were demonstrating against abortion, and to this end, they had assembled a number of ghastly photographs of this practice’s principal victims: the aborted.

Given that the Roman Catholic Church opposes abortion in every instance, one wouldn’t think that the demonstrators—Christians all of them—would have been met with the anger that some of the parishioners, as well as my pastor, visited upon them.

One mass attendee screamed at them, another informed them that she was “pro-choice,” and, at the following Sunday Mass, my pastor—a good and godly man and an exceptional priest—disavowed the pro-life demonstrators from the pulpit: “The ends,” my pastor declared, “do not justify the means.” 

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As a general principle, this last is sound enough.  But, I continue to wonder, to what exactly does my pastor object so fiercely?   

Presumably, the means in this case are the horrific images of aborted babies that the protesters exhibited.  Assuming that I am correct, does my pastor have a problem with the fact that these demonstrators flashed these images in between Masses?  In other words, is it that he thinks that this was neither the place nor the time for them?

Perhaps he objects to the fact that the demonstrators exposed the children in attendance at church to these hideous photos while engendering discomfort in their parents.  But the latter, being Christians, know and hate evil as much as anyone.  And inasmuch as they are self-avowedly “pro-life,” they regard abortion as a particularly detestable evil. 

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Furthermore, more so than at any other time, it is while in church that Christians should call to mind their divine vocation to, as their baptismal vow goes, renounce Satan and his works.  In fact, each and every week in my church the congregation prays for “social” or “economic justice,” and it is regularly admonished to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, etc.

And, yes, we are continually told to pray for the unborn.

Jesus said that it is those who are sick, not those who are healthy, who are in need of a physician.  The church is not like a health spa or Disney World.  It is and should be about as pleasant as a hospital: a place racked with pain, its patients nevertheless take comfort in knowing that their condition is not terminable.

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As for unsuspecting children, it makes sense that parents should want to shield them from pictures of the sort on display at this anti-abortion demonstration.  Still, I have questions.

Elementary school textbooks include pictures of blacks from the antebellum and Jim Crow eras who have been beaten and lynched.  These same textbooks also include photographs of both those emaciated Jews who scarcely survived Hitler’s concentration camps as well as the corpses of those who didn’t.  The ostensible objective of such images is to supply children with historical instruction.

Do the ends justify the means in this case?

School children from a very early age are taught about the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, etc. When taught about the civil rights era, they are also treated to pictures of black protesters who were at the mercy of police officers armed with fire hoses and German Shepherds. 

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Is all of this unacceptable?

Suppose it wasn’t pictures of unborn “fetuses” that the demonstrators flashed out in front of my church but pictures of three year-olds who were being routinely slaughtered on the very next block (or in the very next town, or state, etc.).  Or suppose it was pictures of Jews or blacks or Hispanic immigrants who, as a matter of policy, were suffering violent deaths at the current abortion rate that the demonstrators came to display. 

Would my pastor and fellow parishioners raise the same objections then as they now do when the pictures are of the unborn?

If not, why not?  The Church holds that abortion is immoral precisely because it consists in the deliberate destruction of an innocent human being, a human life with the same moral standing as that of any other. Thus, its reaction to the killing of an unborn human being should be no different than its response to the killing of any other innocent human life.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case. 

For the sake of the Church’s identity and that of the pro-life movement, it is imperative that questions of the forgoing type be addressed.

 

 

 

 

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Living Narratives, not Lifeless “Facts”: The Power of Story in Politics

posted by Jack Kerwick

Admittedly, I thought that Mitt Romney’s chances of defeating Barack Obama were greater than not, a point for which I argued on more than one occasion during the election season.  However, I also contended that Romney’s chances would be considerably weakened if he and the Republicans insisted upon limiting their campaign’s focus to the economy—i.e. Obama’s policies.

Well before Romney was the GOP nominee, Republican commentators derided those among the rank and file of their party who wanted to attack the President on a more personal basis.  We don’t need to do that, the pundits assured the rest of us; we need only center our attention on Obama’s policies in order to sail to victory.

All too predictably, this is the approach that Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, decided to take. 

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It failed.

As I argued not all that long ago, while the economy may be voters’ top concern, the endless litany of abstract zeroes with which they have been bombarded by their candidates were not likely to resonate with them.  Romney and Ryan undoubtedly know their numbers, but how can the average American be expected to identify with billions and trillions in debts and deficits?  Hell, how can the average voter relate to talk of millions

I also had observed at various times that Romney’s business experience was most definitely not the asset for the presidency that his supporters were making it out to be.  Corporate executive officers manage the corporations over which they preside.  The president of a free people, on the other hand, far from being a manager, is supposed to be a governor.  And he (or she) is supposed to govern in accordance with law.

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Yet now we know that there is another respect in which Romney’s success as a businessman may have been a political liability.  As a businessman, Romney was consumed with the bottom line.  He was, well, “all business,” as they say.  In politics, though, being well versed in dollars and cents isn’t going to connect a candidate with voters, for numbers don’t generally warm the heart. 

In fairness to Romney, whether it was Obama’s economic or other policies, as long as he, like John McCain before him, was resolved to speak to their opponent’s politics while ignoring his person, Romney made life more difficult for himself.

Neither the voter nor the country lives by policy alone.  As a community organizer, Obama recognizes this for the axiom that it is.

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Obama realizes that, when it comes to politics, at any rate, reason exerts little influence over the decision-making of most people.  His time as a community organizer has also taught him that while it is imagination that moves the average person, in most this faculty is not too terribly sophisticated.  Thus, community organizers—think Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc.—are extraordinarily adept at weaving moral melodramas.  Every issue they cast in terms of an epic struggle between the forces of good and evil: black versus white, rich versus poor, men versus women, gays versus straights, etc.

Republicans, then, were sorely mistaken when they explained away Obama’s “Kill Romney” strategy as a pathetic attempt on the President’s part to run from his record.  Obama knew then what he has always known: to win people over to your side you must convince them that you are on the side of the angels.  This, in turn, requires nothing less than the depiction of your opponent as the embodiment of villainy.    

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But the lionizing of oneself and the demonization of one’s rivals can occur only within the context of a story.  It is only within a narrative that each party can be personalized.

In other words, Republicans’ obsessive preoccupation with their opponents’ policies and equally pathological neglect of their characters is proving to be a losing strategy. Had Romney situated Obama’s policies within the context of the President’s long standing alliances with a variety of countercultural, anti-Americans—had he “gone negative” or, what amounts to the same thing, “gone truthful”—the evening of November 6th just may have ended differently.

We will never know for certain.  We can only hope that in future campaigns Republicans will prefer living narratives to lifeless facts as they spend at least as much time defining their opponents’ characters as they do their policies.   

 

 

 

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Tips for the GOP’s Outreach Efforts

posted by Jack Kerwick

Since Election Day (and well before it, truth be told), Republican commentators have declared the need to intensify their “outreach” efforts to racial minorities.

Thus, from Charles Krauthammer to Sean Hannity, amnesty for the 10 to 12 million or so Hispanic immigrants who live illegally within the United States is now the cause de jure for “the loyal opposition.” 

In the interest of altering the GOP’s lily white image, I offer some suggestions.

(1). Given that its party is a virtual oasis of whiteness, the Republican leadership and its media allies should inform its base of supporters that they are no longer welcome in the GOP.  It is the overwhelming concentration of whites in the latter that fuels the perception on the part of non-whites that the party is “racist.”  It is this perception, in turn, that accounts in no small measure for why non-whites gravitate in massive numbers to the other national party.

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However, if whites are to leave the GOP en masse, then it must render itself as undesirable as possible to this constituency.  This, of course, means that it must radically alter its party platform—both its rhetoric and its policies. 

White evangelical Christians, for example, flock to the GOP because of its affirmative stance on the questions of life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.  All of this must now change. The surest way of repelling this bloc from its ranks is for the party of Lincoln to give enthusiastic support to abortion-on-demand, gay marriage, Obamacare, and the like. A not inconsiderable number of white working class Catholics, we can rest assured, will soon follow suit

This is how Republicans can rid themselves of “socially conservative” whites.  Fiscally conservative whites, on the other hand, require a different approach.

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If the Republican Party is to wash its hands once and for all of those whites from the middle and upper classes who are attracted to its business-friendly policies, then all that it has to do is abandon those policies.  Republicans should declare war on millionaires and billionaires by demanding that they pay their fair share of taxes.  However much the Democrats want to tax the wealthy, Republicans should up the ante.  Not only will this strategy insure that the Republican Party becomes less white, it is a stone that will drop another bird as it deflates the perception—pervasive among minorities—that it is a party of fabulously rich, exploitative, oppressive white businessmen.

(2). Republicans must give up their relentless support for the bombing of non-white Muslims in the Middle East.  George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” resulted in unmitigated chaos and destruction for untold numbers of people of color.  His “hard line” stance on the issue of “Islamism” has provoked legions of people of color right here at home to recoil from the GOP. 

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But not only should Republicans resolutely refuse to comply with any more wars waged on Middle Eastern lands.  They should just as passionately encourage lots and lots of immigration from the Islamic world. 

Most Muslims are people of color, so in demanding a flood of Muslim immigrants, Republicans can prove to America that they aren’t racist.  And because Muslims aren’t Christian—because, that is, most Republicans aren’t Islamic—Republicans can also prove that they aren’t guilty of any religious bigotry toward Muslims (Another two-for-one!).

There is yet another benefit to be had from massive Islamic immigration courtesy of Republicans: with their strong family values, piety, and work ethic, Muslims are ripe to swell the ranks of the GOP!

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A cautionary note is in order here: in welcoming Islamic immigrants or immigrants of any other kind, Republicans should embrace them without qualification.  Translation: reject the concept of assimilation.  The latter is thought to be but a subtle form of imperialism, for in demanding of immigrants that they assimilate, it has been argued that we demand of them that they shed their ways and accept ours—or else. Republicans should seek to accommodate, not assimilate, immigrants.

(3). Republicans must begin to bear in mind that all of their pro-America talk is seen by non-whites as racist code language.  This means that appeals to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and even the American flag, offend the sensibilities of non-whites generally, blacks and Native Americans especially. 

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Consider that the country’s founding documents were composed exclusively by white men, many of whom owned blacks as slaves (The Constitutional Convention was whiter than a Tea Party rally!).  All of them harbored views on race that no remotely respectable person today could even think about countenancing.  And under the American flag countless Native Americans were displaced from their homes and/or slaughtered while countless more Africans were wrenched from their lands and brought to North America for a life of toil and bondage.

John McCain was off to a good start some years ago when he spoke out against the Confederate flag waving at the Capital building in Charleston, South Carolina.  But Republicans must now speak out against the American flag, for its connotations for racial minorities are no less egregious than are those associated with the Confederate flag. 

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Republicans should become the new flag burners.  They should also spare no occasion to make a show of tearing to shreds copies of our racist Constitution and Declaration.

(4). Republicans should stop talking about America as a “Judeo-Christian” country.  At least they should stop emphasizing its Christian heritage.  This, in turn, implies that they should insist even more forcefully than their rivals upon “the separation” of church and state—and, preferably, the separation, as much as possible, between church and culture.  

For two millennia, Christianity was the religion of European civilization.  In other words, it was first and predominantly the religion of whites.  In describing America as a Christian nation, or in speaking approvingly of Christianity, Republicans are all too easily seen by non-whites as, once again, speaking in racist code.

(5). When this is all said and finished, Republicans should proclaim the death of their party—and the death of America.    

 

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Post-Election Thoughts: Where do Republicans Go From Here?

posted by Jack Kerwick

To the chagrin of 57 million Americans, including yours truly, Barack Hussein Obama remains the 44th president of the United States.  Legions of commentators from across the political divide have been busy supplying us with seemingly endless advice for the GOP.

Remarkably (or perhaps not so remarkably), there has emerged something of a bipartisan consensus on this score.  In the final analysis, the orthodoxy boils down to this: the Republican Party can’t expect to win any future elections unless it “appeals” to non-whites.

Certainly, the proverbial Monday morning quarterbacking has assumed other forms as well: This year’s Republican candidate, like far too many of yesteryear, has never been a true conservative; Mitt Romney didn’t embrace the Tea Party and “conservative” talk radio; Romney was insufficiently aggressive toward Obama, and so forth.

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But the line that appears to have gained the most traction, the idea that has been springing like a geyser from the heads of Republican and Democratic pundits alike is that Republicans must start to appeal to racial minorities.

We can be sure that this talk will continue indefinitely.  Thus, we should bear in mind the following considerations.

First, the very same people who are now speaking as if this is some great epiphany that dawned upon them the day after Election Day have been making this claim for years (and years). 

Second, the GOP has indeed been appealing—or trying to appeal—to Americans from every shade of the rainbow for a long, long time. 

The perpetual controversy surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s reasons for waging war upon the Confederacy aside, the fact remains that thanks to this Republican—and a whole lot of others who he deployed to the battlefields—black American slaves were liberated from their bondage.  Yet this achievement came at the cost of the deaths of some 700,000 whites (a number that, relative to our current population, translates into the millions).  But this wasn’t its only cost.  Whites were injured in even greater numbers than were killed, their property was decimated on an immense scale, and, as importantly as anything else, nothing less than a reimagining of the federalized structure of American liberty began to occur.

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Ann Coulter is as outspoken and visible a contemporary Republican polemicist as any, and yet in her most recent book, she goes to great lengths to remind readers that from the time of Reconstruction until the 1960’s, Republicans repeatedly voted for all manner of measures—“civil rights” bills—designed to enable blacks to achieve a greater degree of liberty.

Forty-one years ago—one year before I was born—Republican President Richard M. Nixon signed “affirmative action” into law.

Republican President Ronald W. Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants back in 1986.

More recently, Republican President George W. Bush pushed hard, albeit unsuccessfully (thank God), for another amnesty for many millions more of illegal immigrants from south of the border.  Bush also made sure that the most distinguished posts of any cabinet were occupied by blacks in his cabinet (think Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice).

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The conventional wisdom can have all of the force of any phenomenon of nature. Just an iota’s worth of thought, though, and—on this score, at any rate—it dissolves before our eyes.  With the greatest of ease, anyone who chooses to think about the matter for more than the duration of a sound bite could supply an interminable list of examples of GOP minority outreach.

Yet none of this appears to have done a bit of good.  In fact, matters appear to have actually worsened for Republicans.

Personally, I believe that if—if—the GOP can survive, its best chance lies in speaking to those issues that are nearest and dearest to the hearts of whites—working class, middle class, and lower middle class whites particularly.  These are issues like massive immigration from the Third World—both legal and illegal—“affirmative action,” crime, and the importation of inner city pathology to white working class neighborhoods via section eight housing and the like.

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This approach would also include frequent invocations of liberty-friendly narratives featuring America’s founders and the forging of new narratives underscoring the linkage in blood between our founders and ourselves: our founders are our fathers and liberty is the inheritance that they bequeathed to us.

The much touted “Hispanic vote,” though not insignificant, is still not nearly as potent a force as it is being made out to be.  For example, whites are a minority in the heavily Hispanic state of Texas, and yet the 75% or so of the whites there who voted for him enabled Romney to win it handily.  Conversely, as Steve Sailer observes, in places like Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—states with a minimal Hispanic influence—Romney lost by virtue of his failure to garner a sufficiently high percentage of the white vote.

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Republicans will not go this route, so, if they insist on “reaching out” to non-whites who have thus far shunned all of their efforts, I suggest another strategy: abandon the rhetoric of color blindness.  If ever we needed proof that blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are most decidedly not color blind—not that any remotely conscious observer of the contemporary scene should need any more proof than that with which their eyes and ears have been providing them every day of their lives—the election of 2012 supplied it in spades.

In other words, precisely because non-whites are so intensely color conscious, they simply do not believe Republicans when the latter assure them that they are color blind.  And the more Republicans insist upon this, the less that blacks, Hispanics, and other non-whites believe them.

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Thus, Republicans are perceived as liars.  Of the Republican, the non-white voter can all too easily think: “Thou dost protest too much!”  Paradoxically, it is exactly because Republicans spend so much of their time trying to convince non-whites that they do not see color that they actually diminish what little credibility they already have among non-white voters.

Less pander and more candor in this arena just might help Republicans electorally.  At the very least, it can’t hurt them any more than they have been harmed already.

There is, though, a third strategic possibility: Republicans should consider promoting lots and lots of Islamic immigration to America.  The political benefits that they can anticipate from this course of action should not be underestimated.

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First, such Muslims will for the most part be non-white, so the old canard that Republicans are anti-immigrant and “racist” will be exposed for the lie that it is.  They would have knocked out these two birds with one stone.

Second, morally, Muslims are very conservative.  They are committed to “family values.” President George W. Bush once said with respect to Hispanics immigrants that “family values” don’t stop at the Rio Grande River.  Well, neither do “family values” don’t stop at the Atlantic Ocean.

Third, religiously, Muslims are very conservative.  Unlike many of America’s Christians, and its Catholic Christians particularly, Muslims tend to take their faith very seriously. This promises to serve both Republicans and the country well inasmuch as militantly religious Islam will impede the onslaught of militant secularism.

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In summary, I suggest that in the wake of last week’s election, Republicans should consider doing one of three things: (1) Concentrate harder on appealing to working class, lower middle class, and middle class whites; (2) Abandon the defensive rhetoric of “color blindness”; (3) Promote an exponential increase in Islamic immigration. 

The first strategy is the easiest.  But it is also the most honest. Above and beyond anything and everything else, this is indeed what the GOP should do.  There is a complex of issues that has affected the targeted whites dramatically.  These are the issues to which Republicans (and all politicians, honestly) should speak more often, for these issues have not only proven to be deleterious to the interests of whites, but the long-term interest of the country.      

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The second strategy is also more truthful than anything that the GOP has been trying. At a minimum, it stands a not unreasonable chance of gaining Republicans more respect from non-whites—even if it doesn’t necessarily gain Republicans more votes from them (Malcolm X, recall, endorsed Barry Goldwater, and he had said that he has more respect for the Southern segregationist than the Northern liberal, for the former at least lets you know where he stands).

It is inconceivable that Republicans of all people would so much as consider the third strategy. Truth be told, I wouldn’t want for them to do so.  In submitting the third strategy I intend to do nothing other than mock Republicans for all of their talk about granting amnesty for illegal Hispanic immigrants.

For all of its idiocy and destructiveness, strategy #3 is no more idiotic and destructive of the Republican Party and the country than is amnesty for illegal Hispanic immigrants and general acquiescence in the Hispanicization of America.

 

 

 

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