Brief Note: David Barton and Ronald Reagan’s Pretty Shallow Faith

Photo: David Barton (Left); Eric Metaxas (Right)

In a Wednesday Onenewsnow article about Ronald Reagan’s Christianity, David Barton is quoted as saying:

Reagan’s faith matured over the years from a “pretty shallow” faith early on to more mature understanding of scripture.

While many people did doubt Reagan’s sincerity, Reagan biographer and Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor told me that Reagan never had a shallow faith. While Barton can be credited with acknowledging that Reagan had a faith, Kengor has shown via his many articles and books that Reagan’s faith was important in his life from his childhood.

Barton was asked to comment on a newly discovered letter written by Reagan to his atheist father-in-law. The letter was in essence an evangelistic appeal for his father-in-law to convert to Christianity. Kengor has a commentary on the letter here.

My concern in this post is not about Reagan’s faith. It seems clear to me that he was an imperfect believer as is the case with any believer. In my view, any comparisons to Donald Trump as court evangelical Robert Jeffress attempted earlier this year are faulty because Reagan actually believed in Christianity. In my opinion, Trump is acting the part and giving evangelicals just enough to keep them as a voting bloc.

Rather, this comment from Barton is another illustration of why he can’t be trusted as a historian. There has been a resurgence of interest in Reagan’s faith over the last decade or so. A historian familiar with the literature should be aware that there are good reasons to believe Reagan’s personal faith was meaningful to him and that he maintained those beliefs throughout his life. One might contest various applications of his faith or how consistent his actions were with the faith but to call his beliefs or faith shallow isn’t accurate.

By the way, if you want to get a icy silence from Wallbuilders, ask Mr. Barton about his earned doctorate.

In 2011, Evangelicals Protested GOProud at CPAC. Now They Are Silent about Milo Yiannopoulos at CPAC

Ad protesting GOProud at CPAC in 2011
Ad protesting GOProud at CPAC in 2011

In 2011, social conservatives — mostly Christian groups — complained about the presence of GOProud, a gay conservative group, at CPAC. Many socially conservative groups pulled out.
Now, CPAC has scheduled Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. Yiannopoulos is a gay self-styled conservative who has spoken favorably of sex between young teens and adults. Thus far, (since Saturday), no major Christian or socially conservative group has come out against the speech, as far as I can determine.
Individual religious and social conservatives have spoken out. Reagan biographer Paul Kengor said the decision was “appalling.” He added, “If this is your idea of the new conservative movement, count me out.”
In my view, the issue isn’t Yiannopoulos’ sexual orientation. I supported GOProud’s involement at CPAC in 2011 and doubted that Ronald Reagan would have opposed it. My issue is Yiannopoulos’ defense of sexual relationships between teens below the age of consent and adults.  On that basis, CPAC should immediately rescind the invitation to speak.
If social and religious conservatives don’t come out against the planned speech by Yiannopoulos, then it will be one more sign that their voice has been stifled by support for the Trump/Bannon administration.

Pressure Mounts on CPAC to Cancel Milo Yiannopoulos' Speech

The annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee is coming up next week. However, controversy has already arrived in the form of Milo Yiannopoulos. His invitation to speak at the conference is not sitting well with critics. The criticism of the invitation became especially hot after two videos surfaced of Yiannopoulos defending young teen-adult sex (as young as 13 as recorded in the interview). I am not going to embed the videos but you can listen for yourself here and here (see also the video embedded at the tweet below and full interview here).
Some have called on other CPAC speakers to boycott the conference.


At least one Christian conservative is calling for conservatives to avoid the conference. Alan Noble, editor of Christ and Pop Culture tweeted:


Perennial CPAC attender, Ronald Reagan biographer and Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor told me the invitation is “appalling. William F. Buckley Jr. is rolling over in his grave.”
Kengor added that the keynote invitation is the “inevitable consequence of the Trump-Bannon attempted takeover of the conservative movement and GOP. Milo is a Bannon-Breitbart creation/superstar. For traditional-values conservatives who boarded the Trump train to defeat Hillary, well, it’s time to pay the piper.”
Kengor has a message for the American Conservative Union:

I beg this question of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, and its board members who I respect so much: Is Milo even a conservative? I realize it might seem uproariously fun to watch an outrageous, crude, militant homosexual tell leftists to go blank themselves, but is this really the poster-boy you want as the new model for young conservatives? The alt-right loves him. What would Ronald Reagan say about him as the CPAC keynoter? William F. Buckley Jr.? Russell Kirk?

He added, “If this is your idea of the new conservative movement, count me out.”
For his part, Yiannopoulos is claiming he was joking and did not refer to sex with minors. If one listens to the interview posted by the Reagan Battalion, it is hard to square his Facebook post with the interview where he defends young teen-adult sexual relations.

Do Evangelicals Leaders Still Care about Ukraine?

Ukraine flagWhen Barack Obama was president, evangelicals and conservatives cared about Ukraine. They believed Obama was weak and unwilling to confront Vladimir Putin’s expansionism into Ukraine.
Now, evangelicals are largely silent about President Donald Trump’s warm words toward Russia’s leader and confusing rhetoric about Ukraine.
An early signal of this shift was obvious at the GOP National Convention when Trump’s supporters watered down a key pro-Ukraine plank in the party platform. I was told by a GOP delegate that the only proposal Trump’s observers spoke up about was the one which encouraged the U.S. government to arm Ukrainians against Russian aggression. Trump’s people in the room succeeded in significantly softening the proposed language with little if any resistance from the large contingent of evangelical delegates.
Now, despite Trump’s assurances that Russia would leave Ukraine alone, Putin’s forces are again bombing Eastern Ukraine while Donald Trump defends Putin and even compares his Russia to the U.S (see the recent Bill O’Reilly interview).
On this point, the following tweet caught my attention.


And…


Do evangelicals leaders still care about Ukraine?
If they did, I hope they will use their clout with Trump in order to educate him about the dangers of trusting the Russian leader, especially given his recent actions. If anything, Trump’s rhetoric is more in lines with a desire to Make Russia Great Again than #MAGA.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O9Giu4Vx50[/youtube]
According to my Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor, Trump is heading down the dangerous road first traveled by FDR with Stalin and then by Obama with Putin. In a 2016 article, Kengor wrote:

Stalin showed that “like” of FDR by rolling over Eastern Europe, hammering everything from the Ukraine to Poland. He abused the hell out of FDR. Not until literally days before he died, just weeks after Stalin preyed upon his trust at Yalta, did FDR finally learn and admit he had been wrong about Stalin.
“Averell [Harriman] is right,” FDR sighed to Anna Rosenberg on March 23, 1945, less than three weeks before he died. “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.”
FDR’s tragic mistake was thinking that the Russian leader liked him and thus would “work with me for a world of democracy and peace” (yes, FDR actually said that about Stalin).
The “Putin-likes-me” attitude of Trump is a fatal conceit, and it’s something that Donald Trump should have learned from watching two terms of Barack Obama’s naïve statements and attitude toward the Russians. It is also the polar opposite of Ronald Reagan’s statements and attitude toward the Russians.

As we have seen repeatedly, Trump hasn’t learned anything by watching Obama.
Putin has now again moved on Ukraine with no real response from Trump. If anything, Trump confused the matter. Evangelicals have been silent; will they remain so?
For the sake of the Ukrainian people, I hope not.

Reagan Biographer Paul Kengor on Donald Trump v. Ronald Reagan

From Donald Trump's Twitter page.
From Donald Trump’s Twitter page.

Recently, I asked my friend, colleague and Ronald Reagan biographer Paul Kengor to participate in a Q&A comparing Donald Trump with Ronald Reagan. It is my feeling that Reagan would not be welcome in today’s GOP and that he would be especially troubled by the emergence of Trump.  Kengor agrees and will respond to questions early next week. However, in the mean time, Paul sent along a link to an article he penned for the American Spectator. I think it well-written and brings some valuable observation about Trump in light of Paul’s knowledge of Reagan.

The whole thing is depressing. Consider, Rubio and Cruz, the two genuine conservative front-runners, are the hardworking sons of extraordinary immigrants from Cuba. They are quintessential American success stories. They are both solid Christian family men. And into the race comes a sudden self-proclaimed born-again conservative who laughs at them and eviscerates them, and is rewarded for it. It’s hard to watch.
All of which brings me back to Trump’s mastery of an altogether new campaign tactic of non-stop rapacious ridicule of opponents within one’s own party. The New Jersey casino founder brashly accused Ted Cruz of everything from being a closet Canadian citizen to cheating when the Donald lost Iowa. Schoolboy-like, Trump threatened lawsuits. Of late, he jumps in the sandbox and taunts Marco Rubio: “choker, choker!”
Can you imagine Ronald Reagan doing this? Reagan’s “11th commandment” was never to speak ill of another Republican. Donald Trump’s commandment is to speak ill of every Republican.
Do Republicans want this as the party’s new face and standard-bearer? Apparently those on the Trump side do. Many of them even assume the insult-king’s persona, dealing with dissenters with similar levels of obnoxiousness, blow-torching Republicans in the way of their Donald.

Go read the rest at the Spectator.

Paul Kengor: God Gets His Healthcare Bill

Note: The recent healthcare reform certainly is historic, in the sense that it most likely will be considered an important, perhaps defining, event in the Obama Presidency. Whatever eventually happens politically as a result, there are important elements of public discourse which marked the debate. One of those elements –religious rhetoric– is the subject of Dr. Kengor’s column.  

God Gets His Healthcare Bill

By Dr. Paul Kengor 

The most frustrating thing I’ve dealt with in professional life was eight years of outrageous, baseless charges against President George W. Bush on matters of faith. Even when Bush was simply asked about his faith, and responded with utterly benign statements, like saying he couldn’t imagine surviving the presidency “without faith in the Lord,” or noting he prayed before committing troops, echoing every president from Washington to Lincoln to Wilson to Carter to Clinton, he was viciously assaulted.

“We are dealing with a messianic militarist!” thundered Ralph Nader.

“He should not be praying,” intoned Lawrence O’Donnell to the MSNBC faithful.

Repeatedly, I was called to respond to this nonsense. My retort was agonizingly simple: I merely ran through example after example of American founders, presidents—Democrats and Republicans—saying either precisely what Bush said or something far more extreme, like Woodrow Wilson claiming God called upon him to found the League of Nations, or FDR mounting a battleship leading troops in a rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

What I said rarely mattered. Every Bush mention of God was a signal, somehow, that this Bible-quoting “simpleton” was trying to transform America into a “theocracy.”

Alas, there was another tactic I used: I quoted current Democrats on the campaign trail, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, invoking the Almighty. I knew that if these politicians reached the White House, they’d say the same as Bush, or much worse—with no backlash from the secular media. Quite the contrary, liberals would roll out the red carpet, enthusiastically welcoming faith into the public square.

All of that is prelude to my point here today:

The Religious Left, from “social justice” Catholic nuns and Protestant ministers to the Democratic Speaker of the House and president of the United States, have been incessantly claiming God’s advocacy of their healthcare reform. That’s no surprise, just as it’s no surprise that the press is not only not outraged but silently supportive. There’s nary a whimper, let alone howls, of “separation of church and state!”

Consider a few examples, most telling in light of passage of the healthcare bill:

Last August, President Obama addressed a virtual gathering of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. He told them he was “going to need your help” in passing healthcare. Obama penitently invoked a period of “40 Days,” a trial of deliverance from conservative tormentors, from temptation by evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, “We are God’s partner in matters of life and death.”

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for—among other things—abortion funding as part of an eternally widening “social justice” agenda. The Religious Institute, which represents 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in “healthcare” reform, adamantly rejecting amendments that prohibited funding. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already “unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized” abortions.

Here we see the Religious Left’s continued perversion of “social justice.” Behold: social justice abortions.

Early last week, a group of 59 nuns sent Congress a letter urging passage of the healthcare bill. This came in direct defiance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which insisted the bill “must be opposed” because of its refusal to explicitly ban abortion funding. What the bishops said didn’t matter, one nun told Fox’s Neil Cavuto—supporting the bill is what “Jesus would do.”

The liberal media cheered on the nuns, gleefully exaggerating the sisters’ influence. In a breathtaking display, the Los Angeles Times beamed, “Nuns’ support for health-care bill shows [Catholic] Church split.” Quoting the nuns, the Times reported that the letter represented not more than 50 nuns but over 50,000. (I’m not kidding, click here.) Like Jesus with the loaves, the militantly secular/liberal Times had displayed miraculous powers of multiplication.

Finally, last Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, invoked the Solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph on behalf of the healthcare bill. She urged American Catholics to “pray to St. Joseph”—earthly guardian of the unborn son of God. Such overtures are hardly new for Pelosi, who routinely exhorts Democratic disciples to vote the liberal/progressive agenda as an “act of worship.”

All of that is prelude, of course, to what happened the evening of March 21, 2010, A.D., with a rare vote not merely on a Sunday—God’s day—but the final Sunday in Lent, the week before Palm Sunday that initiates the Lord’s Passion. To President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and the Religious Left faithful, Jesus, presumably, has gotten his healthcare package.

Amid that process, secular liberals got religion, as their political soul-mates spearheaded this “change” in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a quite radical departure from eight years of scourging George W. Bush every time he confessed he prayed. At long last, there is room for Jesus in the inn, so long as the Savior “supports” a certain agenda. Who says conversions don’t happen?

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include “God and George W. Bush,” “God and Ronald Reagan,” and“God and Hillary Clinton.” The topic of this op-ed will be discussed at length by several speakers at our coming April 15-16 conference on “The Progressives.” Click here for more information.

Paul Kengor on President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast speech

My friend and Director of the Center for Vision and Values, Paul Kengor, wrote an analysis of President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast speech. As I listened to Obama’s speech, I was distracted in a positive way by his reference to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. However, I also noted the President’s references to civility and hope he means it as more than rhetoric. And like Paul, I loved the reference to the Imago Dei – seeing the Face of God in each other.

God and Man at the National Prayer Breakfast

By Dr. Paul Kengor 

President Obama spoke yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast. I’ve long studied the sitting president’s remarks at these breakfasts, particularly President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and President Ronald Reagan. I note this to hopefully lend a little credibility in putting my observations into historical context, while also not avoiding the current political climate—as Obama certainly did not. Continue reading “Paul Kengor on President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast speech”

Message to Obama: We Were Greeted as Liberators

My friend and colleague, Paul Kengor, contributes these observations about Barack Obama’s claim that American troops were not greeted as liberators, made again in last night’s debate. I have friends who have been to Iraq and back as both soldiers and observers and they tell me that many citizens of Iraq view Americans positively and believe we have helped advance their freedoms. Thanks Paul for allowing me to post this article.
————–
Message to Obama: We Were Greeted as Liberators
By Dr. Paul Kengor
A casualty of the left’s hatred for President George W. Bush has been a destructive inability to separate fact from fiction in the ongoing history of the war in Iraq. The latest case, which, sadly, has dug its way into the head of the Democratic presidential nominee, is the allegation that American troops, when they liberated Baghdad in April 2003, were not welcome as liberators. This inaccurate appraisal, shocking given that it’s made by people who watched the liberation on TV, was leveled again on Tuesday evening by Barack Obama for the second time in consecutive presidential debates. Both times, Obama criticized John McCain for predicting that Americans would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.
I cannot confirm whether McCain said that. Either way, though, the undeniable truth is that we were welcomed as liberators. I know this very well, because I, like everyone over the age of five, lived through it.
I recall a June 27, 2003 piece by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, titled, “The Man With No Ear.” A few weeks after the apparent cessation of war, Kristof visited Iraq. Like The Times, he adamantly opposed the war. Now, he had to come to grips with the undeniable freedom wrought by the liberation, and the gratitude that Iraqis felt for George W. Bush. One Iraqi told Kristof: “A thousand thanks to Bush! A thousand thanks to Bush’s mother for giving birth to him!”
Kristof admitted he did not expect that reaction. He tracked down a man named Mathem Abid Ali. For deserting the Army, Ali’s ear was amputated. “Children looked at me, and turned away in horror,” he told Kristof. But now, at last, Ali was free. He told Kristof: “I’d like to make a statue in gold of President Bush.”
Kristof admitted that such facts “got in the way” of his plans for his column. He conceded that it was important that doves like himself encounter Saddam’s victims and their joy at being liberated by American troops. Doves “need to grapple with the giddy new freedom that—in spite of us—pullulates from Baghdad to Basra,” wrote Kristof.
When Iraqis weren’t talking of forging gold statues to George W. Bush, they were running around the streets literally praising God for him. Here, too, I could give example after example, but I will stick with another from the popular press, this from the London Telegraph, May 21, 2003:
Juad Amir Sayed, an Iraqi Shiite Muslim, lived in the village of Karada, 90 miles southeast of Baghdad. At age 24, he had buried all of his books in a flour sack, burned his identity card, and constructed a tunnel and three-by-five-foot concrete cell under the family kitchen. He entered that cell on December 2, 1981 and lived there for the next 22 years.
Juad dug a tiny three-inch diameter hole deep into the ground from which he sucked water. This was his well. A smaller peep hole provided a ray of sunlight during the day. His only company was a Koran and a radio with headphones that he kept tuned to the Arabic Service of the BBC. His bright moment came near the 20th anniversary of his confinement when he heard a speech by President Bush on the September 11 attacks. “Mr. Bush gave a speech in which he said the terrorists of the world would be hunted down,” recalled Juad. “The next time my mother brought me food I told her of my conviction that [Saddam] would not last.”
Juad assumed that any hunt for terrorists would naturally include Saddam Hussein. Fortunately for him, the American president agreed.
Once American troops arrived, Juad entered the light of freedom for the first time in over two decades. “I believe that Allah worked through Mr. Bush to make this happen,” said Juad. “If I met Mr. Bush, I would say, ‘thank you, thank you, you are a good human, you returned me from the dead.’”
Those are simply a couple of anecdotes from newspapers. Has everyone forgotten about the images they saw on their television sets?
I spent two hours with about 50 students on the morning of April 9, 2003 watching CNN coverage of Iraqis and U.S. Marines in Firdos Square tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein, which was then desecrated, spat upon, smacked with shoes, and ridden like a donkey through the streets of Baghdad. As Howard Fineman wrote in Newsweek, affirming what no one doubted, it was George W. Bush “who toppled that statue.”
Doesn’t anyone remember this? Are the biases of liberals so personally crippling that they purge their own memory banks?
Every president has a “finest hour.” For JFK, it was the Cuban Missile Crisis. For Jimmy Carter, it was Camp David. For George W. Bush, it was April 9, 2003.
Of course, shame on President Bush and his administration for not constantly reminding us of this. Certainly, the press hasn’t bothered. And now, yet again, because of the Bush administration’s failure to communicate to the larger public, the president’s enraged opponents have been able to inaccurately portray another highlight from the Iraq war. The left has been so successful in eviscerating George W. Bush that even this amazing day of freedom in his presidency has been somehow turned upside down.
The fall of that statue in Baghdad on that day should be the visual equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall for this president and his presidency. It is not. It is now a negative used by the Democratic presidential nominee!
Now, all that said, here’s a critical rest-of-the-story: George W. Bush eventually became unpopular in Iraq, as did the occupation/reconstruction, especially in the 2005-6 timeframe. No question. The situation deteriorated. But that’s a different argument. The fact is that we were indeed greeted as liberators.
Here again, we have another exhibit in the Hall of Hatred erected to George W. Bush. The left has become so anti-Bush that it can’t make simple distinctions between fact and fiction. And now, worse of all, this latest false charge has become a talking point for the left’s presidential nominee, where, yet again, it is uncontested.
—————————————
Paul Kengor is author of God and George W. Bush (HarperCollins, 2004), professor of political science, and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). This article is archived here on the CVV website.

Does abortion cancel a soul? Abortion specialist William Harrison on South Dakota's informed consent abortion law

Last week, the Eight Circuit court of appeals ruled that a South Dakota law which requires doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” should be sent back to federal District Court to decide constitutionality. In the meantime, the state may begin enforcement of the law. According to an AP story, The court ruled on June 27

that Planned Parenthood, which operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, has not provided enough evidence that it is likely to prevail.
“The bottom line is if the state Legislature orders a professional to tell the truth, that’s not a violation of the First Amendment,” said South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, who is defending the law in court.
Mimi Liu, a lawyer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said such rulings generally take about three weeks to take effect. Long said it could take less time.

Predictably, reaction was mixed to the ruling

Harold Cassidy, a lawyer representing two pregnancy counseling centers that support the abortion law, hailed the ruling.
“We think it’s a big victory for the woman obviously to be given accurate information in order to make a decision not only for the child, but also for herself,” Cassidy said.
Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the law would force doctors to read ideological language to women seeking abortions.
“They are imposing compelled speech on doctors. It is not about providing information to women. It is about intruding in the doctor-patient relationship. It is unprecedented and extremely outrageous,” Stoesz said.

According to the AP story, the law also requires women to be told the potential mental health risks of abortion. I have addressed that informed consent issue in prior articles.
Two points are at issue: prescribing professional speech and the accuracy of the prescribed speech. Professional disclosure is sometimes prescribed by law. For instance, many states required licensed psychotherapists to provide a disclosure statement to clients regarding services and means of handling complaints. The South Dakota statement is very specific and no doubt is intended to discourage abortions. The second issue is the accuracy of the information. Pro-life advocates are united that abortion ends a life, hence their opposition to abortion. But what do pro-choice doctors believe? To get this perspective, I consulted noted abortion doctor and friend of Hillary Clinton, Dr. William Harrison. I referred to Dr. Harrison via Dr. Paul Kengor’s book on the faith of Hillary Clinton in a former post, noting that Dr. Harrison was

Hillary’s personal OB-GYN in the early 1970s in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has done about 20,000 abortions. He was interviewed at length for my book. He was quite candid, extremely open, and very generous with his time. He likewise is a Methodist. He says that he prays to God that Hillary will be our next president.

I emailed Dr. Harrison regarding the South Dakota law. While his prayers regarding Hillary have not been answered, he clearly does not support the Republican ticket due to his pro-choice position as will be clear from his responses to me. I asked him if the South Dakota statement was accurate, to which he replied

Life is being terminated when a male wears a condom, or has a wet dream or “spills his seed of life on the ground” or in someone’s mouth or anus. Or when he ejaculates into the vagina of a women who isn’t ovulating or is post menopausal. The sperm are alive until they die. And the egg is alive until it dies. Each is a unique human life, etc.
The only reason the S.Dakota leg passed that law was to either make a girl or woman who was not prepared to have a baby have that baby, or to make her suffer as much emotionally as they could.
It is a piece of shit legislation, designed solely to increase human suffering. A few days ago I wrote a letter to our state and local newspapers. I will send you a copy which describes exactly what I think about this type of legislation.

I wrote back and asked for clarification regarding prevention of conception and ending of life. He then provided the copy of the letter to the editor he mentioned in the first email which makes his views even more clear. He gave permission to use both email replies. The Christian acquaintance referred to in this letter is my GCC colleague and author, Paul Kengor.

Letter to the editor.
A few days ago I got a question from a Christian Pro-Life acquaintance. [What follows is a paraphrase of part of a letter I got from your friend and colleague. I sent him a somewhat longer reply. I also sent him a copy of my book, There is a Bomb In Gilead. Ask him to let you read it.]
“I understand fully that you see your work as saving women from an unwanted pregnancy that might, if illegal, lead them to dangerous “back alley abortions,” doing them great harm or perhaps even killing them. I, as a prolife Christian, don’t want to see them hurt or killed. On the other hand, by doing an abortion, you are taking a life – an innocent one that has no say in the decision. I rarely hear pro-choicers lament that decision, the loss of the unborn.
“Do you ever regret that part of the decision? How do you come to terms with that, or do you not see the fetus as a life or a person? I don’t want to see either one die, and would do my best to save both. But your work on the other hand, seeks the end of one of these lives. How do you justify that decision?”
Here is my answer: Anyone who has delivered as many babies as I have, and has seen hundreds of living and dead embryos and fetuses being spontaneously aborted as have I, knows exactly what we are doing when we provide an elective abortion for our patient. We are ending the life of an embryo or a fetus. Not the life of a person, but certainly a creature that might have become a person under other circumstances. When I am asked this question, I always go back to two of the most insightful and beautiful verses of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam.
Oh, if the world were but to recreate
That we might catch ere closed the Book of Fate
And make the Writer on a fairer leaf
Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate.
Better, oh, better cancel from the Scroll
Of universe one luckless Human Soul,
Than drop by drop enlarge the Flood that roars
Hoarser with Anguish as the ages roll.
When Omar wrote his beautiful and treasured poem over a thousand years ago, mankind had no way of safely canceling “from the scroll of universe one luckless human soul” whose numbers make up that flood of howling anguish; at least, no way of canceling it without risking also the life of the woman carrying it. In this day of medical marvels and, hopefully, ever increasing social justice, we possess such a way.
Embryos and fetuses spontaneously aborted – most, but not all of those “canceled” by “God” – are just such luckless human souls. But a few spontaneous abortions occur in desired pregnancies with no discernable abnormalities. For those girls and women and their families whose circumstances would make their babies “luckless human souls,” I “cancel” them before they become babies.
Physicians who save wanted babies from being spontaneously aborted (and we can save a few now that God once seemed determined to abort), and we who cancel “luckless human souls” are doing God’s work.
Want to increase Omar’s flood of anguish? Just vote to put John McCain in the White House and Pro-Lifers in your legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

Dr. Harrison places his views in the context of the current election. Clearly there is an ideological divide between Barack Obama and John McCain, the religious left and religious right on abortion. While Dr. Harrison does not like the South Dakota legislation, it does appear that if the wording was changed from “terminate a life” to “cancel a soul”, the law requires accurate disclosure. I am still reflecting on his response but I think he and I have different ideas of what preventing a life/soul is. For him, it appears that prevention ranges from preventing conception to preventing a birth, whereas, I see the fetus as a human soul, luckless or not.

Religion and the 2008 election: A conversation with Paul Kengor, Fred Barnes and Michael Medved

Currently, here at Grove City College, the Center for Vision and Values is hosting our annual conference. Titled, “Church and State: 2008 – A history of church-state relations and and a look at where the values voter will turn in 2008,” the schedule is filled with scholarly papers regarding church-state relations with special emphasis on how these issues impact politics and policy.

Earlier this evening, I attended a panel discussion that was billed as an interview of the Beltway Boys (Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke) with Center Director, Paul Kengor as host. Unfortunately, Mort Kondracke could not attend due to some health concerns. Filling in ably was conservative talk show host, Michael Medved, who earlier in the day broadcast live from the atrium of our academic building, not far from my office.

In fact, it was Medved who provided some of the more newsworthy comments of the evening. For instance, he disclosed the rumor that Barack Obama is looking at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a running mate. Mayor Bloomberg has switched his party affiliation to Independent from Republican (which was a switch from an earlier Democratic affiliation). This “fusion ticket” might be quite appealing to the middle.  Medved also predicted that Joe Lieberman, while a great friend of John McCain, would not take the Veep spot, even if offered.

Much of the conversation focused on how the religious vote might impact the election. Each candidate was examined in this regard. Specifically, Hillary Clinton is well known to occupy an Evangelical left position on most issues (which we have covered here in the past), McCain has Episcopal roots but has attended a Baptist church for quite awhile up to the present. Regarding social issues, all panelists agreed that McCain would chose conservative judges favorable to social and religious conservatives. This fact will help consolidate religious conservatives behind McCain. However, much conversation focused on Barack Obama’s political problems with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Both Barnes and Medved believe that this issue will dog Obama into the general election should he be the Democratic nominee. Listening to a cursory review of Wright’s actions and positions, I believe they are right. Obama has said his Christianity has been directly influenced by Rev. Wright. Obama is not unaware of his statements and activities. For instance, as Medved noted, Wright has lauded Louis Farrakhan and even traveled with him to meet with Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi when Gadhafi was engaged in terrorism. This is the mentor and church Obama chose to join just 4 years after the Libyan trip and then remained for 20 years, calling Rev. Wright his spiritual advisor.  Medved predicted an Obama candidacy could move the Jewish vote toward the Republicans for the first time in decades.

For political junkies, it was a intriguing evening provided by three astute social conservatives.