Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 Election Post-Mortem (Especially Regarding Sarah Palin)

Go with the real Sarah Palin: not the media / comedic caricature

The country hasn't gone completely nuts (the vote was 52-46% after all: that's pretty close). Every election is pretty much decided by the 20% in the middle. About 40% are liberal and 40% conservative. Elections are (strategy-wise) all about those in the middle: so-called moderates or undecideds or swing voters. If they tilt 5% in either direction, that pretty much decides it.

So it's not the whole country going insane: it is the folks in the middle who see the economy (which always hurts the incumbent when it is bad) and don't like the war. They also saw a young charming, photogenic guy vs. an older, not-so-charming person, and that is enough for many people. Then there is the turnout factor, 92% of blacks voting for Obama, and the low approval rating of George Bush and disgust for the status quo in Washington (17% approval of Congress: even lower than for President Bush). All of those things are more than enough to decide the election before even getting to a serious discussion of issues (which rarely takes place in any event).

Things can change quickly. Clinton squeaked by in 1992 with a 43% plurality. He won because of Ross Perot taking away votes from Bush (many conservatives were dumb in that election, too, and wanted to throw away the election by voting for pro-abort Perot: I tried to argue with them at the time, to no avail). But two years later was a Republican landslide, with them regaining control of the House. Clinton was thus forced to move to the center, pretty much for the rest of his Presidency. I expect the same to happen with Obama.

The Democrats are nothing, if not about excess, lust for power, and hubris. There's no way they will control themselves with all this power. But that will be their downfall. When liberals are openly liberal, they fail in the eyes of the public every time. That's why they always have to pretend not to be liberal during election seasons. They're afraid to even use the word. But now they will be themselves, and the public will really see what they have just done.

* * *

Let's hope and pray that real persecution comes (to someone other than preborn babies). Obviously, it will take that to wake up the 47% or so of Catholics and 35% or so of evangelical Christians who voted for Obama. The culture just got quite a bit more secularized.

Let's hope and pray that the Church herself will be persecuted, and that we'll lose our tax-exempt status.

Historically, true revival doesn't commence until it gets very very bad: often to the point of blood being shed, or at least extreme deprivations. When people want to play games about what is taking place, and to place themselves and their interests (e.g., money or sexual immorality) above God's (which is idolatry), God is merciful enough to see that they come back to reality, via hardship and suffering.

I rather like Obama, personally (infinitely more than Bill Clinton), and I am delighted that this election shows that America has decisively gotten beyond its sordid racist past (and present, among too many people). But that has no bearing on my opposition to his policies and what they represent in the larger picture (which is secularization, semi-socialism, and hostility to the culture of life and traditional morality).

* * *

Exchange with a fellow Republican pro-lifer on the CHNI board:

the largest culprit is Palin's campaign team and yes, Palin, herself to a considerable degree.

Really? If it weren't for Sarah Palin, McCain would've lost 60-40 at least, with an even more lopsided electoral defeat. I just heard today that the moderates went about 2/3 for Obama. McCain has traditionally been all about attracting centrists and moderates. Didn't work very well, did it? Palin was a true-blue conservative. When we are truly conservative in ideology, we can win (Reagan, older Bush [kinda sorta], the '94 congressional landslide with House Speaker Newt Gingrich).

But when Republicans go "big tent" and moderate, they lose (W in the long run with his 25% approval rating, Dole in '96, McCain in some ways). Why should a rational voter vote for "Democrat Lite"? If the conservative option isn't offered, they'll vote for the "real" liberal rather than the half-baked, posing "Liberal Lite." Therefore, it was Sarah Palin who helped McCain more than anything else. He picked her precisely because he was sensible enough to know that he had no chance whatever without her, because he was barely holding on to his own base.

Noonan would've loved to be in her corner, but Palin gave her precious little when it came to a VP candidate that'd be one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

And of course, Biden is utterly qualified, with his 15 or so major factual errors in his debate, and his dumbbell remark about FDR getting on TV when the stock market crashed in 1929 (when Hoover was President and there was no TV). I'd rather have Palin as President than all the congressional Democrats put together.

Noonan's already worked in that environment. She was a Reagan/Bush 41 speechwriter in the West Wing so she knows what's required to be on top of one's game in that league.

She's not infallible. Who's to say that she is simply courting the approval of her media elite friends? It happens all the time.

She penned the "1,000 points of light" speech and is strongly Catholic and very Pro-Life.) But Palin stepped up to the big leagues willingly, almost too willingly for somebody with such little national experience in the limelight and did little cramming, if any at all.

What did you want Palin to do, be unwilling? How do you accept the VP spot being "unwilling"? You seem to have bought the horse manure that the media has been feeding everyone about her. They did that precisely because she was threatening. I heard several liberal commentators concede that her convention speech and debate performance were some of the very best they had ever observed: including even Reagan himself. That is a threat. And what do liberals do in face of a real threat? They smear and engage in personal attack.

I'm sure Palin, who's no slouch upstairs, will look back on her mistakes and make sure they never occur again.

What mistakes? So she didn't know a few answers in an interview that was heavily edited, precisely to make her look bad? The mistakes, if any, were from her handlers, who wouldn't let her be herself, as she was in the debate and at the convention (as Bill Kristol and others noted).

If she doesn't, guys like Romney or Guiliani will hand her head back to her with the waiter's tab, which if it comes from Guiliani, will include a mandatory tip-charge in NYC, no less.

Two waffling / liberal Republicans will trounce Palin? Hardly . . .

She wasn't ready for that league and her folksy mannerisms backfired Big Time when she had little or nothing to deflate Big Media's ego-cases with a return slap-shot in her defense.

She supposedly "wasn't ready" because they despised her; period. Folksiness had nothing to do with it. Plenty of Democrats were and are folksy. Clinton was folksy, as was Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer with the beer-guzzling brother. Tip O'Neil was folksy, in the Boston Irish sort of way, and even Biden himself, in his "Scranton / working class background / regular old guy" sort of fashion. Hubert Humphrey had a dialect not unlike Palin's (upper midwest, from Minnesota). None of that matters a hill of beans. It was strictly political derision. Liberals will happily apply a double standard on "folksiness" if it helps their cause.

Playing Wasilla hockey might be terribly rough for Alaska; but she moved up to the NHL of politics and dealing with the Boston Bruins with all of them having a "bad mood night," and I've seen a few of those. Not pretty. And the red worn by the players wasn't lipstick.

If she had been at the head of the ticket, I think things could have been very different. But probably not, with the present economic / anti-war climate. Economic downturns have defeated many Presidents or presidential nominees.

But I am disappointed that Palin, whom I thought would've shown more political street smarts, if she is indeed this "pit bull with lipstick" -- hadn't stuck back at Couric saying "Lady, you're the dumb one if you think I'm not being figurative when I speak of seeing Russia from Alaska."

She wasn't in control, and had to do what she was told.

She knew she goofed but augered herself into a deeper hole by not laughing it off right then and there which would've shown a much more credible and relate-able candidate for people to follow, especially middle class and middle aged moms. We all flub, but she flubbed it even more by trying too hard and Couric served her to Obama for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

She can't do anything that will please liberal media and academic elites. The sooner we conservatives learn that, the better we will be. Name one conservative who is highly thought of by liberals during his or her lifetime?

This is the "narrative" that Noonan was upset about and I missed in September because I, too, was much too eager to push for Palin even though I had more than a few lingering doubts if this woman was ready to perform well enough in that level of play.

So now she serves the role of scapegoat for you? I think you have it exactly backwards.

Maybe none of Palin's mistakes wouldn't have stopped the Obama juggernaut, but better preparation would've likely stopped some of the early hemorraghing that bled the McCain/Palin ticket so fast after it rose so rapidly in the early September post-GOP convention polls.

They were leading in the polls, right before the economic crisis hit. That is what clearly did them in, not Sarah Palin. McCain also blew two opportunities in his debates to hit a home run. He did better in the third one, but it was too little too late.

(And, sorry to go for so long, but I guess it's a "post-mortem-in-waiting" I couldn't keep in. But Jill, I know how frustrated you feel. I've "been there" on this side of the Big Muddy. It's not fun on either side my good friend. Not fun. But we will prevail. God wants us to.)

I think that if you want to blame Sarah Palin for the loss, that you (with all due respect) have completely missed the dynamics of the race and defeat.

But it was fun "chattin'" with ya!

* * *

Nor had set out to make her a "scapegoat" for the loss. I only focused on Noonan and Palin when I wrote my response. Palin has wonderful potential, but much of it was squandered, and not just by Palin as you rightly pointed to --but, by her handlers to a certain degree.

An important distinction . . .

I fully agree with you that philosophically speaking she was the better of the two candidates. McCain's been lukewarm at best on social issues for most of his career.

He's been good on pro-life and war issues. That was enough for conservatives to accept him.

She was the more exciting candidate. And even though she didn't have to work hard at that, meaning it came more naturally to her) Palin put real effort into giving her speeches. No question.

Looks a heck of a lot better than McCain, too. ;)

I never thought Biden is, was or ever will be, intellectually superior to her, nor do I believe I even tried to imply that.

I was reacting much more to the liberal pundits and propagandists in those comments than to you.

My point in defending Noonan's perspective was not to say Palin cost the Republicans everything. You're right; a tanked economy, an unpopular long war added to a general sense of GOP fatigue would've done in any of the candidates. But when I was mentioning Guiliani and Romney, it wasn't meant to give those guys anything but a good dammning but by feint praise and only for their skills in political skullduggery.

If they were so good even at that, then it seems to me that either should have beaten McCain in the primaries. Giuliani was once the front-runner.

But if Palin IS the rising star, why wasn't she privately prepped more on how the national media pulls its crap so as to give her some room to move (so-to-speak) during her interview with Couric so she could've slammed that woman from CBS back to hell and gone -- just by giving the gov. more preparatory background as to Couric's m.o. meaning how Couric words her come -back questions, etc. and then standing out of Palin's way.

She wasn't because McCain has a more positive relationship with the media than most Republican candidates do. He is far less wary of them than he should be. I think there was a certain naivete. It's like when elder Bush thought he could reason and work with Democrats, and agreed to a temporary tax hike. We saw what happened. He was dead meat after that, and all we remember about him was "read my lips: no new taxes."

If a conservative tries to deal in good faith with congressional Democrats, they end up tossed out in a junk pile like a cheap prostitute. It's not just dumb; it is bad political strategy. Politics is about acquisition and application of power. Democrats and Republicans can't work together, many times, on principle, because they are often on two different sides of the cultural war between Christianity and secularism.

You said Palin "wasn't in control, and had to do what she was told" when she had the opportunity to give Couric some of her own medicine. I appreciate that you want to give her the benefit of the doubt on this, but I can't fully agree for a few reasons.

Many people who would be in a position to know (former political strategists, high-ranking conservative journalists, etc.), have said as much. It's not just me.

1) If the GOP won yesterday, in January, she'd be a heartbeat from the Oval office, and given the stress of the job, McCain's age and what he's been through in life -- Palin didn't just have an opportunity to slam Couric back (boy, wouldn't all of us loved to have seen that!) -- but she also had an obligation of sorts to her party, big campaign backers, individual contributors, the voters and even the world to demonstrate how one of its future leaders, esp. somebody who might have well been thrust into the Presidency (may have God forbidden if McCain won) would've handled one of the most important media figures. (I'm just referring to Couric's position, not talent by any means :roflol:, not by a longshot, brother!)

So Palin had one bad day, or couldn't say what she really wanted to say, without being hindered by force-fed talking points. Big wow . . . Even Obama had those . . .

2.) If Sarah Palin or any politician wasn't willing to stand up to Couric, or her political "handlers," pull off the mike and if need be, make a private little scene to reset the ground rules ... in other words, show who's the boss and who's the scribe -- then what would she be like facing down that whack job in Iran or Putin /Medvedev who are planning on putting missiles close to Russia's european borders. (I only saw a sketchy headline, but I'm just using it for the sake of argument.)

Apples and oranges. One scenario is trying to kow-tow to a media elite in order to win an election; the other is actually governing. In that situation, which was edited down for maximum impact, it was artificial. When she was on her own, in the debate and at the convention, it was quite different. I've had remarks of my own edited down (in a short television interview once, having to do with a local legal controversy)! And that was just a few sentences. I can imagine what it would be like to have a long interview butchered and cut into pieces.

3.) Do we want pols who don't have the backbone to stand up to handlers or scandalously overcompensated television anchors who should be made to feel as if interviewing any future world leader is a privilege and not the other way around. I used to be a reporter. We weren't told to be suck-up patsies, but also to respect the system, official rank, etc. (The old salute the rank, no matter how low you think the guy is drill. But, if reporters really went after the pols like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and other attack dogs, one day there'd be nobody for a reporter to cover unless all questions were submitted in advance. And who could blame them?

I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill with this. You seem to have bought the liberal line that this one interview did her in and revealed to the world what a dolt she was. They were all ready for her to collapse in a gooey mush during her debate, but it didn't happen, did it?

Did I enjoy interviewing Mike Dukakis when I knew he was fibbing right through his teeth? Of course not. But I never went after the governor personally. (Though in some ways I have to admit that had Couric "gone O'Reilly" on Palin we might've seen an entirely different Sarah Palin. But Couric was at worst sarcastic compared to an O'Reilly -- yet Palin didn't get her back up and question Couric if she had the brains to know the difference between figurative and literal expressions.

She didn't have to be mean during the interview. All she had to do was throw out questions to try to trap Palin, and then cynically edit later. That's the game. It happens all the time. If you want to see liberal bias firsthand, try being in Operation Rescue, as I was. We regularly saw how the day's events would be roundly lied about and distorted on the evening news. They would even lie about the numbers attending the National Right to Life rally in Washington, D.C. (that I went to in 1990). You were probably of the old Tim Russert / Ted Koppel school of journalism, and actually tried to be objective and fair.

No handler on the face of this earth should ever have that kind of influence in any campaign.

I agree, but that ain't Sarah Palin's fault. What is she gonna do about it?

Blame the handlers. I agree that they have way too much influence. But we elect leaders who are supposed to be leaders and not kowtowers.

Of course. But the VP pick is in no position to outwardly disagree with the Presidential candidate during campaign season.

Nobody put those words about Russia into Palin's head to tell Couric but Sarah Palin.

That was blown out of proportion. I heard that. But the media takes a line and isolates it and makes it sound ridiculous. It's the use of propaganda to make someone look absurd (perfected by Martin Luther against Catholics and the Nazis against German Jews). She was simply making a passing remark that Russia was close to Alaska. So what? She's no more naive about foreign policy than Obama himself is. He has no experience, either (so now we have no experience in the President-elect, not the "heartbeat away for the Presidency"). But at least Sarah Palin has some executive experience, whereas Obama had none. So there was an equivalence there, with Palin possibly having the advantage over Obama. But no one cares about that. The only object was to make her look like a dunce, so as to discredit her and the ticket (since McCain picked her). The same thing was done with Dan Quayle.

And nobody had a better opportunity to instantly turn the tables better than Palin, and make Couric look like the ideological bully she is; but Palin didn't.

How can one do that when they have no control over the editing?

Besides, was that "I'll get back to you" moment all about?

She didn't have an answer on the spot. She's a human being. Lots of times I don't have an answer right away when I'm being asked a hundred things. That's what is great about being a writer. One can take time to find an answer. :)

Much was made of the fact she's a governor and a former television sports reporter. So, she knows the drill whether it's sports or politics. The reporter has a duty to prevent himself or herself from being bossed around. On he other hand, what Couric does (while hiding behind her perky sexist skirts) is far from fair game, too. As far as I can remember, Couric wasn't riding the press section on Palin's plane that day. (Maybe I'm wrong on that detail.)

I don't understand why you want to go on and on about one interview that didn't go so greatly, as if that is the overwhelming consideration.

That's what I was trying to get at. And I fully agree that the loss NOT was all her fault.

But it seems that she is all you wanna talk about, rather than McCain himself, or the election year dynamics that were clearly infinitely more of a factor than one interview with the VP pick.

But the doggone wheels started coming off about then,

They came off because the economy crashed. It ain't rocket science . . .

and the same media that found one or two cracks in Palin as well as McCain busted them even wider as they attempted (quite successfully it seems) to create a bandwagon/steamroller for Obama.

The media doesn't determine elections. If that were true, how in the world did Republicans win seven out of ten Presidential elections in recent times? The 20% "squishy middle" determine all nationwide elections.

But it's those interviews and the way the Obama camp was able to use them for ads, and those ads are like the cartoons that Boss Tweed complained more about than articles calling for his ouster from Tammany Hall.

See my last reply.

It's one thing for people to watch a half hour show and catch a little of the stories, but when a flubbed interview can be transformed into a killer ad that's played over and over ... that's what's darned near impossible to get past Dave, esp. when Palin's party and the McCain campaign went nearly silent (up here at times.) And of course, there should've been more Biden goof ads but there weren't. Money, media censorship? (The "oh, we didn't get it on time" line.)

I disagree that this was what sunk the campaign, per my reasoning above.

Every reporter's got his or her special traits and weaknesses. Even Noonan. I don't agree with her all the time and sometimes she does come across as a Northeasterner with that capital N! But that's where she's from and a real New Yawker (without the accent.) People up here are insufferably parochial and regionally blinded beyond the Hudson and far too many eggheads look down their noses at any points south and west of that river and NY Harbor. (Exceptions are made of course for Georgetown, Charlottesville, Ann Arbor, Oberlin, and of course, Berkeley.) I never implied she was infallible. All I did was highlight some of Noonan's experience as an influential social conservative woman pundit. Besides, she's a devout Catholic, a social conservative who's established herself as as syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and among other books Noonan's published, she penned a wonderful book about John Paul II, "John Paul The Great."

None of that makes her right about Sarah Palin. It could be as simple as a northeast prejudice against westerners. Wouldn't be the first time. Even conservative northeast media elites can be provincial and snobbish.

As I said at the top of my reply, most of the blame for what went wrong from within the ill-fated McCain campaign rests on John McCain.

Good, but by the volume you have expended upon criticizing Sarah Palin, that's not the impression you are giving.

He even graciously admitted it last night. I apologize to anyone thinking I meant to dump all my blame on Palin. No. I couldn't nor wouldn't do that. And Dave brought up some valid points.

I'm just having fun discussing politics. We need to do that after a loss for our side. We have to put the experience to good use for the future.

On the other hand, there could've been a lot better coordination from the top down in that campaign, especially regarding McCain's desperation relocations of his troops from one key state to another without speaking to Gov. Palin; a badly timed move that left her in an awful lurch. McCain's overplaying of Joe the Plumber started to look old real fast. McCain's "calvary coming to the rescue" of capitalism campaign stoppage but not stoppage resulted in the press reacting negatively dumbfounded.

Nothing could have overcome the bad economy. It was a hopeless cause. This was a Democrat year. Experience shows that it usually switches back and forth. Next time ('10) we'll have Obama's (and the liberal Congress's) record, and something to criticize, instead of having to run against an image and suave sophistication. Once he has to defend his record, (including an economy that is not likely to improve anytime soon) it could well be a different story. So we can get more Republicans in Congress and hope to defeat him in 2012. Could be Jimmy Carter all over again: especially if the economy stays bad, and Obama shows himself a wimp in the face of terrorist threats.

Insofar as the shopping spree is concerned, while that cannot be totally blamed on Palin, or McCain's top politicos -- and it's a historical fact that this sort of sprucing up a candidate or his/her spouse's campaign "image," -- much of it does fall on the GOP's doorsteps. And, too her credit, Palin did poke fun at the issue.

Another non sequitur that the all-knowing media wants to use with one of their patented double standards . . .

It shouldn't have become an issue in the first place because that kind of money never should've been spent in the first place, especially when so many Americans are literally scratching to get by from one check to another -- if they can count on a check at all.

Materialism is shot through American society, which is another huge issue to discuss! Both parties spend lots of money. The relevant consideration here is to fairly criticize both sides, rather than one, while pretending that the other side is different, when they are not at all.

I'm exhausted.

You expend too much energy! I enjoyed "sparring" with ya. I thought it was okay to do because these are just political issues and strategy discussion: nothing directly to do with the faith. I think people have a need to cope with a huge loss like this. One way to do it is by talkin' and giving our opinions.

Obama's Abominable Childkilling Extremism (Robert George)

I recently speculated as to why "pro-lifer" voted for Obama:

Why Catholic and Other Christian Pro-Lifers Vote For Obama

Now, they will be able to see what they got for their vote. See. e.g., the alarming article by Robert George, "Obama's Abortion Extremism."

Some highlights:

1) "he supports legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest . . . That is why people who profit from abortion love Obama even more than they do his running mate."

2) "He has promised that ''the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act' (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed 'fundamental right' to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed Act, 'a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined "health" reasons.'' In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry-protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs. The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would 'sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies' . . . Tom McClusky has observed that Planned Parenthood's own statistics show that in each of the seven states that have FOCA-type legislation on the books, 'abortion rates have increased while the national rate has decreased.' "

3) "Obama, unlike even many 'pro-choice' legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice."

4) "He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a 'punishment' that she should not endure."

5) "Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need."

6) "Senator Obama, despite the urging of pro-life members of his own party, has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies. In fact, Obama has opposed key provisions of the Act, including providing coverage of unborn children in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), and informed consent for women about the effects of abortion and the gestational age of their child. This legislation would not make a single abortion illegal. It simply seeks to make it easier for pregnant women to make the choice not to abort their babies . . . Even Senator Edward Kennedy voted to include coverage of unborn children in S-CHIP."

7) "In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist's unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability . . . The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate, winning the support of such ardent advocates of legal abortion as John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it . . . So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide."

8) "He has co-sponsored a bill-strongly opposed by McCain-that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term. This ''clone and kill'' bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China-the equivalent of legally mandated abortion . . . Decent people of every persuasion hold out the increasingly realistic hope of resolving the moral issue surrounding embryonic stem-cell research by developing methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos. But when a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to put a modest amount of federal money into research to develop these methods, Barack Obama was one of the few senators who opposed it. . . . Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives? It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos."

9) "Over the next four to eight years, as many as five or even six U.S. Supreme Court justices could retire. Obama enthusiastically supports Roe v. Wade and would appoint judges who would protect that morally and constitutionally disastrous decision and even expand its scope. Indeed, in an interview in Glamour magazine, he made it clear that he would apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominations: jurists who do not support Roe will not be considered for appointment by Obama. John McCain, by contrast, opposes Roe and would appoint judges likely to overturn it."

George also lobs withering criticisms towards "the puzzle of his pro-life Catholic and Evangelical apologists" and notes:

[H]e is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress. Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals-even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals - who aggressively promote Obama's candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.


[ source ]

Read this article (and weep). Once again, Christians are largely responsible for bringing about the butchering of many additional thousands of human beings before birth. We had the power to prevent this outrage, but instead, so-called pro-lifers vote for a man with the above abominable credentials on life issues! Could the devil have had any more influence than that? To get those who call themselves "pro-life" to somehow help elect the most extreme pro-abortion legislator to ever serve in Congress? It's as if a mass delusional madness settled upon these "pro-lifers."

Now they will get a rotten economy, possibly increased terrorism, and the blood of more babies, as a special bonus for their vote. What a deal! This is a bargain with the devil that would have made Faust blush with envy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Replies to a Lutheran Who is Offended by Being Excluded From Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass


This comes from exchanges on the CHNI forum. The woman whose words are in blue is the wife of the man in question. She is a Catholic.

* * *

After attending Mass just twice with me, my Lutheran husband refuses to go ever again because of the Church's "rules" about Communion. He believes it is wrong to tell anyone they cannot receive Communion, for any reason---in other words, no one should be excommunicated, and Protestants should be welcome to receive, regardless of what they think it means (the true Body and Blood or just a symbol). His basis for this belief is the portrayal of The Last Supper in the Bible: Jesus said, "Do this," and no one was turned away, not even Judas, who was the betrayer. I trust that Holy Mother Church knows what she's doing when she says people must be "properly disposed" to receive and be "in communion to receive Communion." My husband feels the Church has not earned this trust and that all the lack of Christian unity is the Roman Catholic Church's fault (for insisting people accept every single thing the Magisterium says as Truth). Like that somehow, if the Church would just welcome everyone with open arms and allow all to receive Communion, the rift would begin to mend. (Would it? But that's a different question!) In the meantime, he is unwilling to budge. Are there Scriptures or writings from early Church history which demonstrate that it's okay with Jesus to turn people away from the Eucharist? (Or, if not turn them away, then at least have this clear teaching that only Catholics in good standing are supposed to receive?) One of you smart guys or gals on here must be able offer some insight. I've been struggling with this issue for months.

Great question. It's not a lack of charity at all; it is a biblical mandate. That's the bottom line: what does Scripture say about who should receive communion, and what that act signifies (in the corporate sense)? Several Christian groups have closed communion: not just Catholics (Missouri Synod Lutherans come to mind). I wrote about this:

Why Are Non-Catholic Christians Excluded From Receiving the Catholic Eucharist, or Communion?

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I am going to read your article, Dave, and I'm sure it will be helpful. I have mentioned to my husband about other Christians who have closed Communion (including some Lutherans), but he thinks they are ALL WRONG---which is why he is picky about which Lutheran church he goes to. I was remembering this a.m., though, that we had to become MEMBERS of our Lutheran churches before the pastors would baptize our babies there. Isn't that kind of the same thing/just as "bad," if one is going to make a fuss? This issue, more than anything else, is what keeps my husband from considering joining the Catholic Church. He doesn't agree with the Marian doctrines, either, but the Eucharist is the real stumbling block.

I think the Bible is fairly clear that the Christian community is to be united in doctrine. This is presupposed before they take Holy Communion together. It's precisely why the early Church took a long time with converts: they had to thoroughly understand and accept the Catholic faith before being allowed to the communion table.

Your husband may have many reasons he gives for his opinion on this, but he has to ground them at some point in Scripture: that which Protestants and Catholics hold in common, and which both regard as inspired revelation.

My husband sees Communion as a beautiful thing, as well, but that's partly why he has such a problem with "men" keeping people away from Jesus (by keeping them from taking Communion). It makes so much sense to us who understand how TRULY big a deal this is, but my husband comes from the Lutheran tradition, which acknowledges the "Real Presence" but doesn't really treat the sacrament as if it really IS Jesus (for instance, if they use a loaf of bread from the grocery store to do Communion, they don't really have a problem with tossing out the leftovers).

[Dave: various Lutherans differ on their beliefs in this regard]

I would like to say that I have been totally enjoying reading your blog/website. I am learning a lot there (reading about the Reformation now). Trying to get up the courage to direct my husband to that site. Any mention of anything Catholic stirs up tension between us, so generally I try to avoid bringing things up---though we have done plenty of discussing. It wears me out!

The info on your site is a lot to take in. For me, it's been great affirmation for my decision to leave Protestantism and become (go back to being) a Catholic. Still, my husband loves, in arguments, to bring up the terrible things done by Catholics to "keep people in line" in the past (e.g., the Spanish Inquisition and so forth). I remind him of the many acts of violence done by Protestants to Catholics, but other than invasions of monasteries, I usually don't have too many examples (and honestly, I think he thinks they probably deserved it). Your blog is an ARSENAL of such info! I will, however, hold off on directing him there until I am sure he is ready for it. And even then, it will probably only make him mad. He is extremely smart and remembers everything and seems able to win any argument. He's mostly intellect, I'm mostly emotion, so you can see how I don't do too well trying to persuade him of anything. He prefers to read Lutheran websites that will keep him grounded in the faith tradition of his youth.

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On a very recent episode of "The Journey Home," someone e-mailed to ask about this very topic---he and his wife had converted and his wife still struggled with Protestants being unable to take Communion. In reply, Marcus mentioned that up until about 200 years ago, ALL churches (as far as he knew) had closed Communion. He seemed to indicate that this started changing as more and more Protestant churches splintered into new denominations and as the churches became more liberal. Does anyone know anything about this or know where I could find out more about how this happened and why? If I'm going to mention this to my husband, he is going to want FACTS---names and dates and places, that sort of thing---or else he won't believe it.

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My husband and I had another of our long discussions just the other night. Nothing I said had any effect on him. He says that when he sits in a Catholic Mass, all he can feel is rejection. Regardless of the fact that he believes every word of the Creed and does in fact believe in the Real Presence, the unspoken message at Mass (from his perspective) is this: "Since you refuse to accept every single Catholic teaching as absolute Truth, you are not a 'true' Christian, and therefore, you may not receive Jesus through Communion in this place." For him, it all boils down to authority. Plain and simple, he cannot accept that the Catholic Church legitimately possesses the authority it claims for itself. Because of this, many Catholic teachings are suspect. I'll have to address these in other threads in the forum. In the meantime, I just keep praying for unity. It's all in God's hands.

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the unspoken message at Mass (from his perspective) is this: "Since you refuse to accept every single Catholic teaching as absolute Truth, you are not a 'true' Christian, and therefore, you may not receive Jesus through Communion in this place."

This is, of course, contrary to fact. It's not about Catholics denying that other non-Catholic Christians are Christian, but about the proper, legitimate, straightforward requirements for participation in any given group, be it religious or otherwise. Some people can't meet the requirements to get in the military. A seven-foot man is not likely to be a jockey, and a five-foot man will likely not get into the NBA (though a few actually have). One has to meet requirements to enter a college or to be hired at a job, with particular requirements. You gotta be 35 to be President of the United States, and 30 to be a Senator. What "discrimination"!

Likewise, being a Catholic means something intellectually; doctrinally. Many denominations care little about doctrinal distinctives, but we do, and so did all the early Protestants (and, I would say, Jesus and the apostles and Church fathers). We presuppose a doctrinal unity. Taking communion is being part of the Catholic Church. Therefore, one who doesn't agree with Catholic teachings cannot partake. What's so complicated or controversial about that (I'm writing rhetorically now, with your husband in mind)?

I've never understood, myself, why this is so vexing to some people. I really don't get it. I would never dream of partaking in a Protestant service. It would have never crossed my mind, back when I was a Protestant, to partake of communion in a service (let alone to be offended that I wasn't allowed to), if I knew that they had membership requirements, or even if I personally disagreed with them on doctrine (even if they allowed intercommunion themselves).

To me it was a simple matter of both respect for one's surroundings and honesty. I wasn't one of them, by choice. Why would I want to, in effect, pretend to be one of them, by doing everything that they do when they get together to worship God?

This attitude perhaps has something to do with a sort of theological relativism (I'm trying to comprehend it now, by speculating as to its ultimate cause). This is the thinking that holds that we're all in the same boat. Honestly-held differences don't matter anymore. But this is an insult to all the men and women of any Christian stripe who lived and fought and strove for the promulgation of the distinctive beliefs that they truly believed in with all their hearts and souls (some even dying for those faiths and visions). In the past, people at least recognized that there was one truth, and that one had to argue and contend about that truth (Jude 3). They didn't just say it was irrelevant, and that anyone who named the name of Jesus could receive the Holy Eucharist, even if they had a heretical notion even of Who Jesus was.

This sort of analysis was eloquently stated by my friend Al Kresta, in a marvelous talk detailing his conversion (reversion) story, given in my own home, that I later transcribed. He was critiquing the notion of "mere Christianity":

Mere Christianity also undermines confidence in the local church, or (if you believe in them) the denomination, which is secondary to one's primary commitment to Christ. But this is schizophrenic. It pits the head against the body, and ultimately it betrays Jesus Who says the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, the body. These things are connected. The head doesn't regard the body as a "necessary evil" like many evangelicals do. They think that you gotta go somewhere to get Bible teaching, so you go to church. [The Church] is secondary only in the sense that it flows from my commitment to God, and is entailed in that commitment. How ecumenical is mere Christianity, if it removes the doctrine of the Church, which is central to two of the three Christian traditions? So it really isn't very fair to Orthodoxy and Catholicism. [It amounts to saying that] God is not able to adequately reveal Himself through the things that he has made, or the people that He has called. It's a slap in the face of God.

Mere Christianity is dishonest in that it requires a soft-peddling of differences between Christians. And it belittles our brothers and sisters in the past. When we say "let's transcend and rise above all these denominational distinctives," we are actually emasculating the various Christian traditions. The very things that Wesley and Luther and Calvin found as solutions to the problems of their day, we're saying, "it's not important. Let's just get above 'em. It doesn't matter that these brothers regarded these things as central and essential to the Christian life.

We're so superior to them that we can just rise above it." And I find that that's a very belittling approach to these men and women. Accept them on their own terms. Disagree with them if you have to. But don't say they're irrelevant. Within their systems, these denominational distinctives are meant to be solutions to serious problems in the Christian life, and when we don't take them on their own terms, then we're regarding these men and their traditions as pathological, petty, or unwise. I think Luther was wrong [about justification], but I can't say he's unimportant, you see. And that's what I don't like about "mere Christianity."

For him, it all boils down to authority. Plain and simple, he cannot accept that the Catholic Church legitimately possesses the authority it claims for itself.

I find this ironic, because he has now contradicted himself, when one steps back and closely scrutinizes what he is maintaining. He objects to the Catholic Church drawing lines based on its own understanding of requirements for Holy Communion, worked out from the very beginning of Church history (in the early days of the Church, new catechumens went through a long, arduous process of education and spiritual formation before even being allowed into the second part of the Mass).

He rejects Catholic authority, yet at the same time is offended that he is not allowed to be part of the ritual that this same authority -- that he rejects --, sensibly sets limits to. Note the comparison between the following two things:

1) Rejecting the self-understood authority of a form of Christianity.


2) Rejecting the rules that same Christian body sets for itself and being offended that they don't bend to everyone's whim and fancy.

I would contend that anyone can and should honestly exercise their minds and conscience and supernatural, God-given faith in determining which faith is true or the most true. That's an honest and honorable exercise (and we encourage it on this forum and in CHNI as a whole, as part of our very purpose). But being tiffed and miffed because some Christian group says we can't receive communion with them is both irrational and also arguably dishonest.

If he can reject Catholic claims of authority altogether, why does he not recognize that the Catholic Church can consistently reject his assumed arguments for receiving the Eucharist in a Catholic Mass? He doesn't set the rules for this body that he rejects; they do! So why in the world does this offend him? Should I hold a grudge against Harvard Law School my entire life, if I didn't meet the requirements to get into the school? Are they supposed to bend their entire rules and "tradition" just so I can come in and not be offended? It makes no sense. The two propositions don't go together. He needs to work through the issue in a more self-consistent manner.

I was a bit more rigorous and "tough" in this reflection because we're dealing with a person who seems to pride himself on his thinking and skepticism (by your report). Well, then I am challenging him to be much more aware of his premises and the illogical and inconsistent conclusions that he has deduced from them. If he truly loves thinking and logic, and so forth, then he'll welcome the challenge and not get angry, because that is what thinkers do. They love the challenge (just like the fathers did with regard to the challenge of heretics), because it lets them exercise their minds and analytical abilities, to better defend what they already believe, or else discard their position as inadequate to answer the critiques directed towards it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Catholic and Other Christian Pro-Lifers Vote For Obama

[ source / source ]

Ten Reasons Submitted For This Incredible "Disconnect"

My wife has a good friend who is inexplicably voting for Obama. For a Catholic to do that is absolutely against Catholic moral principles. For a morally conservative evangelical Protestant (my wife's friend) to do so is also against their own ostensible principles (assuming there is any attempt to consciously be consistent and principled).

How does one explain or deal with these things? Here is how I do it, because if I didn't have some explanation I would go absolutely nuts too, dealing with it (I'm not an overly emotional type, but I am very passionate indeed about principles and ideals and consistency, and moral reform of society):

1) Failure to integrate faith into a consistent view of all of life, and compartmentalization of religion and other aspects of life.

Thus, people (even good, committed Catholics and other Christians) don't seem to see a connection between what their faith holds and how they apply it to life, or politics in particular. They also compartmentalize economics from religion and faith. If they think one candidate will help the economy, then they'll vote for them, no matter what he thinks on the pro-life issue. In effect, money becomes more important than human life. But they don't think of it in those terms, because they never get that deep in reflecting upon it. They're simply operating on the basis of the notions above.

2) Antipathy to one individual incumbent or candidate causes them to vote for the other guy, no matter what he believes, or how it violates Christian / Catholic principles.

This is a variation of #1. The basis of this decision is not moral principle, but more so a matter of taste or style. One chooses a President in the same way that they choose a dress or suit coat, or a flavor of ice cream, or style of living room. Obama has a certain appeal or charisma or he's good-looking, etc. That's enough. The pro-life cause be damned (which they are not consciously thinking, but it is the effect nonetheless).

3) The counsel of despair.

Pro-life can't prevail anyway (abortion has been legal for 35 years), so why even bother anymore? Therefore, we'll vote for the guy who isn't pro-life, but has some other good ideas.

4) Denial of the reality of pro-life gains.

President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have done nothing, etc. Poppycock. Bush signed bills prohibiting partial-birth abortion (infanticide) and put in two great pro-life Justices onto the Supreme Court (Roberts and Alito). But let's deny all that and pretend that nothing is any different with a Democratic President, who will put in ultra-liberal Justices and hundreds of other lesser judges who want to make law rather than interpret it, and who believe in a goofy progressivist legal philosophy, whereby the Constitution can change according to present whims and fashions. The Supreme Court now has four solid pro-life Justices (Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia). Justice Kennedy sometimes votes against extreme pro-abortion practices (e.g., partial-birth infanticide). Justice Stevens is 88 years old. If he retires and a pro-life Justice is appointed, then the Justices are 5-4 pro-life. If a second liberal Justice retires or dies, then it'll be 6-3 pro-life, assuming McCain picks a good pro-lifer (and that he or she doesn't flip-flop like Kennedy mostly did). That is the stakes of this election. But throw all that out the window, because Obama is more appealing than McCain and the economy is struggling? . . . Let's snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after 35 years of solid pro-life activism . . .

5) Buying the pro-abortion lie of "imposing my values . . ."

The propaganda of the last 40 years would have us believe that life of the preborn child is not something that society should protect, and that to think so is unduly imposing personal opinions on a society. Funny, then, that the same people think it is fine and dandy that homosexual values can be forced upon everyone, on pain of charges of extreme intolerance. Thus, any sexual practice is fair game, while human life is simply a "personal issue."

6) Religion has nothing to do with society.

Variation of #1. This buys the secularist lie that religion is merely a private affair. So if anyone expresses a religious view in the larger society, it is a naughty no-no, according to what our secularist overlords (who run education, academia, the media, the entertainment industry, etc.) want us to believe and how we should behave. Just keep it in the church . . .

7) The one-issue voter canard.

This is utterly ridiculous, but not given to short summary. See my treatment of it. The war in Iraq is often brought in here, as a supposed "equivalence" issue to abortion. But of course, there is no equivalence. Wars can be argued pro and con, but abortion goes on day in and day out. Every day in America about 4000 babies are butchered (about the amount of all casualties in the present war). Abortion is intrinsically immoral, while any given war (like any instance of capital punishment, or police use of force) may be justified or not. Abortion is a deal-breaker. Anyone who favors it accepts things that are absolutely incompatible with Christian, biblical morality.

8) Acceptance of the pessimistic view that a Christian cannot positively affect government and society.

The government is too far gone and cannot be Christianised anyway. This is a variant of #3 and the flip-side of #6. We can't do anything about an inevitable increasing secularization, so who cares who we vote for? Put in the "new guy."

9) The two parties are exactly the same anyway.

Variant of #4. The person who thinks like this, or who adopts a "third-party" / libertarian approach, is operating outside of the practical reality of politics. The fact is, that there are major differences between the parties. Republicans aren't perfect, by any means, and are increasingly influenced by secularism and libertarianism themselves, but to not see any major differences is really dull thinking (to put it mildly).

10) It's time to make a statement and have a black President.

This is about the only good thing I can see in an Obama presidency. It shows that we have gotten past the institutionalized and formerly rampant racism that is America's original sin (which delights me, as one who has had a strong interest in race relations issues for over 40 years). But it is no reason to vote for a person who favors the killing of children. How can one rejoice in the overcoming of racism, as symbolized by a (half-) black President, and all that that implies (equal rights), while turning around and sanctioning the slaughter of children (including a greatly disproportionate number of black children)?

It's like being in favor of the destruction of the KKK, because they lynched hundreds of black people, while favoring the Nazis who murdered millions of Jews, Catholics, Poles, Gypsies, handicapped, etc. How can one be in favor of one thing and against another which involves the same rights on a far more fundamental level (the very right to life itself of the most innocent among us)? How can one favor Brown vs. the Board of Education while at the same time accepting the equivalent of the Dred Scott case of 1857, where the personhood of black people was denied? Likewise, Roe v. Wade defined preborn human beings out of existence, and denied them any rights. Thus, history repeats itself.

* * * * *

The following are brief exchanges on the CHNI forum with a Christian (possibly soon a Catholic) who did vote for Obama. I had written, in another recent paper:
The lousy catechesis, due to the modernist, liberal crisis in the Church in the last 50 years, has decimated catechetics, evangelism, and apologetics. Catholic schools were taken over by the liberals, so that Catholics got an education almost as secularized and stripped of distinctive Catholic elements, as the public schools were offering. So all those Catholics, if they didn't make any individual effort otherwise, came out as good liberals, devoid of a Catholic identity and worldview (so that half of them at the moment see no incredible disconnect in voting for Obama, and see no conflict between that act and the moral and social principles of their faith).

What do you mean by this statement Dave A. Can you briefly clarify?

The briefest clarification is to say that no Christian can vote to sanction childkilling, by voting for a person who will promote and sustain it (when there is a clear pro-life alternative, as there is in this election). See my papers:

How on Earth Can Christians Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidates?

Fr. Paul Ward: Catholics May NOT Vote For Pro-Abortion Politicians

The Pathetic "One-Issue Voter" Canard on the Abortion Issue / John McCain's Stellar Pro-Life Voting Record (+ Discussion)
I know there are conservative Christians in both camps (RC and Protestant) who will vote for Obama rather than McCain in the upcoming election.

Of course. And they have insufficiently harmonized their faith with their vote. Someone disagrees? Let them come present their case. I say that they have none.

Just how far should our personal "faith" beliefs (e.g. pro life) bleed into the secular world in which we live and affect the decisions that have to be made in that realm?

Jesus is Lord of all of life. There is no part of life that our faith shouldn't affect, for the Christian. Otherwise, we are making idols of those parts of life that we try to deliberately separate from our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Transformer of Culture (lots of people do this regarding sexual issues, of course).

What does this all mean for Roman Catholics going to the polls - particularly those tired of the issues associated with the Bush Administration and Republican leadership as a whole?

It means that the choice is clear: no traditional Christian who accepts traditional Christian morality can sensibly, consistently vote for Obama, since there is a solid pro-life alternative in McCain. Abortion is the leading issue of our time, by far.

Didn't mean to get too political on the forum - just looking for some good ol', down home clarification.

Why should any pro-lifer or Christian vote for a rabidly pro-abortion candidate? How can they justify voting for a man who thought children born alive after botched abortions, should be killed (this is a matter of record), and who agrees with partial-birth abortion (also a matter of voting record), where a child is delivered (head only), then has his or her skull pierced by scissors, and brains sucked out? Would YOU vote for such a person who believes these things, gillert? What is so difficult to understand about this (all of you out there who want to vote for Obama)?

Those who vote for people who support such abominations have blood on their hands and will stand accountable. Legal abortion exists in America mainly because we Christians have been compromised and a bunch of wimps, that we let it stand without doing anything about it. Voting is the most painless way we can use to end legal abortion, but we can't even do that, because so many of us vote for things we don't even believe in ourselves. Lord help us.

So are you saying - Dave A. - the only election issue that a Christian need worry about is abortion/pro-life?

McCain is divorced and remarried and not a Roman Catholic. Rudy Giuliani is a Roman Catholic and is divorced (not certain if he remarried). Both are Republicans and both are pro life - yet from a Roman Catholic perspective they have a sinful record. Is the voting Christian then to dismiss one sin simply in favor of a pro life stance?

George Bush is an evangelical, pro life Christian - but his social policies leave a good Roman Catholic and some evangelical Christians wanting. By and large - Republicans are pro-life but lack greatly in the area of social justice and welfare - two things which are very important in Roman Catholic teaching. How does the Roman Catholic voter reconcile these issues?

I'll come clean - I voted for Obama - and I struggled greatly over the decision - as I consider myself to be a conservative, pro-life Christian - but when I considered the other candidate and his questionable moral background - not to mention his desire to continue the social administration (or lack thereof) of George Bush - I found him to not compare to the other. Obama seems to be addressing the great social needs of the U.S. - he seems prepared to improve the U.S.'s international image - he seems able to help solve the most pressing issues facing the country - even if he is not pro-life.

Also - how has the government changed anything over the years for those of us in the pro life camp? Year after year Republicans with a pro life record are elected and year after year they fail to make abortion (under most or all circumstances) illegal. Wouldn't it be better to vote for a politician who seems to be best prepared to deal with the issues at hand - even if he or she is pro choice - while putting resources into the local level - on a person to person level - trying to get women to make decisions about life that are most in line with what God wants?

It seems largely naive and compartmentalized when only one issue drives the ethos of the Christian vote when there are so many other issues that are very important to God. If I become a Roman Catholic again - must I vote pro life or face a mortal sin? Does the RCC allow abortion in any/some circumstances?

Go ahead Dave....slaughter me.....I'm ready...... :)!

So what about the social issues that are largely ignored by Republican candidates?

Where does it Scripturally tell us that a pro life stance is to be held above all other moral and social commands of God?

I've thoroughly dealt with all this fallacious moral reasoning in justification of voting for childkillers in many papers: some mentioned above (especially the "one-issue" one), and others, listed on my Life Issues page. I'm not gonna go over old ground (in terms of what I have already argued at length). If someone truly wants to grapple with the critique of this "de facto pro-abortion position" then they can read those papers. Such a vote cannot be justified on Catholic principles, as is increasingly being stated with more and more forcefulness by Catholic bishops.

* * * * *

Millions of Christians who say they are pro-life will vote for Obama, while the oldest liberal Justice on the Supreme Court (John Paul Stevens) is 88 years old. If Christian pro-lifers would simply vote consistently with their stated beliefs, we would have a great chance to put in a pro-lifer, which would make the Court 5-4 solidly in favor of life (and Kennedy a swing vote on some extreme abortion laws), for the first time since abortion was legalized.

Instead, Obama will put in a fervent pro-abortionist who will sit on the court for 20-30 years. That is one major thing that is at stake in this election. I always reiterate that legal abortion is here primarily because Christians (and particularly Catholics) have insufficiently incorporated their faith into their lives, with regard to how they vote. They talk pro-life but vote for the guy who favors childkilling (they don't "walk the walk"), and this is the reason it continues: good people who do nothing about it because of this absurd disconnect of their rhetoric and their act of voting.

God is watching . . . there will be a ton of reckoning on Judgment Day over this issue.

* * *

I made the following reply to a letter from a Catholic pro-lifer who is seriously considering voting for Obama:

Hi [name],

Thanks for your letter and for giving me a chance to express my opinion on this gravely important matter.

I'd say that it is impossible for an orthodox Catholic to justify a vote for Obama. Recently, I dealt with the argument against voting pro-life, based on the "one-issue" voter argument:

The Pathetic "One-Issue Voter" Canard on the Abortion Issue / John McCain's Stellar Pro-Life Voting Record (+ Discussion)

I've written about this, generally, in the past:

How on Earth Can Christians Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidates?

Fr. Paul Ward: Catholics May NOT Vote For Pro-Abortion Politicians

Just today I made note of a great article by George Weigel in Newsweek, that will be of interest to you, as it is directly relevant to your questions.

Bottom line (I would say) is that a Catholic can't justify (on essentially utilitarian or pragmatic grounds) a vote for a pro-abortion political candidate when a pro-life candidate is available, because abortion is intrinsically evil in a way that war, etc., is not. It's a non-negotiable and a deal-breaker. It's true that abortions have declined in recent years, but that is certainly not because of the policies that have been pursued by pro-abortion Democrats and Republicans who agree with them. It is because of things like abstinence education, sensible alternatives (adoption; crisis pregnancy centers) and because of ceaseless pro-life activism.

The factors that have reduced abortions would continue just as much under McCain, because many people agree about those things (that less abortions are better; adoption is preferable; more informed choices, etc.). Therefore, if the two candidates are arguably equal in their effect on that plane, it stands to reason that a pro-lifer should support the man who thinks Roe was bad law and who would put pro-life Justices on the Supreme Court. The stakes are very high.

If a person like you votes for Obama, in effect you are sanctioning his approval of things like FOCA, killing a child who was intended to be aborted and survived, partial-birth abortion, etc. It is those positive evils that you are also supporting; not just an overall scenario that you feel will reduce abortions. A Catholic cannot support a thing that is intrinsically evil, and candidates who favor these evils, and you'll be doing that with Obama, but not with McCain.

Please seriously consider your vote in this regard. I hope I have been able to persuade you to continue to vote for the pro-life candidate, and to not be taken in by fallacious reasoning that a so-called pro-choice candidate will cause less abortions than a pro-life candidate.

The likelihood is that things will stay pretty much the same no matter who is elected (because the evil is so entrenched in society and law and the public is radically divided), but that is beside the present point, which is one of civic duty from a Catholic perspective, and moral principle, in line with Catholic teaching. Moral principles are not circumstance-relative.

* * *

In looking over a Wikipedia article about "Conservative and Republican Support for Obama" I was astonished to see that Frank Schaeffer: the son of the famous evangelical writer Francis Schaeffer, now an Orthodox Christian, and one who had been (I thought) staunchly pro-life, supported Obama. Read his ultra-absurd rationale in The Huffington Post. Isn't it great to be trendy and relevant and fashionable?

Jesus' Treatment of His Mother in Relation to Catholic Marian Veneration


Miracle of the Wedding at Cana

I was asked on the CHNI board:

The passage where Jesus says "who are my mothers and brothers" in answer to someone saying his mother was there. The pastor wonders if we are supposed to show such veneration to Christ's mother, why didn't He do it Himself in that instance?

Here are the passages:

Matthew 12:46-50 (RSV) While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother."

[note: v. 47 is a disputed text, and is actually skipped in the RSV and other recent translations]

Mark 3:31-35 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Luke 8:19-21 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

The Catholic Encyclopedia ("The Blessed Virgin Mary") comments on this:

At first sight, it seems that Jesus Himself depreciated the dignity of His Blessed Mother. When He was told: "Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee", He answered: "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and my sister, and my mother" (Matthew 12:47-50; cf. Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21). On another occasion, "a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke 11:27-28).

In reality, Jesus in both these passages places the bond that unites the soul with God above the natural bond of parentage which unites the Mother of God with her Divine Son. The latter dignity is not belittled; as men naturally appreciate it more easily, it is employed by Our Lord as a means to make known the real value of holiness. Jesus, therefore, really, praises His mother in a most emphatic way; for she excelled the rest of men in holiness not less than in dignity. Most probably, Mary was found also among the holy women who ministered to Jesus and His apostles during their ministry in Galilee (cf. Luke 8:2-3); the Evangelists do not mention any other public appearance of Mary during the time of Jesus's journeys through Galilee or Judea. But we must remember that when the sun appears, even the brightest stars become invisible.

[see my related paper: Did Jesus Renounce Marian Veneration? (Lk 11:27-28) ]

Earlier in the article, the author dealt with the similar question of the miracle of the wedding at Cana (used in Protestant "anti-Marian" polemics in the same skeptical way):

The evangelists connect Mary's name with three different events in Our Lord's public life: with the miracle in Cana, with His preaching, and with His passion. The first of these incidents is related in John 2:1-10.

There was a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee. . .and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come.

One naturally supposes that one of the contracting parties was related to Mary, and that Jesus had been invited on account of his mother's relationship. The couple must have been rather poor, since the wine was actually failing. Mary wishes to save her friends from the shame of not being able to provide properly for the guests, and has recourse to her Divine Son. She merely states their need, without adding any further petition. In addressing women, Jesus uniformly employs the word "woman" (Matthew 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10; 19:26; 20:15), an expression used by classical writers as a respectful and honourable address. The above cited passages show that in the language of Jesus the address "woman" has a most respectful meaning. The clause "what is that to me and to thee" renders the Greek ti emoi kai soi, which in its turn corresponds to the Hebrew phrase mah li walakh. This latter occurs in Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; 19:23; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 9:18; 2 Chronicles 35:21.

The New Testament shows equivalent expressions in Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; 8:28; Matthew 27:19. The meaning of the phrase varies according to the character of the speakers, ranging from a most pronounced opposition to a courteous compliance. Such a variable meaning makes it hard for the translator to find an equally variable equivalent. "What have I to do with thee", "this is neither your nor my business", "why art thou troublesome to me", "allow me to attend to this", are some of the renderings suggested. In general, the words seem to refer to well or ill-meant importunity which they endeavour to remove. The last part of Our Lord's answer presents less difficulty to the interpreter: "my hour is not yet come", cannot refer to the precise moment at which the need of wine will require the miraculous intervention of Jesus; for in the language of St. John "my hour" or "the hour" denotes the time preordained for some important event (John 4:21-23; 5:25-28; 7:30; 8:29; 12:23; 13:1; 16:21; 17:1).

Hence the meaning of Our Lord's answer is: "Why are you troubling me by asking me for such an intervention? The divinely appointed time for such a manifestation has not yet come"; or, "why are you worrying? has not the time of manifesting my power come?" The former of these meanings implies that on account of the intercession of Mary Jesus anticipated the time set for the manifestation of His miraculous power; the second meaning is obtained by understanding the last part of Our Lord's words as a question, as was done by St. Gregory of Nyssa, and by the Arabic version of Tatian's "Diatessaron" (Rome, 1888). Mary understood her Son's words in their proper sense; she merely warned the waiters, "Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye" (John 2:5). There can be no question of explaining Jesus' answer in the sense of a refusal.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dialogue With a Presbyterian Pastor Regarding Ordination, Priests, and Vocations For Everyone

Dr. John Ortberg is the senor pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, in Menlo Park, California: a member of a new Presbyterian denomination called the ECO: a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Dr. Ortberg's profile on his church's website states:
John Ortberg passionate about "spiritual formation," which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor. John's education includes a Master of Divinity degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Fuller Seminary. The former senior pastor of Horizons Community Church in Southern California, John also served as Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area. John is the author of "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat" and, most recently, "It All Goes Back in the Box." He has also contributed to other books and periodicals.
See also his personal website, Wikipedia entry, (which states that "He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary including a Master of Divinity degree and doctorate in clinical psychology"), and list of books on amazon (he is a prolific author).

The following is a critique of his sermon, "Every Life Comes With a Gift," from 12 October 2008 (you can listen to it or read it in pdf format on the church's Sermons Online page). Dr. Ortberg's words will be in blue:

* * * * *

Here are some thoughts that occurred to me as I read the sermon:

What that means for you is you don't have to live in guilt anymore or shame or hiding or darkness, whatever you have done. We have a priest who sat down.That is the good news. The price has been paid. You have been forgiven. You are set free. We have a priest who sat down. 

No one is denying that Jesus' work on the cross was in any way insufficient. The only problem with the implication here (priests are no longer necessary) is the biblical data regarding absolution and a continuing priestly function, in order to grant that. It isn't just "believe in Jesus and every sin past and present is all taken care of." No; there is a formal procedure to repent and get rid of ongoing sins. See: 

Biblical Evidence for Formal Forgiveness of Sins and Absolution (Confession)

Biblical (Pauline) Evidence For the Catholic Examination of Conscience

The Biblical Evidence for Priests

We have a priest who sat down, and what this means for you is all the junk, all the darkness, all the guilt, all the mess-ups…I mean really, really bad stuff…it’s covered. It’s paid. That’s the good news. 

Yes, of course it is. But this has to be appropriated to us, and one way is through absolution. Other ways are the sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism. But he would deny that those are sacraments, being a Presbyterian, and believe that they are only symbolic. Not according to the Bible and the fathers . . . .

They did not limit the priesthood to a few special people. They didn’t eliminate the priesthood. They released it. They unleashed it. They made it available to everybody in the body. They said things like, “You (plural) you all are now a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” They said things like,”But now, you (all, everybody) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, holy nation, people who belong to God.” Now, after Jesus, no more two-tiered system. No more dual traps. No more dividing people up into the amateurs and the professionals. Now everybody’s a priest. 

I specifically answered this argument with a chapter of my book, The One-Minute Apologist, with plenty of biblical argumentation. I already cited it above (with a different title): The Biblical Evidence for Priests. 

In the New Testament the term ‘minister’ is never ever used for a special group of leaders with special credentials. In the New Testament they are very careful about this language. The ministry belongs to everybody. Nobody is in the bleachers; everybody is on the field. Everybody’s in the game. 

What about the terms elders, presbyters (1 Tim 4:14: KJV), deacons, bishops, in the NT? I think the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. What, e.g., is the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15? That's just a bunch of Bible-believing "Joe Q. Christians" -- all on the same egalitarian plane? Hardly: it was "apostles and elders" (Acts 15:4,6,22-23). James functioned as a bishop at the Council, and indeed, we know that he was the bishop of Jerusalem. Peter functioned (arguably) as a papal figure. Beyond what I posted above, I have given a lot more biblical argumentation as well:\

Biblical Evidence For the Sacrament of Holy Orders (Ordination)

Apostles Can Become Bishops (Apostolic Succession)

Bishops in the New Testament and the Early Church

The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church

For this reason, the vast majority of Christians throughout history have at least believed in ordination, if not priesthood (Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans). Dr. Ortberg is arguing that a continuing priesthood (in the Catholic sense) is unbiblical. I am asserting in reply that it is this evangelical Protestant ecclesiology that is unbiblical, and I am giving tons of biblical support for my position.

He's even demonstrably wrong on his specific point regarding the word "ministers":

In the New Testament the term ‘minister’ is never ever used for a special group of leaders with special credentials.

This is easy to handily refute with just a Strong's Concordance and online Bible. Here we go:
Luke 1:2 (RSV) just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers [huperetes] of the word, [i.e., the disciples, who are regarded as proto-priests insofar as they are given the power to "bind and loose"]

Acts 12:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission [diakonia; KJV: "ministry"], bringing with them John whose other name was Mark. [referring to apostles; bishops are the successors to the apostles; we see the succession in, e.g., the replacement of Judas, and Paul's apparent commissioning to Timothy, to carry on his work]

Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry [diakonia] which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. [Paul]

Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. [diakonia] [Paul]

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apol'los? What is Paul? Servants [diakonos: KJV: "ministers"] through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. [Paul; apostles]
Paul even distinguishes between his ministry and its fruit, four verses later:
1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants [huperetes;: KJV: "ministers"] of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. [Paul and apostles]

1 Corinthians 16:15-16 Now, brethren, you know that the household of Steph'anas were the first converts in Acha'ia, and they have devoted themselves to the service [diakonia; KJV: "ministry"] of the saints; I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer. [clearly a set-aside, called ministry, and note that others are "subject" to them]

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers [diakonos] of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. [Paul, in context: see previous chapter -- and fellow apostles]

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry [diakonia] of reconciliation; [Paul; by implication, other such workers, too]

2 Corinthians 6:3-5 We put no obstacle in any one's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants [diakonos; KJV: "ministers"] of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; [about Paul, in context]

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants [diakonos; KJV: "ministers"] of Christ? I am a better one -- I am talking like a madman -- with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. [Paul]

1 Timothy 1:11-12 in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service [diakonia; KJV: "ministry"], [Paul]
2 Timothy 4:5 As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry [diakonia]. [Timothy]

[see also: Acts 26:16: "appoint you to serve" (Paul: huperetes); Rom 15:16-17 (Paul: leitourgos); Ephesians 3:7 (Paul: diakonos); Col 1:23,25 (Paul: diakonos); 1 Tim 4:6 (Timothy: diakonos); all "minister" in RSV]
Twenty passages?! How could all this be missed?

The church should be led by people who have been given the spiritual gift of leadership. The church ought to be shepherded by people who have been given the spiritual gift of shepherding. The church is to be taught by people who have been given the spiritual gift of teaching. The church is to be administrated by people who have been given the spiritual gift of administration. Starting to catch on to how this deal works? There’s never been anything like this before. 

Yes; God gives gifts. But this doesn't wipe out any sense of hierarchy or subjection to elders, deacons, priests, bishops, etc. I'm a teacher, myself, in the Church, in the capacity of the lay apostolate of apologetics. The Church encourages this, and I obviously believe in lay ministry. But Catholics don't feel any need to eliminate the priesthood because other people have gifts and can be useful in the Church, too. Both/and, not either/or. We can't do such a thing because it is too biblical, and too established in the early Church and all Church history till the 16th century. 

When I was growing up, the common idea was this: A bunch of people might get together to form a church and the first thing they would say was, “We will hire a minister.” They would use that language. New Testament never does, but they would. We will hire a minister. What would the minister do? He would do the ministry. We would even talk about somebody entering the ministry. 

I submit that it is because those things are explicitly biblical, as I believe I have just shown. The NT may not use the terminology "hire a minister" but the same exact thing is taught, since there is such a thing as an ordained minister or priest, and Paul wrote about how the laborer (Christian workers or ministers or pastors or priests or evangelists) were worthy of their hire (1 Cor 9:4-14; 1 Tim 5:18; cf. Jesus' identical teaching: Lk 10:2,7). Therefore, since there is such a thing as a distinct ministry of pastor or shepherd, and one which is worthy of being remunerated, I find it to be perfectly, exactly biblical to talk in terms of "we will hire a minister."

Dr. Ortberg is senior pastor at his own church! Are we to believe that he is no different from anyone else at his church; he doesn't get paid; it's all volunteer work, just like any of the other members of the Church serving God during weekdays as bakers or accountants or construction workers or office managers or waitresses, or fulfilling their vocation as mothers of young children or home-schoolers, etc.? Stay-at-home moms who have a profoundly important vocation don't get paid, so he doesn't, either, right (because we're all equal in Christ and all have our own gift)? Oh, he does get paid as a pastor (maybe not)?

If so (which is exceedingly likely), then I guess we're right back where we started and he himself is indeed different in some sense and a troublesome counter-example to his own argument. He has a seminary degree and the requisite training. So he's a pastor. But he's no different from anyone else, and there is no such thing as a "minister" with special abilities, or a call to same in the NT (so he has argued). I think at some point his argument reduces to, at best, a distinction without an actual difference, or logical circularity. Or he would have to resign his job as a remunerated pastor, in order to consistently make his argument, no? Perhaps he can make a living from his books alone, which I have almost done myself, but not quite (which is one reason I work at CHNI: to make up the difference between book royalties and the required income to pay the bills).

The other thing that isn't so biblical is the congregationalism inherent in Dr. Ortberg's "egalitarian" ecclesiological vision. In the Bible, one was appointed or ordained. This was true even of Paul (Acts 26:16; Gal 1:18, 2:9). The biblical model is for higher authorities (e.g., bishops) to ordain call a person to ministry, not the democratic, congregational system of Baptists, Presbyterians (at least to some extent), and other independent or non-denominational Protestants, where everyone who is a member has a vote.

I agree wholeheartedly, though, that every person has a gift and a calling and a special place to do something in the Body of Christ. That part of his message is wonderful and much-needed in all Christian groups. I just don't pit things against each other that the Bible doesn't dichotomize:
Everyone exercising their gift necessarily reduces to no priesthood [or, in Protestantism, no ordained ministry of pastor].
I don't buy it, because it's not biblical and not at all logically required.

He writes: "You were created for ministry, and if you miss your ministry, you miss the reason for which you were created." 

Amen! I reiterate this all the time, myself: everyone has a calling. This is Catholic teaching, too. 

The idea in that tradition was, to be a minister you needed a special calling, and that was kind of a code for a mystical, emotional encounter with God where God tells you that you are special and you cannot go into the marketplace like ordinary Christians, but you must go into church work. 

Calling (biblically and in the Catholic tradition and others in the same way) doesn't make someone better than anyone else; it simply means that he or she has been called to a particular ministry that calls for more than the ordinary commitment, and the specialized abilities, from God, to fruitfully fulfill the calling. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7, and recognizes that an unmarried person can give "undistracted devotion" to the Lord. Priests and nuns who give up marriage and sexuality for the sake of service to others are special persons, for that reason, but not intrinsically "superior" to other people. 

There’ll be sometimes, not always by any means, but sometimes when I’m working on a message, and all of a sudden, words and images and stories and thoughts and ideas will begin to flow. Sometimes so fast or with such an intensity that I can hardly write them down, and sometimes I’ll just put he pen down for a moment and say, “God, nobody will ever know what just happened right here at this desk, nobody will ever know but You.” I’m so glad, I’m so grateful. See, there are times when, in my gifts as best I understand it, I experience God and His presence and His calling in a way that if I didn't have that, I can't imagine how much poorer my faith and life with God would be. 

This happens to me a lot, too, being a writer. I can relate quite a bit to it. It's such a joy being able to study the Bible and to learn Catholic teaching and the fullness of the apostolic Christian faith, for the purpose of sharing it with others. I am blessed to be able to do this full-time. It's an apostolate and a ministry. I'm simply exercising the call to apologetics and evangelism that I received from God in 1981. I knew what I was to do with my life at that time, as an evangelical. Before then, I didn't have a clue.

My last thought is this: I've been in both the evangelical and Catholic worlds. And one thing that is exactly the same in both (because people are people) is the fact that only a small number of any given group will be active in ministry or their felt calling. It's fine to talk about the ideal, and we must do so, but the reality is that in fact most of the work will fall to the pastor or priest and a small group that surrounds him (the "inner circle" of a congregation or parish). And I think it is partially because of that concrete reality that perhaps God knew it was best for every local church to have a leader. It's human nature. There will always be leaders in just about any social group, religious or otherwise.

But this is how God set it up. That's not only true for the local church, but also the universal Church, which is why I believe God desired for there to be one leader: a pope (without denying in the least all the other roles discussed above). And, of course, I present all kinds of biblical arguments for that, too, but that is another topic!