Friday, August 29, 2008

Pelosi's misstatements about Catholic Church's position reverberating among Catholic leaders

Rep. Nancy Pelosi's misstatement of the Catholic Church's historical view of abortion is resulting in a broad response from various Church leaders. In a recent "Meet the Press" interview Pelosi said Catholic leaders “for centuries had not been able to agree on when life begins.”

St. Paul/Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt released a statement last week reaffirming statements made by other Bishops.
“On behalf of the 650,000 Catholics of this Archdiocese, I wish to reinforce what Cardinal Rigali, Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. and Archbishop Chaput of Denver have said about Speaker Pelosi’s misinterpretation on the question of when life begins. The Church has taught for centuries that life begins at conception and there is no room for misrepresentation of that teaching. In addition, modern medical techniques have been able to confirm what the Church has already known.
“Surely, there may be some Catholic politicians who will take a different interpretation of this Church doctrine during the coming election campaign, but Speaker Pelosi’s remarks underscore once again the need for Catholics, and especially Catholic politicians, to form their consciences according to the moral truths taught by the Catholic Church.”
I think it's another indication that orthodox, scriptural-based Christian leaders across the denominational spectrum are re-engaging the public debate over the paramount moral issues of our day -- abortion and marriage.

The maverick side of John McCain shines forth in selection of Palin

John McCain surprised most everyone with his selection of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin for his vice presidential running mate. Most people thought it would come down to Governor Pawlenty or Mitt Romney. Palin's name had been mentioned but not among the finalists. It demonstrates, as some have said, the fighter pilot in McCain -- he's willing to take risks. She's relatively unknown and inexperienced (Though she does have more executive experience than Obama, McCain and Biden combined.) and thus viewed as a possible risky choice. Others say it was a home run selection. She's young, a woman, conservative both socially and economically, and willing to fight the powers that be as she did in fighting government corruption.

Gary Bauer, national pro-family leader describes her as a home run. She's strongly pro-life and pro-marriage -- the two bellwether issues for social conservatives. Some questions were raised about her stance on gay rights and specifically domestic partner benefits.

A Washington Post in a story had this to say about her views on the issues.
On her campaign Web site, she described herself as a "conservative Republican" who believes firmly in free market capitalism, as well as a "lifetime member of the NRA" with a strong commitment to gun rights. She also said she opposes abortion and believes that "marriage should only be between a man and a woman." However, Palin has shown receptivity to gay and lesbian concerns about discrimination, and as governor she vetoed legislation that would have barred Alaska from granting state benefits to same-sex couples.
The background on the domestic partner issue is she vetoed a bill which sought to overturn a Alaskan Supreme Court decision mandating domestic partner benefits for state employees. She was advised by her attorney general that the bill was unconstitutional. A news report said:

In the first veto of an administration that isn't yet a month old, Palin said she rejected the bill despite her disagreement with a state Supreme Court order earlier this month that directed the state to offer benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

Advice from her new attorney general said the bill passed by the Legislature was unconstitutional, she said.

"Signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office," Palin said in a prepared statement released by her administration Thursday night.

I think the key point is she disagreed with the state Supreme Court decision mandating the benefits and she vetoed the bill because she felt, to do otherwise, would have violated her oath of office. That highlights her strong sense of principle.

Normally, vice presidential candidates don't make a big difference. Dan Quayle's difficulties didn't hurt George Bush senior despite his respected democratic vice president opponent, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. It will still come down to what people think of McCain and Obama. The choice does demonstrate that John McCain is willing to make decisive and even unpredictable decisions. And she could possibly sway some women voters disgruntled over Hilary Clinton's defeat.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are pastors finding their voices on the moral issues of the day? I think so.

I noted yesterday that Catholic leaders took Nancy Pelosi to task for misrepresenting the position of the Catholic Church on abortion. We saw the Presidential Civil Forum hosted by evangelical pastor Rick Warren's church. And we recently hosted a pastors' briefing for area pastors. I believe this election year maybe the beginning of a new engagement of pastors in the public square on the great moral issues facing our state and nation.

It's both significant and important. Significant because pastors carry important moral authority in the community and their voices have not been heard enough. And important because the great moral issues of the day, e.g. abortion, marriage, sexuality and so forth are ultimately spiritual issues for which the spiritual leaders of the community need to weigh in.

I don't think the engagement will be so much partisan as it will be on the moral aspects of these issues. Of course, there are political implications, but that's a subsidiary effect of simply taking a stand.

I know many pastors have and will be challenging the IRS gag regulation on churches regarding political speech. Some pastors have engaged in negative endorsements in terms of telling people who they can't vote for because of the candidate's stand on issues. I think there will be more pastors challenging this rule in the future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nancy Pelosi's failed attempt at Catholic Church Theologian

US House Speaker, Catholic Church attendee and ardent pro-abortion advocate Nancy Pelosi attempted to play Catholic Church theologian and was immediate rebuffed by Catholic Archbishops' Chaput and Wuerl and other Catholic leaders.

Appearing on Meet the Press
, Pelosi was asked by Tom Brokaw how she'd help out Barack Obama after his Saddleback Presidential forum comment that it was "above his pay grade" to answer the question when a baby should be granted human rights. She said:
I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctrines of the church have not been able to make that definition. . . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose. . . . I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins.”
In response, according to Fox News,
Archbishop Donald Wuerl said people need to reflect more before they start talking about church doctrine. He also issued a statement calling Pelosi’s explanation of the church’s abortion stance “incorrect.”

“The current teaching of the Catholic Church on human life and abortion is the same teaching as it was 2,000 years ago,” Wuerl noted. “From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

Wuerl cited a passage from the church’s catechism that condemns abortion as “gravely contrary to moral law.”

“Since the first century the church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” the catechism states. “This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”

Chaput described Pelosi as “a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.”

It's exciting to see Catholic leaders forceful in their statements about moral issues like abortion and the responsibility of Catholic politicians to uphold and protect the sanctity of life if they wish to remain a member in good standing with the Catholic Church.

I think church leaders across denominational lines are increasingly speaking out on the moral issues of the day. Ultimately, these moral issues are spiritual in nature and pastors, as spiritual leaders, need to address them. As they do they will change the culture. That was true with the abolitionist and civil rights movements.

I recall the significant role clergy played during the founding of our nation. The British called the American clergy "the black regiment", because of their black robes and the impact they played in shaping American public opinion.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Biden makes McCain's argument against Obama -- he's too inexperienced

I attended my brother's law school graduation ceremony at the University of Minnesota in the late 80s. Joseph Biden was the commencement speaker. My recollections were that he had a good speaking voice but didn't anything noteworthy or compelling, e.g. where's the beef? His speech was a political one; he officially announced he was running for president. Also, others in attendance reminded me he didn't mention the graduates or give them any advise. A while later, he was found to have plagiarized material for a political speech and during law school and was forced to drop out of the race.

A problematic aspect of adding Biden to the ticket is he's already made the case that Obama is not ready to be president; he lacks the necessary experience. He said so much during a presidential debate. Not surprisingly the McCain campaign already has a campaign ad highly Biden's comments about Obama made in Obama's presence. The question is what's changed?

Again, ultimately the vice presidential candidate won't ultimately decide whether voters will vote for the presidential candidate unless he serves as a drag on the ticket by unnecessary faux pas.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama and the question when should human life be protected. Is it really above his "pay grade" or is he just being disingenuous?

During the Presidential Civil Forum sponsored by Saddleback Church in California, Host Rick Warren asked Barack Obama, " what point does a baby get human rights..." Obama's response: "I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

In other words, he didn't want to say we should protect human life when human life begins which is at conception nor did he want to say at birth which would mean abortion is OK at any time of the pregnancy, e.g. late term, day before birth, abortions are OK. The former position would undermine his whole pro-abortion agenda and the latter would offend the vast majority of the public.

The question remains has Obama thought about this question. I can't imagine he hasn't. For one he's a smart guy and takes his spirituality serious. No doubt life and death issues would be of concern to him. And second, it was recently disclosed that Obama, while a Harvard law student, wrote a law review article supportive of an Illinois Supreme Court decision ruling that unborn babies coudln't sue their parents for negligence. To write such a law review note would no doubt require thinking about the humanity of the unborn and their rights versus their parents.

Rick Warren addressed Obama's obfuscation in rather strong terms when he said in a post Forum interview:

I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, "Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out" because if I was wrong, then it had severe implications for my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, "No, scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X" or whatever it is or say, "Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point," whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say "I don't know" on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.
This issue raises questions about Obama's character. Is he a person of integrity or will he simply say whatever he thinks he needs to say to get elected.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another attack on freedom of conscience and religious liberties -- California style.

California is quickly the People's Republic of California with its incessant imposition of a politically correct, multicultural, socially radical agenda on the citizens of that state. The vanguard are the sexual liberation groups, in particular the GLBT groups. From mandating pro-homosexual materials in the schools to striking down the state's marriage through activist judges, they are definitely in the vanguard of trying to create the "politically correct" utopia.

Well, the latest installment is a recent California Supreme Court decision requiring doctors in that state to perform artificial insemination on a lesbian woman. The issue as stated by the Court was "Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and California constitutions, exempt a medical clinic's physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Acts Prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation? Our answer is no."

There are of course a number of problems with this situation and case. For one, is it in the best interests of a children to be raised in a lesbian household? No. Kids need a mother and a father in their lives. Fatherhood isn't a luxury and practices which deliberately create children without having a father in the child's life are wrong.

Second, should individuals be forced to violate their religious convictions to facilitate the above activity? Absolutely not. When we start violating religious convictions based on biblical and moral grounds society has a problem. It's a case of good becoming bad and right becoming wrong. (It's interesting in this case, the lesbian could easily have gone to another doctor. Instead she sued for damages to make her point.)

In this instance, it's bad for children and society.

As I've said before, the homosexual agenda is the biggest threat to religious liberties in our nation. When this freedom is assaulted, assaults on other freedoms are sure to follow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saddleback Civil Forum was a key event for evangelicals and the presidential race.

The Presidential Civil Forum hosted by evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback was a significant event for a number of reasons.

First, it allowed the public to see more clearly the worldviews, character and issue positions of John McCain and Barack Obama.

Second, it elevated Rick Warren's stature as a spokesman for evangelicals in the public's mind. It may mark, to some degree, a changing of the guard in the evangelical political leadership from the Robertson's and Falwell's to the Rick Warren's of the evangelical world.

Third, it may have been a watershed event in the presidential election, at least as far as evangelicals are concerned.

As I said yesterday, Warren did a masterful job of asking questions which shed valuable light on the character and policy positions of McCain and Obama. It showed McCain as strong, conservative, energetic, and very human figure. He had a command of the issues, was open about his own failings, faith, and character forming experiences. Obama came across as nuanced, lawyerly, very liberal and sincere in his religious convictions. As Warren aptly commented: "Obama is the thoughtful consensus builder. He's a constitutional attorney. He's going to talk about shades and variations and things like that. John McCain is the straightforward happy warrior, and he's going to get right to the point... They both showed exactly the personalities that they have."

Warren also elevated his position as a spokesman for evangelicals in the public arena. I really don't see Warren as a replacement for Falwell or Robertson. I don't think he's a political animal. I think he's more concerned about the issues than actively working to elect particular candidates. I think that's a wise position to take. The church needs to have moral voices who will speak out on the issues and encourage their members to be politically engaged without necessarily telling people who to vote for. I think Chuck Colson has been masterful at this. He refuses to endorse candidates and as a result has retained his moral authority. Pastors need to fulfill the prophetic and pastor roles of, respectively, challenging the political leaders on the great moral issues of the day and equipping their people to effectively engage the political process with the information they need to make informed decisions. This maybe a new paradigm for many evangelical leaders engaging the political process.

In an interview subsequent to the event, Warren gave an interesting description of what he was trying to do with the Civil Forum. He said:
How would you size up the Saddleback Civil Forum in light of the goals you'd laid out for it going in?
It accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and that's two or three different things. First and foremost, I wanted to raise the visibility of the church being at the table in civil discussions. The faithful have a voice as much as the faithless have a voice….This is America, we believe in democracy, and nobody should be left out and nobody should be excluded.
And the second thing I'm trying to do is create a new model for civil discourse--we have to restore civility to our civilization. Our nation seems to be getting more and more rude, more and more polarized, and I wanted to point out that you can disagree without demonizing people, without dissing them and caricaturing them and treating them like they’re the enemy. They happen to be Americans.
I've been in a lot of nations around the world where I've seen political division turn into hatred because there was so much caricaturizing and demonizing of the opposition that it turned into hatred and soon that turns into genocide. And I just don't want to go down that path here in America, and we’ve seen a lot of that that with talk shows and the partisan politics--we're more divided than we’ve ever been….
Warren also had some interesting observations on democrat attempts to moderate the public's perception of their stance on abortion. He basically said people will see through attempts to merely give lip service to the abortion issue without substantive changes.
The Democrats recently added language to their party platform that they say is aimed at reducing demand for abortion. Does it represent a significant step toward a pro-life position?
It is a step, there's no doubt about that. I've been getting a lot of feedback on it. I was out of the country, and people starting writing me about it. The general perception was: too little too late--window dressing. I'm not saying I would say this, because I haven't even read it, but what I was hearing form people was that [Democrats] were saying "It's OK to be pro-life and be a Democrat now." In other words, "You can join us. We're not changing our firm commitment to Roe v. Wade, but you can now join us." Well, for a person who thinks that abortion is taking a life, I'm sure that's not going to be very satisfactory to most of those people. And to put it in right at the last minute at the end of a campaign, there was some question about that: Why are they doing this?
And he seemed to take Obama to task for his weak response on the question on abortion.
When you asked Obama about when life begins, he punted, saying "It’s above my pay grade." Should someone running for the highest office in the land have a clear answer to that, or is that kind of ambivalence acceptable?
No. I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, "Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out" because if I was wrong, then it had severe implications for my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, "No, scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X" or whatever it is or say, "Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point," whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say "I don't know" on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.
That's why to say that evangelicals are a monolith is a myth, but the other thing is that you've been hearing a lot of the press talk about "Well, evangelicals are changing, they're now interested in poverty and disease and illiteracy, and all the stuff I've been talking about for five years now." And I have been seeding that into the evangelical movement and it's getting picked up, and a lot of people are talking about doing humanitarian efforts.
But I really think it's wishful thinking by a lot of people who think [evangelicals] are going to drop the other issues. They're not leaving pro-life, I'm just trying to expand the agenda. And I've moved from pro-life to whole life, which means I don't just care about that baby girl before she's born, I care about it after she's born. I care about whether she's born into poverty. I care about whether she's born with AIDS because her mother had it. I care about whether she's a crack baby. I care about whether she's going to have an education.
If an evangelical really believes that the Bible is literal—in other word in Psalm 139 God says "I formed you in your mother's womb and before you were born I planned every day of your life," if they believe that's literally true, then they can't just walk away from that. They can add other issues, but they can't walk away from the belief that at conception God planned that child and to abort it would be to short circuit the purpose.
And finally, whether evangelicals can vote for Obama, he gives an astute observation on judging candidates not just by their statement of beliefs but by what they'll actually do.
It sounds like it would be unconscionable for an evangelical to vote for a pro-choice candidate like Obama.
All I can say is you’ll see what happens. This is why there's a difference between simply talking the lingo….After the 2004 election the Democratic pundits were saying, "The Democrats lost in '04 because they didn't talk the language of faith." And actually that's kind of, not paternalistic, but it's talking down. It's basically saying, "If you just get the right words, then they'll think you’ve got the lingo." And just because a person can say God and Jesus and salvation and whatever doesn't mean they have a worldview. And people want to know what do they believe, not just their personal faith. It's just like how many different beliefs do Jews and Christians have and still call themselves Christians or Jews? It's all over the spectrum.
As I said before, Warren was one of the clear winners for the event. The other being McCain.

I think this was a defining event from the standpoint of evangelical voters. I think it will persuade some of the undecided evangelicals and it will energize others to get excited about supporting McCain.

And it will start to influence Catholic voters who are concerned with the social, moral issues. A significant chunk of them are undecided about McCain and Obama. The debate will elevate McCain's stock among Catholic voters.

It's still a long way to go to November 4th. A lot can and will happen. Looking back, the Saddleback Civil Forum could well be viewed as one of the defining moments of the campaign. We shall see.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Former Speechwriter and Washington Post Columnist has interesting review of Obama-McCain performance at Warren's Saddleback Church

Michael Gerson, columnist and presidential speechwriter, had some interesting comments on the McCain and Obama appearance at Rick Warren's presidential forum.

He said Obama came off cerebral and academic, ala Adlai Stevenson, less appealing the more people get to know him, and revealed his liberal positions. All of the above will make Obama less appealing to the targeted audience for the affair -- evangelicals.

It is now clear why Barack Obama has refused John McCain's offer of joint town hall appearances during the fall campaign. McCain is obviously better at them.

Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency -- two hours on Saturday night evenly divided between the relaxed, tieless candidates -- was expected to be a sideshow. McCain and Obama would make their specialized appeals to evangelicals as if they were an interest group such as organized labor or the National Rifle Association. Evangelicals would demonstrate, in turn, that they are not rubes and know-nothings. And Americans would turn en masse to watch the Olympics.

What took place instead under Warren's precise and revealing questioning was the most important event so far of the 2008 campaign -- a performance every voter should seek out on the Internet and watch.

First, the forum previewed the stylistic battle lines of the contest ahead, and it should give Democrats pause. Obama was fluent, cool and cerebral -- the qualities that made Adlai Stevenson interesting but did not make him president. Obama took care to point out that he had once been a professor at the University of Chicago, but that bit of biography was unnecessary. His whole manner smacks of chalkboards and campus ivy. Issues from stem cell research to the nature of evil are weighed, analyzed and explained instead of confronted.

This approach has a genuine appeal to some voters, especially of a more liberal bent, who believe there is a nuance shortage in American life. But on Saturday night it did not compare well with McCain, who was decisive, passionate and surprisingly personal. The candidate who once seemed incapable of the confessional style of politics talked at length of Vietnam experiences and his adopted daughter from Bangladesh. Asked by Warren about his greatest moral failure, McCain's response -- "the failure of my first marriage" -- had an abrupt and disarming authenticity. The account of his hardest decision -- refusing release from captivity during the Vietnam War ahead of others who had been imprisoned longer -- remains shocking in its valor. And McCain's habit of understatement -- he described the excruciating rope torture he experienced in Vietnam as "very uncomfortable" -- makes his stories even more effective.

Second, the Warren forum demonstrated how difficult it will be for Obama to appeal to religious and conservative voters as the campaign proceeds. His outreach to evangelical voters is obviously sincere, but he doesn't actually agree with them on much. In the course of the forum, he endorsed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in spite of the existence of humane and promising alternatives. He proposed controversial government regulations on faith-based charities that accept federal funds. He attacked Justice Clarence Thomas as unqualified and defended his vote against the confirmation of the widely admired Chief Justice John Roberts. Obama deserves points for honesty on all these issues, but it is possible to be honestly off-putting.

Obama's response on abortion -- the issue that remains his largest obstacle to evangelical support -- bordered on a gaffe. Asked by Warren at what point in its development a baby gains "human rights," Obama said that such determinations were "above my pay grade" -- a silly answer to a sophisticated question. If Obama is genuinely unsure about this matter, he (and the law) should err in favor of protecting innocent life. If Obama believes that a baby in the womb lacks human rights, he should say so -- pro-choice men and women must affirm (as many sincerely do) that developing life has a lesser status. Here the professor failed the test of logic.

For many evangelicals, the theoretical Obama -- the Obama of hope and unity -- is intriguing, even appealing. But this opinion is not likely to improve upon closer inspection of his policy views. Obama is one of those rare political figures who seems to grow smaller the closer we approach him. "I want people to know me well," Obama said at the forum. Among religious conservatives, that may not be an advantage.

Finally, McCain's performance at the Warren forum helps change the political psychology going into the conventions. Republicans have spent the past few weeks pleasantly surprised at the closeness of the presidential race. But they have generally chalked this up to Obama's weakness, not McCain's strength. After Saturday night, even Republicans most skeptical of McCain must conclude: "Perhaps we aren't doomed after all."

Of such small hopes are large upsets made.

Obama and McCain at Saddleback Civil Forum - The Winner(s)? Warren and McCain

I read the transcript from the presidential forum at the mega evangelical church, Saddleback Church in California, hosted by its pastor Rick Warren.

Initially, I was concerned it would be a feel good affair without tough questions asked by Warren. The promo mentioned leadership, environment, poverty and so on as topics to be discussed. It turned out to be a very good forum with Warren asking a lot of insightful questions like: what issue has the candidate changed his mind on over the last ten years; their and America's biggest moral failing; most difficult decision; what faith in Christ means to them; at what point does a baby get human rights; have you ever voted to limit or reduce abortions; define marriage; embryonic stem cell research; does evil exist and if so how do we deal with it; which Supreme Court judges wouldn't you have nominated; right of faith-based organizations, which receive federal funding, to hire people subscribing to the organization's religious tenets; merit pay for teachers; what constitutes rich; what's worth dying for as an American; dealing with genocide; addressing religious persecution and human trafficking; why you want to be president; what would you tell the American people if there weren't any repercussions.

I think McCain did surprisingly well. He's not known for comfortably addressing issues of personal faith in a public forum while Obama is. I thought McCain was more energetic and forceful in his comments. He knew what he wanted to say and said it. Obama spoke in more generalities. I think Obama is certainly sincere in his beliefs and commitments but I think his problems will again be his inexperience and liberalness.

McCain is really going after this campaign. I sensed an energy and forcefulness which belies his 71 years of age. He knows what he needs to say and is saying it. He touched on his experience as a POW which demonstrates courage and character. He showed his command of foreign policy issues which again demonstrates his experience. I didn't see that coming from Obama; in some ways he's out of his league as far as experience. That's something he can't hide because for one his opponent won't let him.

Regarding policy positions, their positions speak for themselves. Obama danced around the abortion, saying it was above his pay grade to speculate on when life begins or when human rights should start for the unborn. And his comment that he opposes late term abortions as long as there's an exception for the health of the mother. Come on. That exception eviscerates any supposed restrictions.

And again, Obama said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman but said he supports civil unions which is marriage by another name and what he didn't mention was he supports repealing the federal definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Why would he do that if he didn't think alternative definitions are better.

I suspect hard core secularists were upset to hear both candidates express a personal faith in Christ.

Again hats off to Warren for asking good, insightful and even tough questions. The answers give us a better picture of where McCain and Obama stand on the issues and who they are as people.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Obama and radical positions on abortion...and infanticide

There are two reasons Barack Obama will have a difficult time winning the White House -- his inexperience and very liberal positions.

Good examples of the latter include his support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as between one man and one woman and protects the right of states to refuse to recognize homosexual marriages from other states.

On the issue of abortion, notwithstanding efforts to appear more moderate, he has as radical a record as they come. He, in fact, is more radical than most pro-abortion members of Congress.

A case in point is his opposition to the Illinois Infant's Born Alive Act while serving in the Illinois legislature in 2003. The Act would have protected babies born alive after surviving an attempted abortion.

According to National Right to Life Committee Douglas Johnson:
"Newly obtained documents prove that in 2003, Barack Obama, as chairman of an Illinois state Senate committee, voted down a bill to protect live-born survivors of abortion — even after the panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion. Obama's legislative actions in 2003 — denying effective protection even to babies born alive during abortions — were contrary to the position taken on the same language by even the most liberal members of Congress. The bill Obama killed was virtually identical to the federal bill that even NARAL ultimately did not oppose."
Obama said there were major difference between the Illinois bill and the one passed by Congress. The federal bill ultimately passed with a "neutrality" clause stating that the bill didn't address the status of unborn babies and thus implicate Roe v. Wade. Obama said the Illinois bill didn't contain this "neutrality" provision and therefore he opposed it. The fact is the original language in Congress didn't address the status of unborn babies in its wording and the clause was merely window dressing. In the US House, liberal, pro-abortion Democrat members of the House Judiciary Committee, with only one exception, voted for the bill without the "neutrality" clause. In addition, it passed the full House without a neutrality provision on a 380 to 15 vote.

Based on his vote in Illinois, Obama would have been among the 15 members who voted against the bill.

One can't get much more radical on abortion and infanticide than that. He was unwilling to protect babies once they were born outside the womb.

This is another example of Obama being significantly out of step with the American people.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Presidential race is far from over with 43% of voters undecided

The presidential election is far from decided with 43% of registered voters saying they haven't made a final decision on who they'll vote for president. An AP poll found that most of the undecideds, according to a New York Times story, tend to be "gloomier than others about the country, with fewer than one in eight saying the U.S. is heading in the right direction. They also are likelier to be white and male and to consider themselves moderates and independents than those firmly committed to candidates."

I think the uncertainty in the economy and the world would tend to cut in McCain's favor because of his experience. I think people will what to go with a known commodity rather than the unknown. Normally, a poor economy would favor Obama who represents the party out of power. If Obama remains the issue, that's a problem for him.

The race will likely go down to the wire. We maybe returning to the days of divided government, like much of the 70s and 80s where Democrats control the Congress and Republicans the White House. I don't know that people make a conscious decision in this regard but maybe that's how things will end up after November.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Liberal evangelicals, abortion and the Democrat Party -- naivete and poor judgment

There's been talk about liberal evangelicals and their effort to steer evangelicals away from giving priority to the marriage and abortion issues. This includes folks like Jim Wallis, Joel Hunter and Tony Campolo. Apparently, they've been seeking to moderate the Democrat Platform on the issue of abortion. Gary Bauer reported on Tuesday that
Yesterday, CBN’s David Brody reported that members of the Democrat Platform Committee have sought input from evangelical leaders to moderate their party platform on abortion with the intent of making the Democrat Party more attractive to people of faith. According to Brody, Pastors Joel Hunter, Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo were involved in the effort.

So, what did they come up with? Here’s the proposed new language:
“The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.”
I can't see where they've had much impact. The proposed language is as radically pro-abortion as it gets. Abortion on demand, taxpayer funding of abortion, and pro-abortion education in the schools. On top of it, Obama and other party leaders want to appoint judges who will continue to impose an abortion on demand regime on the rest of the nation.

Among liberal evangelicals like Campolo and Wallis, abortion and marriage don't appear to be the paramount social issues of our day. They seem to give them lip service at best. They constantly mention caring for the poor and needy. I don't doubt their sincerity but question their judgment and wisdom. Regarding the care of the poor and needy, the traditional liberal response of more government programs and more money has been a failure. Such an approach is really not in the best interests of the poor and needy because one, it focuses on government, secular strategies rather than private initiatives and two, the result is increased dependency on government which isn't what the poor needs. They need personal compassion which involves personal involvement and moral challenge. An impersonal government program simply can not provide that.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The national taxpayer cost of divorce and out of wedlock births -- $112 billion a year. And that's a conservative estimate.

A study was released in early spring on the cost to taxpayers of divorce and out of wedlock births. The cost to taxpayers nationally is $112 billion a year. And that's a conservative estimate.

The costs include lost tax revenues, burdens on the justice system, TANF/welfare expenditures, medicaid costs, SCHIP and child welfare.

I think this is a significant study which will start drawing attention to the absolutely critical importance of marriage and children having their mom and dad in their lives. As the family goes so goes the society.

It's important to understand that as the family breaks down, government will invariably be called on to fill the gap. And with that comes greater dysfunction in society. People begin to expect government to takeover family responsibilities in an ongoing way. That costs a lot of money, doesn't ultimately solve the problem, and often makes matters worse because it breaks down a sense of personal responsibility on the part of the individual, e.g. it's the government's job to educate, feed and support me and my children.

Government should do no harm to marriage and in fact affirm and promote marriage in it's existing programs. A big help would be moving away from the no fault divorce system.

But of special importance is the role of churches and private groups to begin speaking out on the importance and nature of marriage and helping people prepare for marriage and support them once they are in married.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pawlenty will likely get the VP nod

The following is from a US News and World Report daily "Political Bulletin". Governor Pawlenty is getting more attention not only here in Minnesota but also nationally given his speech at the National Press Club and all the talk about his VP possibilities.

Pawlenty Drawing More Media Attention On the GOP side, the media is also honing its attention in on a candidate they see as a potential GOP vp pick. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty "rolled out his 'Sam's Club Republican' brand to a national audience Wednesday, making two well-covered speeches calling for a more hopeful message to check recent Democratic electoral gains." Pawlenty "said Republicans must broaden their appeal to a new generation of 'Reagan Democrats' -- the same young and working-class voters being targeted by...Obama. ... 'We want to be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country
club.' he said." In his "Washington Sketch" column for the
Washington Post, Dana Milbank describes Pawlenty as campaigning "actively, if unofficially, to be McCain's mate." Milbank examines Pawlenty's speeches yesterday and concludes, "All in all, a strong audition." The Wall Street Journal reports that as a vice presidential candidate, Pawlenty "could provide several advantages for Sen. McCain's presidential bid. Many conservatives view the governor favorably, or a least with interest. His state, Minnesota, could be in play this year. ... Unlike Sen. McCain, Gov. Pawlenty
also is widely admired in the evangelical community nationally."
Initially, I thought Pawlenty would get the VP nod then I didn't now I think he will again. A couple of reasons. One is he's a safe candidate for McCain. He has a good record on both social and economic issues. He's been a strong supporter life and marriage related issues and fought off efforts to raise taxes in Minnesota, a generally more liberal state, despite significant budget deficits over the years. He's also had executive experience as a governor for 6 years. He's youthful. And critical in the case of John McCain, he's been loyal to McCain and they have a strong personal relationship.

I think Mitt Romney is his chief opponent for the position. While Romney can raise more money and has been battle tried in the primaries, he doesn't have a tight relationship with McCain and some evangelicals are anxious about his Mormonism. In a tight race, little things can make a big difference. Pawlenty is in some respects the safer choice for McCain. Pawlenty has also been on the stump for McCain, gaining national experience and his appearance before the National Press Club went well. It will be interesting seeing what happens.

We'll see if I'm right.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Obama, Postmodernism and the Definition of Sin

There's a devastating column by Jonah Goldberg exposing Barak Obama's postmodern and morally relativist thinking. Moral relativism is the belief that there are no absolutes; that each person decides what is right and wrong. Postmodernism, as described by Chuck Colson in How Now Shall We Live?, "rejects any notion of a universal, overarching truth and reduces all ideas to social constructions shaped by class, gender, and ethnicity."

Goldberg points to the self absorption of Obama and his campaign as evidencing this postmodern mindset.
The Obama campaign has a postmodern feel to it because more than anything else, it seems to be about itself. Its relationship to reality is almost theoretical. Sure, the campaign has policy proposals, but they are props to advance the narrative of a grand movement existing in order to be a movement galvanized around the singular ideal of movement-ness. Obama's followers are, to borrow from David Hasselhoff — another American hugely popular in Germany — hooked on a feeling. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!" Well, of course you are.
What I found fascinating and disconcerting are Obama's religious views which only confirm this relativist, postmodern streak. Goldberg pulls a gem out of an interview Obama gave back in a 2004. When asked, "What is sin?" Obama's response? "Being out of alignment with my values."

Now Obama identifies himself clearly as a Christian. When asked what he believed, Obama states unequivocally: "I am a Christian." The problem with his view of sin is it's a decidedly non Christian view of sin. Sin is a transgression of God's laws not an individual's values.

Obama goes on to say: "So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where already there are a lot of Eastern influences...And I'd say, probably I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith...So I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people."

Here again Obama's postmodern, relativist thinking comes out. "I believe there are many paths to the same place." Again, that is a very non Christian perspective. Jesus was very unequivocal about Him being the way, the truth and the life.

The lessons to be drawn from Obama's comments are one, he is confused about what Christianity believes which isn't unique, because many people who identify themselves as Christian are equally confused, but second, his lack of a moral compass. He is the decider of what's right and wrong, not an objective standard.

I wonder if that's what's at play with his flip flop on so many issues. He has changed is views not because he's received new information and simple believes the new position is the right one. Rather, it's because he will do whatever it takes to advance his personal goals and ambitions; anything done in furtherance of personal ambitions is fine.

Now this isn't necessarily anything new for politicians. Many take positions or change them simply because it's to their advance politically. But Obama holds himself out as something different. A deeply spiritual man. A man driven by ideals. A broader vision.

This postmodern, relativist streak reveals something much different. A person driven by what advances himself.

For this reason, McCain's focus on Obama's character is wise. Is this the sort of president we want in the White House? Somebody with a shifting moral compass; driven by self and not bound by principles and a higher moral standard? We had that for eight years in the 1990s and things didn't go well.

Monday, August 4, 2008

India says "take a hike" to UN AIDS establishment

The second largest country in the world, India decided to adopt one of the only programs which has successfully reduced the AIDS infection rate, The Ugandan ABC program which focuses on abstinence and fidelity in marriage. What's interesting is India's decision is a major rebuke to the UN AIDS establishment which pressured Uganda to drop the program, despite a major drop in HIV infection rates, in favor of the condoms approach.

According to a story on,

A spokesperson for India's National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) told the media yesterday that sex-education taught to students will focus on abstinence and fidelity, not condoms and 'safer sex.'

This announcement came after a meeting involving officials from NCERT and the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), who, under the guidance of director-general Sujatha Rao, have advocated fighting AIDS with values, not condoms.

"There will be no mention of condom or safe sex in the revised module on life-skill education program. But we will be focusing on the aspirations of the youngsters and will also talk about being faithful to one's partner and abstinence. There should be no hypocrisy on the subject," said Rao, as reported by the Indian press.

"The youngsters need to get the right information. The children are growing in an unsafe environment," she added.

Originally a module was created to introduce sex-education into Indian schools to fight the spread of AIDS that promoted condoms and 'safer sex' techniques. The module, however, which included a flipchart with graphic illustrations of the human anatomy, was met with a nationwide uproar that led to seven states and many educationalists rejecting it.

The module was formulated under the direction of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which is known for dumping condoms into developing nations as a means of fighting AIDS, despite hard data that shows no country has ever significantly reduced their AIDS rate using this method.

I think this is a sign of sanity in response to the tragic AIDS/HIV epidemic. Some think India's decision will embolden other countries to endorse what works - abstinence outside of marriage, fidelity within. And hopefully, this will give impetus in the United States and Minnesota to develop a morally and educationally sound approach to the AIDS epidemic. The answer is promoting healthy behavior not merely trying to mitigate the dangerous consequences of bad behavior.