Charles “Chuck” Colson, 1931-2012

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Krista Tippett and Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson died this afternoon at the age of eighty, and for traditional Christians of all stripes–Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant–this is a great loss. His conversion to Christianity occurred in prison, and he changed from one of President Nixon’s hatchet men to the founder of Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry that has helped thousands of prisoners find their way out of crime. I always referred to Mr. Colson as a “Catholic Baptist,” for he had a remarkably high view of the church and of church tradition for a Protestant. He was one of the forces behind the document, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” which focused on the common ground, the “Mere Christianity,” to use C. S. Lewis‘s term, shared by all traditional Christians. A staunch defender of the unborn and of traditional moral teachings of the Church, Mr. Colson was the chief driving force behind “The Manhattan Declaration,” a strong affirmation of traditional marriage in the face of continued attacks from both secular and from liberal Christian critics. I have signed the Manhattan Declaration myself, and encourage others to do so.

When I read some of the public comments on the news of Mr. Colson’s death, many were positive, but others questioned the sincerity of his conversion. Given the amount of work Mr. Colson did to improve conditions in prison and to defend traditional Christian teachings, there is no legitimate reason to doubt his conversion. Such attacks are more likely due to hatred of traditional Christian morality and of Mr. Colson’s defense of such rather than a sincere attempt to argue that he was not a true convert.

I have long enjoyed reading Mr. Colson’s books and essays, and I will miss reading new ones. May God be with his family and many friends in this time of loss, and I ask my fellow Christians of their charity to pray for the soul of Charles Colson: Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithfully departed in Christ, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Traditional Moral Positions and the Public Square

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Freedom of Speech (painting)

Freedom of Speech (painting) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Canada, it is a crime to publicly assert that practicing homosexuality is a sin. In my ethics class, students regularly write on their essays that being a virgin until marriage is “prudish,” and they do not take seriously the traditional view that couples should refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage. In many academic settings, those who believe abortion to be morally wrong are silenced, to the point that the University Faculty for Life presents an option to its members to hide their membership in the organization so that their colleagues do not find out. The notion that there is objective right and wrong is excluded from most public schools, and moral relativism is taught as the gospel truth (and teaching it as such is, of course a contradiction).

It is true that freedom of speech does not, as the old saw goes, give anyone the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Surely being morally opposed to abortion or to practicing homosexuality or to premarital sex is not the equivalent to shouting “Fire!” Yet such opinions are being increasingly excluded from the public square, in academic institutions first, and then in the wider society.

I believe in academic freedom. If a student or faculty member wishes to defend the moral rightness of premarital sex, of practicing homosexuality, or of abortion, that student or faculty member should be allowed to have a say in the university square. But academic freedom also implies that those with the opposite views on these issues should be allowed to make their case. I am a conservative, but if a liberal student makes a strong case for his position, he will get a good grade on his test and will not be punished for his views. The situation should be the same for a conservative student who makes a good defense of his position in a class with a liberal professor. To give them credit, some liberal professors do give their students such academic freedom and believe in such for their colleagues. There is a subset of professors, however, who want to silence conservative voices, especially on controversial moral issues. Such violation of freedom of speech has taken place in some institutions of higher education, to the point that a professor in one school who presented a natural law argument against homosexual practice (and did not even claim to agree with the argument) was fired–until a court awarded him his job back. The problem is that he should not have lost his job in the first place. What is going on is that hostile rhetoric against moral conservatives is repeated so much that people begin to believe it (“they are haters,” “these people are filled with anger,” etc.). I have never understood why holding moral action A to be wrong implies hating the person who performs moral action A. I wish I could say that such an ignorant position prevails only in academia, but it is present in broader society. More and more the elites in academia, the media, and in Hollywood, are attempting to exclude traditional moral discourse from legitimate discussion and to push their views onto society as a whole. It may be just a matter of time before the United States goes the direction that Canada has gone (depending on election results, court appointees, etc.) and makes illegal conservative moral discourse on abortion and on sexual ethics. I wonder who the real narrow minded people are, the real bigots, the real haters. I would venture a guess that most of them are not moral conservatives.

The Devil and America

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, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

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The Left as well as some on the Right have given Rick Santorum a hard time for his statements suggesting that the United States is under Satanic attack. He now claims that his 2008 statements are no longer relevant today, but that seems to be a political move. Mr. Santorum is being labeled as a nut case because of his comments. I suggest that he is quite sane.

Since the Second Great Awakening beginning in the late eighteenth century, the United States has been a religious country, and de facto a Christian nation influenced by Evangelical Protestant piety. There was a generally accepted moral code, traditional in content, on which the vast majority of Americans agreed. Many Americans may not have practiced the moral code very well, but the point is that they acknowledged it. People should honor their commitments, especially marriage. Abortion was wrong, and if many women got abortions anyway (which was common in Hollywood given the non-pregnancy clauses in many actresses’ contracts), these same women knew that abortion was not the sort of thing they should be doing. Sexual ethics were in principle conservative, with any sexual activity prior to or outside of marriage morally forbidden. Child-rearing was considered an important task for women, and after the Industrial Revolution in effect kept women from making a direct economic impact on the family in terms of increases resources, it was thought best to pay the husband a living wage so his wife could stay home and take care of children. Admittedly this was not an ideal situation, but it was a way to preserve the key role of women in child-rearing. Crime, though rising rapidly after World War II, was not at the extreme levels to which it rose from 1965 onward. Almost half the nation went to church every Sunday. Network television offered religious programming from Father Fulton J. Sheen to NBC’s “Herald of Truth” with Batsell Barrett Baxter from the Churches of Christ. Public prayers were common as well as public Christmas as Easter displays, even on state or federal property. Most American presidents acknowleged the Christian heritage of the United States, even labeling it a “Christian nation”–the first president to explicitly reject that attribution was Mr. Obama.

Although the more bohemian of the intellectual classes did not appreciate the Christian focus of the United States, especially writers and artists, most intellectuals of the time, even the liberals, would be considered “conservative” by today’s standards. Even some bohemians, such as Jack Kerouac, were politically conservative and searching for God. Mr. Kennedy’s administration did not seem to be a significant break with the past.

After President Kennedy’s assassination, followers of the Frankfurt School of Marxism, whose goal was the destruction of Christian and of Western Civilization to prepare the way for the Marxist revolution, infiltrated colleges and universities, in part through Students for a Democratic Society. These individuals had a huge crop of the first baby boomers hitting colleges and universities in 1964, many of whom had never suffered hard lives and many of whom had been reared by permissive parents. It was a volatile mix. Almost fifty years have passed since the revolution against traditional Christian values began in earnest in1964. Marriage, instead of being considered a sacred union, is now considered to be no different that other contractural agreements. The United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in January 1973 (following the U.K., which passed the “Abortion Act” in 1967). 1.5 million unborn children a year were killed until the recent drop in the abortion rate, which is now around 1.3 million a year. Sexual ethics is in shambles; sexual sins are no longer a matter of someone who knows better yielding to temptation. Rather, they are celebrated and those who commit sexual sins do not consider their actions to be sinful. Contraception, designed for married couples who did not wish to have children at particular points in their lives, spread to unmarried individuals and the sexual revolution was on. Crime exploded after 1964. The intellectual class, much of the media, and artists and writers hold views that as late as 1965 would have been considered radical. Now they are mainstream and traditional Christian views have been pushed to the margin to the point that the United States government may get to the point of openly persecuting traditional Christians.

Now I, at least, am a traditional Christian (though God knows I often am not a very good one). From my point of view, the world turning upside down since 1964 is due to human free choices, of course, but choices guided by forces hostile to the good. Although belief in Satan and in demons is not in the Christian Creeds, such a belief is part of the official beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the few traditional Anglicans left, and among many Evangelical Protestants. I share that view that Satan is a fallen angel, hostile to God, hostile to good. The sheer extent of the revolution since 1964 cannot only be explained, in my opinion, by natural forces and human choices unaided by any outside powers. Thus, I believe that the evil parts of the 60s revolution–abortion, divorce, sexual sin approved, extreme self-centeredness, the Pelagian “human potential” movement–have overwhelmed society due to the influence of Satan and those supernatural powers that are under his control. The sheer missionary zeal of bohemian artists, for example, cannot be explained totally in terms of their own powers. True, their choices are free, but one of the influences that led them to make free choices consistent with evil is, in my opinion, demonic–literally, not figuratively. Thus, while I have my disagreements with Mr. Santorum (especially on the issues of torture and war), I believe he was correct in 2008 when he said that the United States was under demonic attack. It is at least a possibility for those Christians who do not have a pick-and-choose religion.

The Health and Human Services Department’s Attack on Faith-Based Organizations

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Logo of the United States Department of Health...

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The United States Department of Health and Human Services mandated that employers offer health care insurance to employees that includes payments not only for standard birth control, but also for abortificants. Faith-based organizations are not exempt from this mandate. The Roman Catholic Church is resisting this mandate, as well they should, and since abortificants are also paid for, all faith-based groups who oppose abortion are being forced to violate their beliefs. I have no doubt that the social democrats and socialists who read this post will disagree, which is their right. What about the right of a faith-based organization to establish employment benefits in line with its beliefs? H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., a bioethicist and physician at the Baylor College of Medicine, has argued for ideological pluralism in health care choices. That is, if someone accepts abortion, she can buy insurance through a company that accepts abortion. Roman Catholic groups could have what Engelhardt calls “Vaticare” or something like that. Now Engelhardt is a Classical Liberal who is consistent that pluralism be respected. What the government is doing is the equivalent of telling “Vaticare” or similar organizations that their beliefs be damned. The government will now tell you what to do, and if you don’t like it, suck it up. The result, if this rule is not overturned, will be a mass closing of faith-based organizations that help a significant number of people.

Although Mr. Obama has tended to be a friend of Wall Street and warmongers, his ideological roots are strongly Marxist, and, I would claim, totalitarian. The fact that he is no more totalitarian than Dubya does not change the fact that Obama desires as much power as did Mr. Bush. Regulatory agencies have been one way that government can gain power without legislative approval. Congress should establish a conscience clause in the health care bill in order to allow for faith-based organizations to offer insurance to their employees consistent with their own beliefs. To do otherwise would be another step toward a “social democratic benevolent” dictatorship that the most radical on the left wing desire. Although this is by now a tired cliche, it remains true that freedom of religion was never construed by the founding fathers to mean freedom from religion. I am pleased that Eastern Orthodox Bishops (The Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops) as well as conservative Protestants have joined the effort to reverse this rule change. I hope they succeed.

Newspapers and Stillborns

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Memorial Service

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Before I read Robert Kastenbaum’s textbook on death and dying, I was not aware that some U. S. newspapers refuse to print the obituaries of stillborn infants. I had to read the statement twice to believe it was there–to be fair to Kastembaum, he does not like that fact any more than I. Although my fraternal twin brother, Jeffrey, was not stillborn, he died two hours after birth of severe bilateral pulmonary hemorrhage. The tendency in society is to downplay the import of such losses and downplay the parents’ grief. “The child really didn’t get a chance to live.” Granted, the child’s life was short, but what follows from that? Is a mother or father’s love somehow missing because a baby was stillborn or died shortly after birth? What gives a newspaper a moral right to deny the existence of such infants to the point of refusing to print their obituaries? I wonder if a society that allows abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy (provided, during that last trimester, that a woman has a doctor certify that the fetus is a threat to her physical and/or “mental” health) can properly value stillbirths or infants dying shortly after birth. Those newspapers that forbid such obituaries are reflecting the values of moral liberals in the wider society, liberals who do not admit the intrinsic value of human life from conception onward. Such an attitude is reflected in bioethicist Peter Singer’s statement that “An adult chimpanzee is of more moral worth than a newborn human infant.” He would go as far as to deny personhood to a newborn until the baby is a week old, and even then Singer does not believe that true moral personhood is present until the child is several years old. American society may not be quite that radical, but when children are considered to be burdens rather than gifts, a stillborn infant can be relegated to secondary status–or perhaps to tertiary status, lower on the scale of value than nonhuman animals.

Recent research on grief suggests that parents, especially mothers, mourn deeply over stillbirths and over infants who die shortly after birth. The least a newspaper can do is to acknowledge their loss by printing their child’s obituary. To do otherwise is to exhibit a fundamental lack of respect for the dignity of the stillborn infant or of the infant who dies shortly after birth. To do otherwise says that the severe grief felt by parents over the infant’s death is misguided. I suggest that it is not the parents who are misguided; it is newspaper editors who refuse to respect the dignity of all human persons, born, stillborn, or unborn.

The “Good Ole’ Days” Really Were the Good Ole’ Days

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Rural Scene. Looking almost due west. One of t...

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This side of eternity, change is a constant in life. Some change is for the better–I think of the wonderful advance in medicine, advances that saved both my parents‘ lives. The computer on which I am typing has been a useful tool, speeding communication, research, and writing–I remember the days when I typed on a manual typewriter, then moved up to an electric–and stayed up all night two times in my undergrad days typing term papers. With a computer I might have gotten eight hours of sleep.

Change, however, can be for the worst. Despite recent drops in violent crime, the overall trend since the 1950s has been upward. Religion plays less and less a role in American society, and it seems that the U. S. is moving toward a European style secularism with a few New Age attempts to rescue some measure of spirituality from the maelstrom of materialism. The South used to be one of the few areas (outside Italian-American communities in cities) in which people lived together in extended families. The system was imperfect, but overall there was less loneliness and more social support in times of trouble–and the grandparents could babysit the children in case the parents had to work to make ends meet. When I was a child, the legalization of abortion, homosexual marriage, and (in three states) physician assisted suicide was in the future. A person was attacked for defending immoral practices, not attacked for criticizing them. Discipline was practiced, both in homes and in schools. Of course the world in which I was a child was imperfect–I was happily oblivious to the destruction of society from 1964-70, although I felt the effects in my teenaged years in the mid and late 1970s. I remember my childhood as a happy one–but I remember what happened in detail, I can discover some unhappy times–but I choose not to dwell on them. Overall I was blessed, and memories of a childhood that was filled with the joy of exploring new worlds every day outweigh memories of spankings and being picked on by other children. If those memories of the “good ole days” are unrealistic, I will live in their unreality to help give me a picture of Paradise–a world in which people live without the flaws that mar life today.

The “good ole’ days,” like all times in human history, were marred by sickness, death, and mourning–the universals of humanity before the eschaton. People sinned in the past just as they sin in the present, and usually in the same ways. There were murders, assaults, rapes, and robberies fifty years ago just as there are today. The difference is that Christianity was respected then and was part of the public square, and today it has been removed from the public square, as if Christians live in a two-tiered world, one totally secular and the other sacred, and never the twain shall meet. Basic Christian morality was respected–in 1960, both Jews and Christians understood that abortion is not the kind a thing a person should do. Abstinence until marriage was the standard position before the Pill changed everything in and after the early 1960s. If a child screamed, “Shut up!” to his parents (as I heard one scream in a store), the parents would remove the child from any place of business and discipline that child. Today bad behavior by children in public is tolerated by many parents, to the chagrin of other people who must put up with hearing unruly children.

It may be that the eighteenth century Enlightenment, with its radical secularism and denial of tradition, helped lead to the present poor state of society. While history reveals periods of chaos and moral turpitude in society, what is unique about the current age is the combination of such bad behavior with a denial of the transcendent. I do not believe that I am an “old fogey” in saying these things–in some significant ways, apart from technological advances, earlier times really are “the good ‘ole days.”

What can be done to restore society? A blind nostalgia will not do. Restoration of community begins not only with encouraging families to remain together, but with encouraging people to understand that there is transcendent meaning in life. When people render aid to others who are in need and establish a personal relationship with them, this draws them out of themselves to understand that their needs are not the only ones important in life. A relationship with the Transcendent also draws a person out of the self–and it is only in this way that the radical individualism of the last fifty years can be overcome and society can start to recover from its moral and religious lapses.

Why I am not a Democrat

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George McGovern, in Congress

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My granddaddy loved the Democratic Party. He always said “it is the party of the poor man while the Republicans are the party of the rich man.” He thought that FDR was the best president the U. S. ever had, appealing to WPA and Social Security as evidence. For many years in the South, the Democratic Party was the conservative party, and while it held some positions (on segregation, for instance) that were wrong, it also defended the Tenth Amendment regarding state’s rights–and I must agree with their view on that. Sending federal troops to the South, putting school boards under dictatorial federal judges who imposed asinine social engineering schemes such as forced busing, were abuses of power by the federal government. Better to use persuasion in a grassroots movement to encourage a change in people’s attitudes than to send in the 101st Airborne. Those in power could have been pressured by a grassroots movement to end segregation from within the individual states–with enough pressure, they would probably have given in, segregation laws abolished, and race relations would have been better than they are today.

Republicans had no problem abusing federal power, especially liberal Republicans in the North. The Republican Party had historically been the party of corporate welfare, and had formed an unholy alliance with railroads and with banks in the nineteenth century. It was the Republicans who forced states, which would have been almost universally considered to be sovereign just a few decades before, into the federal fold using U. S. military forces, with the attendant loss of over 600,000 lives.

There were some liberal democrats in the South in the 1950s–Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee is a good example–but even the liberals of that time period accepted the Judeo-Christian ethic that had been dominant in the United States since the Second Great Awakening. Except for a few radicals, abortion was wrong, and no one would have dreamed of supporting same-sex marriage. Even with the expansion of federal power and the government’s use of the military against the states, the federal budget was relatively small as well as the number of federal employees. The budget was balanced three times during the Eisenhower administration.

Then came the 1960s with the spoiled baby boomers calling for a radical transformation of society. These radicals gained control of the Democratic National Convention when it nominated Senator George McGovern (who seems almost moderate by today’s standards) for president. The Democratic Party became the party of radical social change, advocating abortion rights, looser rules concerning the family unit, and, more recently, same-sex marriage. It also extended the federal welfare system immensely, especially during Lyndon Johnson’s administration. This in turn helped to expand a permanent underclass, leading to more money being spent on welfare, leading more people to become dependent on the system. It became a vicious cycle.

The Democratic and Republican parties “switched” in the South, especially after the old George Wallace voters voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1976 presidential primaries. He almost the Republican nomination from Gerald Ford that year. In 1980, the trend continued, and over time, the Republican Party moved to the right at the same time the Democratic Party shifted radically to the left. Republicans were not always true to their promises, unfortunately, but to many voters, including me, they were the “lesser evil” to voting for a liberal Democrat. There are a few conservative Democrats around, and I will vote for one from time to time. Now, though, almost all my votes are for Republicans, with an occasional foray into voting for a Libertarian.

Why am I not a Democrat? Because:

(1) Most Democrats believe in nearly unlimited abortion rights–and I believe abortion to be murder. It is difficult for me to vote for someone who believes that it is morally acceptable for a mother, with the help of her “doctor,” to murder her own unborn child (and to someone who claims Catholic identity who told me an unborn child was not a child, my message is, “You are an utter hypocrite to call yourself Catholic).

(2) Democrats have generally supported radical social changes such as same-sex marriage, something I believe to be an affront to natural law and something that will be, long term, destructive to society.

(3) Democrats have, for the most part, supported social engineering schemes such as forced busing of schoolchildren.

(4) Most Democrats continue to support an overly large welfare system. They also have the idea that they can spend themselves out of any economic crisis. The United States will never recover from its debt given the amount of money the Democratic Obama Administration has spent.

(5)¬† The Democratic Party engages in race, sex, and class warfare. Many Democrats falsely accuse those who oppose the party’s policies on welfare, for example, of racism. Many Democrats love to stir up racial strife it can help the party with the minority groups in its voting base. The Party supports the most radical measures of certain feminists, supporting unlimited abortion and the continual disempowerment of men. The Party seems to think that “taxing the rich” will solve all our problems, although if the government seized all money from the rich it would only make a drop in the deficit.

(6) When Democrats could do some good and stand up to the warmongering Neoconservatives in both parties, the majority of Democrats  fail and end up supporting unnecessary wars just as much as Republicans (this is my biggest beef with the Republican Party).

(7) Many Democrats are hostile to traditional Christianity. They do all they can to remove traditional Christianity from the “public square.”

I get frustrated with both parties. I do not remember who wrote in Chronicles magazine that politics in the United States consists of the “Stupid Party” (Republicans) and the “Evil Party” (Democratic). He went on to say when they compromise one gets “stupid evil.” Given my choice between the alternatives, I would rather support stupidity rather than support evil. That is why in the presidential election between Bush and Kerry, I voted Libertarian, since I believe that both the Iraq War and the U. S. use of torture was evil. I am not duty-bound to the Republican Party–but I cannot be a Democrat unless the party makes a 180 degree turn to the Right–and that is not going to happen.

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