Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at his swearing-in ceremony at the Justice Department in February. -Doug Mills/The New York Times
The New York Times and the Washington Post report this morning that conservatives are rallying against the possible appointment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor. This is good news, and no doubt the president will get the message.
Retiring Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor
If you thought the 2004 presidential campaign was a difficult, bitter, acrimonious, blood-earnest fight to finish, you have not seen anything yet. The Bush-Kerry battle royal was a battle royal because of their sharp ideological differences with respect to the culture war. In this war, the most prized territory to occupy is the Supreme Court, and now that territory is up for grabs.
Now that Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor has announced her resignation, we are about to witness a fight that will make the 2004 presidential campaign look like ring-around-the-rosy. As Tom Goldstein said today after Oâ€™Connorâ€™s announcement, â€œNow the gloves are entirely off. In political Washington there is no more important question to the left or the right [than the composition of the Supreme Court]â€ (source).
For President Bush, this is crunch time. Millions of Evangelicals came out to vote for President Bush last November because of his promise to appoint â€œstrict constructionistsâ€ to the court. This means, of course, that he has promised only to appoint judges along the lines of Scalia and Thomas, not Ginsburg and Souter. If President Bush is to make good on his election promises, then he has to put all his â€œpolitical capitalâ€ on the line to see a hermeneutical conservative appointed to the bench.
This means that rumors of Alberto Gonzales being a potential appointee better be just thatâ€”rumors. Alberto Gonzales opposed a parental notification law when he was on the Texas Supreme Court and is obviously not the kind of justice that evangelicals had in mind when they came out to the polls to vote for Bush. If Gonzales becomes Bushâ€™s nominee, then evangelicals need to go shopping for another party. After all, why should we support any candidate or party that will not deliver when itâ€™s crunch time?
More on this later. Believe me, much more on this later.
Peggy Noonan offers a biting critique of the hubris of Washington politicians in her weekly column in the Wall Street Journal. The title pretty much says it all: â€œConceit of Government: Why are our politicians so full of themselves?â€ One of the great things about this essay is that she is an equal opportunity criticizerâ€”that is, she directs her censure at both sides of the aisle. What she writes is harsh, but I think it is sorely needed. There seem to be less and less statesmen in Washington and more and more men who like to state their own virtue.
There are at least 30 states â€œthat recognize the unlawful killing of an unborn child as homicide in at least some circumstances.â€ The laws that forbid such killing have come to be known as â€œFetal Homicide Laws.â€ There is a situation brewing now in Lufkin, Texas that might call some of these laws into question from a constitutional perspective.
A 19-year-old young man in Lufkin, Texas was just sentenced to life in prison for ending his girlfriendâ€™s pregnancy (source). The man was accused of stepping on his girlfriendâ€™s stomach and causing her to miscarry. The hitch here is that he did this deed with the apparent consent of his girlfriend who wanted to end the pregnancy (source). Could he not argue on appeal that his girlfriend has the constitutional right to choose to end her pregnancy (Ã la Roe v. Wade), and he was just helping to carry out her wishes?
The case brings into sharp relief an inconsistency in our lawsâ€”an inconsistency that illustrates the immorality of abortion. John Piper has commented to this effect on the fetal homicide law in Minnesota:
â€œThere is a fetal homicide law in Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis Tribune it â€˜MAKES IT MURDER TO KILL AN EMBRYO OR FETUS INTENTIONALLY, EXCEPT IN CASES OF ABORTION.â€™ Now what makes the difference here? Why is it murder to take the life of an embryo in one case and not murder in the case of abortion? Now watch this carefully, because it reveals the stunning implications of the pro-choice position. The difference lies in the choice of the mother. If the mother chooses that her fetus live, it is murder to kill it. If she chooses for her fetus not to live, it is not murder to kill it. In other words in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the crimes of the one killed, but solely on the basis of another person’s will or choice. If I choose for the embryo to be dead, it is legal to kill it. If I choose for the embryo to live, it is illegal to kill it. The effective criterion of what is legal or illegal, in this ultimate issue of life and death, is simply this: the will of the strong. There is a name for this. We call it anarchy. It is the essence of rebellion against objective truth and against Godâ€ (â€œChallenging Church and Culture with Truthâ€).
Pro-choice forces are aware of this tension, and that is why they are generally opposed to fetal homicide laws. Pro-choicers argue that these laws grant an unborn child legal status distinct from the pregnant mother, and this is a notion that they cannot reconcile with their own pro-abortion ideology. Therefore, they â€œprefer to criminalize an assault on a pregnant woman and recognize her as the only victimâ€ (â€œFetal Homicide Laws–What You Need To Knowâ€).
It remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old Texas teen will have any success on appeal. But one thing is certain. The Texas state law is just and reflects the intrinsic value and personhood of the unborn. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with the Texas Fetal Homicide Law. I wish I could say the same for our ailing culture. Believe it or not, there are actually those who would want it to be legal for a father to stomp the life out of his unborn children. God help us.
Did you know that Chuck Colson went to prison for the very thing that â€œDeep Throatâ€ is being lauded as a hero (click here)? Both men broke the law by leaking confidential FBI files to reporters. Both menâ€™s crimes eventually came to light. Yet Colson went to prison, while â€œDeep Throatâ€ (a.k.a. Mark Felt) got a pension. It seems so strange, therefore, that the big question on everybodyâ€™s mind is whether Mark Felt is a hero. Hardly.
In this Jan. 20, 1958 picture, Salt Lake FBI chief Mark Felt shows off his pistol skills. Breaking a silence of 30 years, Felt stepped forward Tuesday, March 31, 2005, as Deep Throat, the secret source to the Washington Post that helped bring down President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. (AP Photo/Deseret Morning News, Howard Moore)
So who is the real hero? Watergate was a national tragedy in which the whole nation got to see that some of its greatest generation had feet of clay. But God turned the scandal into a moment of sweet redemption for one of the villains, Chuck Colson. While in prison, Colson was born again into a new life of faith in the One who came to seek and save those who are lost. Chuck Colson never went back to politics but began a ministry to prisoners all around the world. Chuck Colson is not the hero, nor would he claim to be. The real hero is the One who takes broken men and puts them back together again. This One has become Colson’s hero, and He’s mine too.
W. Mark Felt, a.k.a. â€Deep Throatâ€
The big story. â€œDeep Throat,â€ the anonymous source that toppled the presidency of Richard Nixon, has finally been identified in Vanity Fair as former FBI second-in-command, W. Mark Felt. The Washington Post confirms that Felt is indeed the man who provided critical information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their quest to expose the sinister machinations of Richard Nixon and his subordinates in the Watergate scandal.
Watergate reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and editor Ben Bradlee, center, confirmed “Deep Throat’s” identity on Tuesday. (Katherine Frey/Washington Post)
The coverage of this revelation has been pretty predictable so far. The old lines are still drawn. There are those who continue their loyalty to President Nixon who feel that Felt is a “snake” (e.g. Pat Buchanan), and others showing an obvious antipathy for the former president laud Felt as a national hero (e.g. John Oâ€™Connor). Republican talking heads seem to favor Nixon over and against Felt, while Democrat talking heads tend to favor Felt over Nixon.
Yet I donâ€™t think an honest evaluation of the Watergate scandal allows us to be so blindly partisan. I am, quite frankly, disenchanted with the behavior of both President Nixon and Mark Felt. Both were duplicitous and told outright lies. For the Presidentâ€™s part, even if he did not direct the Watergate break-in (which is still up for debate, I suppose), he certainly tried to cover it up. The tapes reveal that much, as well as his not-too-infrequent ethnic slurs against Jewish people.
Felt also betrayed a trust when he leaked information to the reporters. Certainly he was under pressure, but he should have just resigned his position as second-in-command at the FBI, called a press conference, and told the world about the cover-up. Now that would have been heroic.
While I am thankful that the scandal finally came to light, I donâ€™t want to be forced into the position of endorsing the actions of either man. They both had feet of clay.
The opinion editors of The New York Times have struck again. In one of todayâ€™s editorials, an attempt to be patriotic on Memorial Day weekend appears to be just one more cynical tip-of-the-hat to the culture of death. With a manipulative appeal to the compassion that Americans have for victims of rape and incest, the editors urge that our patriotic duty includes financing abortions for military women serving overseas who might not have access to affordable â€œhealthcareâ€ (In case you didnâ€™t know, â€œhealthcareâ€ has become one of the leftâ€™s euphemisms for abortion).
Here is one more example of why the abortion debate in America remains stifled. The piece contains no serious engagement of pro-life arguments, just the same old hackneyed accusation that pro-lifers donâ€™t care about victims of abuse. I guess the editors think that supporting the right of military women to have tax-payer financed abortions is the same thing as supporting the military. If they think they can use this ploy to trick pro-military conservatives into being pro-abortion, they have another thing coming.
â€œDisrespecting Women Soldiers,â€ The New York Times, May 29, 2005.
â€œCalifornia Democrats try to allow abortions for troops overseas,â€ Associated Press, May 25, 2005
President George W. Bush signs the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 in Pittsburgh, Pa., Monday, Aug. 5, 2002.
In April, President George W. Bush issued a directive instructing doctors to make every effort to save the lives of premature babies born after failed abortions. The new measure is a step towards enforcing the 2002 law known as the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. Under this law, an infant that survives an abortion procedure is no longer a fetus, but a person entitled to emergency medical care and protection against child abuse and neglect.
This law was aimed at preventing situations created by botched abortions, where the baby survives the abortion procedure but is nonetheless left to die. Hearings in Congress on this topic produced disturbing testimony about failed abortions. One medical worker testified concerning one baby who survived an abortion: â€œthe child was breathing, the heart was beating and the child continued to live for several hoursâ€ before finally dying.
According to the New York Times, Naral Pro-Choice America and the Center for Reproductive Rights were asked to comment on the new enforcement measure. Their response was a â€œno comment.â€
I think it is remarkable that Naral and the CRR cannot recognize the absolute atrocity of letting a little baby die on the operating table. I know that Naral and the CRR are clear about their support for legalizing the killing of unborn babies. But why canâ€™t they be just as clear in condemning the killing of babies born alive?
Maybe itâ€™s because these pro-choice advocates would have to admit that there is no morally significant difference between the baby inside the birth canal and the baby outside the birth canal. If the baby is treated as a human person immediately after birth, why is not treated as such immediately before birth? Does the baby go through some magical transformation from non-person to person in the inches that separate the pre-born form the born?
I think the pro-choicers know that if life is treated as precious just outside the womb, then there is no reason not to treat it as precious just inside the womb. And they donâ€™t want to go there. This is why the pro-choice group had â€œno comment.â€ Truly there is no sane comment that could justify their morally indefensible position.
The results of a new study in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology say that women who have an abortion are 1.7 times more likely to give birth prematurely in a later pregnancy. This finding has the potential to explode some of the myths of pro-choice advocates who do not want to admit that any adverse consequences result from abortion. The only way to keep this bomb shell from going off is to keep it buried and out of public view. Letâ€™s see if we hear anything about this story in the news in the coming weeks. Donâ€™t hold your breath.
â€œRevealed: how an abortion puts the next baby at risk,â€ by Michael Day, The London Daily Telegraph, May 15, 2005.
â€œPrevious induced abortions and the risk of very preterm delivery: results of the EPIPAGE study,â€ by Caroline Moreaua, et al., BJOG (April 2005).
Sometimes I read things that are so pitifully erroneous that I feel compelled to set the record straight. This is one instance.
Recently Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D.-Ill., complained about Republican Majority Leader Bill Fristâ€™s participation in a simulcast to religious conservatives. The simulcast will include pro-family leaders — such as James Dobson — who have portrayed Democrats as being “against people of faith” for blocking President Bush’s judicial nominations.
Durbin was not at all happy that Frist was participating in such an event. Durbin groused: “I cannot imagine that God — with everything he has or she has to worry about — is going to take the time to debate the filibuster in heaven.”
I will not deny the rhetorical effectiveness of Durbinâ€™s statement. It appeals to peoplesâ€™ common sense that a transcendent God would hardly stoop to concern Himself with the mundane details of human existence — much less the jaded world of power politics. After all, isnâ€™t God above all that? Arenâ€™t there more important things in the universe than what happens in one small city located on the galactic speck known as planet earth? The reasoning goes something like this: â€œGod doesnâ€™t care about petty things such as politics, so why should we care what He thinks about our public policies?â€
I think Durbinâ€™s statement merely reflects another cynical attempt to remove God from the public square — in this case, from the give and take of political discourse. But the main problem with Durbinâ€™s ill-informed words is that nearly every phrase is chocked full of biblical and theological error. In one fell swoop of misinformation, Durbin manages to turn the biblical portrait of Godâ€™s providence on its head. Godâ€™s Providence refers to His constant care and control over every aspect of His creation (Ephesians 1:11). And Sen. Durbin misses it.
For starters, Durbinâ€™s â€œI-cannot-imagineâ€ appeal to common sense gets his listeners off on the wrong foot in their reflections about God — as if what one â€œimaginesâ€ matters one whit in the determination of reality. We shouldnâ€™t be surprised by kooky theological reflection when the source of it is the mere musing of a misguided muckraker. What really matters is not the god of Durbinâ€™s or anyone elseâ€™s imagination, but the God who has revealed Himself in the written canon of Scripture. And it is to the Scriptures that we will have to look if we want to know what God thinks about anything.
Jesus taught about the Fatherâ€™s stooping to be involved in the affairs of men: â€œAre not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrowsâ€ (Matthew 10:29-31). In other words, God is very much involved in the day-to-day mundane events of our lives.
When Jesus refers to falling â€œsparrowsâ€ and numbered â€œhairs,â€ He teaches that Godâ€™s providential concern extends to the smallest details of our existence, to what in our terms would be the molecular level of existence. In other words, there is no aspect of our lives that is beneath God. All of life belongs to Him and only finds its proper meaning and purpose in relation to Him. This truth would of course include the mundane world of politics.
Durbin intimates that God has more important things to do than to â€œworryâ€ about our politics. Yet Godâ€™s Providence in Scripture is not depicted as something that stresses God out. As if He canâ€™t have anything else added to His plate because Heâ€™s already got too much to do (like preventing the universe from imploding). Godâ€™s meticulous providence does not cause Him worry. On the contrary, biblically speaking, our worry is relieved by our knowledge of His providence. In Matthew 10:30, it is this truth that is to be a comfort to disciples who suffer at the hands of evil governments. If Godâ€™s care over His creation extends even to the smallest animal, then it certainly extends to His people.
For Durbin to suggest that God doesnâ€™t care about the judiciary that will decide whether abortion-on-demand will remain legal is to make a grave error indeed. If God cares about the sparrows, you can be sure He cares about the babies. Their justice will not tarry long as God Himself eventually will call to account their oppressors (Psalm 82:3, 8; 146:9), a fact Iâ€™m sure many pro-abortionists would like to ignore. And the pro-abortionists will cause many others to ignore this truth so long as God and our accountability to Him are banned from the public consciousness.
So let us not keep silent when dinky theology is substituted for substantive, sound statements about God. Remarks like Sen. Durbinâ€™s may be clever, but they are not true.
A critique of Durbinâ€™s dithering on the gender of God will have to wait for another time, but this issue in itself is important nonetheless.
David D. Kirkpatrick and Carl Hulse, â€œFrist Accused of Exploiting Religion Issue,â€ New York Times, April 16, 2005. Accessed Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/16/politics/16judges.html.
John Piper used this phrase in connection with this text, that the Lordâ€™s Providence extends to the â€œmolecularâ€ level. He used it in a radio interview concerning the tsunami disaster.
This article appeared in the Baptist Press on August 20, 2005.