The Liberty Professor Endorses Chris McDaniel for US Senate

McDanielPerhaps there is nothing more wonderful, more perplexing, or more troublesome than the challenge of discovering where we belong in life. As a Christian and theologian, I believe that life is God’s greatest gift to each of us. It is a gift that must be unwrapped daily, little by little. It can forever surprise and delight us.

The poet e. e. cummings was a unique person. To be oneself, he argued, is the toughest challenge of all. “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Yet discovering yourself is the first challenge.

I have come to realize that I am simply not called to the political arena. God has opened new possibilities for the fulfillment of my life’s genuine vocation. We academic types are used to argumentation. In some ways we even thrive on it. Others are not used to it and find it not only baffling, but confrontational as well. I do not wish my political commitments to be a barrier to those to whom I may be called to minister.

My political commitments have certainly not changed. But I will no longer be a public spokesman for those commitments. This will be the final post for The Liberty Professor.

These are unsettling times for constitutionalists. We are under fire from both sides of the political aisle. We are labelled with the cruelest of names and accused of the most vile of attitudes–for no other reason than the fact that we have asked important questions. Has government become too unwieldy? Is it too powerful? Are both major parties responsible for growing the size and scope of government for the sake of their respective agendas?

I believe the proper response to each of these questions is assuredly “yes.”

As we approach the 2014 midterm elections, Mississippi has an opportunity to make history. In my opinion, Sen. Thad Cochran has not done enough to support the Constitution. He is a big-government Republican whose time in DC should come to an end. With this post I thank him publicly for his service and I humbly ask him to return home as a private citizen.

In addition, I happily and vigorously endorse Chris McDaniel, whom I believe will bring a new voice to Washington politics on behalf of the good people of Mississippi. I have met Chris. I have heard him speak. I believe he is a genuine constitutionalist.

It goes without saying that I don’t always agree with Chris McDaniel. No one with a brain should agree with any politician all the time. There are things I would say differently than McDaniel. There are ways I would emphasize the message differently. But one thing is absolutely certain to me: Chris McDaniel is a person of profound integrity and soul-searching honesty.

I believe Chris McDaniel will join political forces with other elected officials in DC who are “fighting the good fight” to bring back to the national debate a full appreciation of the power of limited government as laid out in our Constitution. For that reason I support him without reservation.

Humbly, I ask you to give Chris your consideration. Think of the future and the burden being placed upon your children and your grandchildren. Think of the unbridled power and expense being accumulated in the halls of the federal government. Then take note of the growing clamor of false accusations and mud being slung toward McDaniel and his campaign. It speaks louder than words. It tells you that some powerful people are very afraid of the McDaniel campaign message.

Ideas are dangerous. McDaniel has a good idea: let’s be faithful to the Constitution.

Please mark your calendar. The Republican primary is set for June 3rd. I urge you to cast your vote for Chris McDaniel, and to vote for him a second time in the general election on November 4th. I have already contacted my neighbors and asked them to consider Chris. I hope you will do likewise.

It is a great honor to offer this endorsement, and it serves as a fitting way to bring this blog to a close.  May God bless America, and may God preserve the Constitution.

Sex, Love, and Liberty

THE KISS, by Francesco Hayez, 1859, oil on canvas (located in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)

The Kiss, by Francesco Hayez, 1859, oil painting on canvas (located in the Pinacoteca di Brera, the primary public gallery of Milan, Italy)

As I have often remarked to my students, the most fascinating topics of human existence are sex, religion, and politics (not necessarily in that order). Each is imbued with layers of meaning. Each can be a source of profound liberation and joy, but each can also be used by manipulative individuals for unhealthy control over others. From my perspective as a Christian, the moral quality of all three is enhanced by the presence of genuine love, accurately defined by Jesuit theologian William O’Malley as a conscious and active commitment to another person’s well-being.

All three topics (sex, religion, and politics) merge into a sometimes volatile intersection as Americans debate the issue of gay marriage. After months of reflection, the Liberty Professor has decided to weigh in on the topic. I have hesitated for some time now simply because I recognize that this is a controversial and sensitive subject–and my parsing of the details and components involved will probably offer to everyone something about which they will be unhappy. As the French remind us, c’est la vie.

I trust that my readers come here for honest, libertarian commentary–not necessarily to find total agreement on all issues of the day. My goal in this post is to untangle some of the many threads that combine to make this issue so contentious. It is a complicated subject; the political outcome of the debate, no matter how it ends, will have consequences. The liberty-minded citizen must move cautiously in these waters in order to remain faithful to his or her constitutional values.

1. Let us begin by reminding ourselves that we live in a society of profound moral diversity. This is nothing new. What is new is described by psychologist Kenneth Gergen as “social saturation.” Technology, social mobility, and ease of travel have resulted in a world in which it’s more difficult to withdraw into moral and religious enclaves where we can ignore those whose views differ from our own.

Dealing with such diversity of beliefs has been a hallmark of the American experience from our very beginnings as a people. It resulted in a form of federalism (not nationalism) that intended to leave most decisions in the hands of localized entities (sovereign states) and which forbade governmental favoritism or prohibition in matters of religion. In other words, citizens do not have to agree with one another on the greatest issues of human existence, but they must tolerate one another and refrain from infringements upon one another’s rights.

2. Since I am not an anarchist (neither do most Americans identify themselves as such), let me also propose a second foundation for our discussion on gay marriage: human society functions best when the rights and obligations of its citizens are delineated clearly and fairly enforced. This is not an argument for bigger government. Far from it. What I intend by this statement is to say that citizens have the right to freely enter contracts and agreements as they wish, whether it be for personal or professional reasons. They also have the right to refrain from such contracts, even to their own detriment.

With the perspective of a strict constitutionalist, I argue that government should stay out of those private agreements unless invited in by one or more of the parties involved due to fraud, misrepresentation, or default resulting in damage or loss. This attitude applies even when people enter contractual agreements that I believe to be unwise (such as poor business choices), immoral (such as prostitution), or potentially dangerous (such as the use of an experimental drug). The key to this point is full disclosure and personal freedom. I’m arguing that adults of full mental capacity have the right to arrange their lives and their moral activities as they see fit, with a minimum amount of governmental interference. When such interference is necessary (such as the just hearing of grievances between parties), it should take place on the most local level possible, with only a small and enumerated list of powers being exercised on the federal level (as proposed by the Constitution).

3. Sexuality is an inevitable and vital part of the human experience. It is one of the legitimate pleasures emerging from the fact that humans have bodies. It is also a powerful and mysterious procreative reality–one that should not be used to cause harm to others. Some social prohibitions upon sexual behavior are urgently necessary. The first to come to mind is protection of children against pedophiles. When it comes to fully-informed, consenting adults such as those described in the paragraph above, I am of the opinion that government entities should mostly refrain from the attempt to regulate behavior.

4. Evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) increasingly supports the understanding that genuine, exclusive or predominant homosexual orientation is not experienced as a choice but as a given. My reading of science and my experience with friends and students who self-identify as gay has led me to believe that when it comes to lifestyle “choices,” sexual orientation is not a choice. It’s a situation that must be dealt with by the millions of people who experience it. At this point in the discussion I refer the reader back to point #2, above. I do not find it necessary to address the question of morality here since the decision about this issue doesn’t rest with me. It rests only with those who find themselves in the particular situation being addressed.

5. Speaking philosophically, I believe that the Constitution must be read in light of the Declaration of Independence. In proposing the constitutional thesis that individuals must be allowed to live by their own beliefs and morals, I understand this to be based upon the differing opinions we citizens have with regard to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (that phrase comes from the Declaration). Constrained only by the few limitations listed in point #2 (above), citizens should be free to live as they choose so long as they cause no harm or loss to others (there are exceptions to this). In addition, it is the constitutional role of the federal government to treat citizens with equal rights before the law (though it is not the role of government to force all businesses or employers to give identical benefits or services).

6. Both marriage and homosexuality have been around for a long, long time. Their presence cuts across human cultures; I have encountered both in every society that I have ever studied, from primitive to postmodern. Cultures have handled homosexuality in differing ways throughout history. Some have been intolerant of it while others have provided a comfortable niche for it.

Some societies have distinguished between male and female homosexuality. Some cultures have assigned special religious roles to homosexual persons. Even among those societies that find it acceptable, homosexual relations have been distinguished from marriage, with marriage understood as a relationship between man and woman. This understanding was present even in polygamous societies (those where men could have multiple wives) and also in societies where married men were allowed to have male lovers (such as in ancient Greece). In other words, with or without social approval, homosexual relations were deemed to be distinct from marriage. Not surprisingly, it was understood as a different kind of relationship–even when it was given social and religious recognition.

Now let’s get to the crux of my point. Let me spell it out as clearly and as precisely as I can. As a constitutionalist I believe that government should not be in the business of giving benefits to some citizens while denying them to others. As a steadfast general rule, I’d like to see government (especially federal government) do less, interfere less, spend less, dictate less, and possess far less power than it does now. If it’s true that well-ordered relationships are good for society as a whole (such as marriage in which duties and rights are clearly delineated and the relationship is supported by law), then I can find no constitutional reason to deny that same protection to gay couples who freely choose to establish similar relationships.

In other words, I’m arguing for nothing more than equal status before the law for all citizens, including gay couples. To do this, however, government does not have to change the definition of marriage–a definition that seems to be as old as humanity itself. Nor should it. 

Gay couples should have the same legal rights and opportunities as all other citizens. Married couples have a right to see the definition of their relationship remain the same as it was on the day they entered that relationship. This distinction does not constitute an act of bigotry or hatred.

As cultures and societies around the globe have recognized for thousands of years, there are different kinds of relationships. Changing the definition of marriage is not the way to guarantee equal rights before law. It will open the door to limitations on liberty, not to an increase in liberty. If we truly wish to live in a society that tolerates moral diversity, we must refrain from using the law to enforce moral uniformity.

Let’s allow people, associations, and religious congregations to make their own decisions about how to understand these different relationships. Should the federal government try to redefine marriage, it will open the door to legal actions against the very institutions we cherish most by further eroding the constitutional limits placed upon that government. This realization explains why there are voices condemning the proposal–even among our fellow citizens who happen to be gay.

The Fallacy of Centralized Planning

untitledIt’s Christmas eve.  Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves why God is the only central planner in whom we should place our faith. “In God We Trust” remains our national motto for now, but it appears that more and more Americans trust a powerful welfare state at least as much. It didn’t happen overnight. Certain segments of our citizenry and political leadership have been moving us in this direction for decades.

This fact didn’t dawn sufficiently upon me until the summer of 2008. I was visiting Atlanta at the time, teaching a spirituality course for the college where I’m employed as a theologian. One evening we found ourselves dining in the home of a mutual friend who lives in the area. This friend and his wife had invited others from their neighborhood as well. One of them was an attorney who was also a leader in the Atlanta-area Democrat party.

As you can imagine, being only a few months before the presidential election of 2008, much of the evening was spent in the discussion of politics. I quickly realized that the Democrat attorney and I had opposing views of what made America great. Rather than debate him, I set about trying to understand him. I asked lots of questions. At some point he confessed that, if truth be told, he was honestly a socialist. He was thrilled with the candidacy of Barack Obama.

As I listened for the remainder of the evening I was seized with concern for the future. The emotional wave that came upon me that night was something new for me in terms of its focus. As he spoke throughout the evening, the attorney opened my eyes to the fact that the socialist Utopian hopes that I thought belonged only to a small minority of Americans were actually deeper and more determined than I had ever imagined. I have thought of that socialist Democrat often since that night.

Led by the “mainstream” media and the self-serving rhetoric of Barack Obama, much of America has a romantic crush on socialism.  We’re talking, writing, and even smiling about it. This is the dream promised to us by candidate Obama when he was in Ohio in 2008. He told Joe the plumber and all of us then that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Obama is right.  Spreading the wealth around is good for everybody.  Of course it is. Spreading wealth by seizure and centralized authority, however, is not good for anybody. It’s what we in American today call taxation and entitlements.

Giving people money to spend is different from paying them for producing wealth through production of consumables or provision of necessary services. The great socialist fallacy is that money is the same as wealth. Money is nothing but a tool of exchange. Without genuine wealth produced through labor, there is nothing to give value to money. Nations work themselves into poverty when they fail to see this, as we are doing now.

Socialism appears to be a refined lady, but she is a cruel witch in disguise.

Like a teenager succumbing to “love at first sight” while knowing nothing about the beloved, some Americans are fooled by the supposed beauty of socialist central planning. “We’re all socialists now,” proclaimed Newsweek just a month after Obama was inaugurated. The love affair has continued ever since. Back in September, the high-school band in New Oxford, Pennsylvania honored the Russian Revolution of 1917 in a football halftime show. Unconcerned for the millions slaughtered under Soviet rule, the students proudly wore costumes resembling Russian military from the era of the Cold War and dutifully carried the hammer and sickle.

The superintendent of schools for the region defended it by reminding angry parents that the band was justified in their subject since it had celebrated freedom back in 2008. How symbolic.

Centralized economic planning does nothing but make the elites more wealthy and powerful while making most citizens destitute and powerless.  Do you see any people of average economic means in Congress, or in the Oval Office, or directing the Federal Reserve? Enough said.

If you believe in the average American and his or her ability to make the country strong, then you should be a proponent of the free-market economy. Centralized planning has never worked. It can’t.  Small groups of powerful people at the top cannot monitor and control an economy to any adequate degree. The attempt to do so is known as Keynesianism, an approach advocated by economist John Maynard Keynes. As Ron Hera of the Ludwig von Mises Institute reminds us, Keynes “advocated that the government should play a large, active role in the economy.” The result is clear: “Western economies today are characterized by large, central governments, central banks, and massive debts.”

I wonder if the young people in the New Oxford High School Band have ever been told about the police state that was necessary to keep the people of Soviet nations in line, or the walls and barbed wire that kept them from fleeing their misery. Socialism is a Utopian vision that doesn’t work because that which is given away free is abused. Money provided without production becomes worthless. Incentives are destroyed but government promises remain. The result is poverty and totalitarianism.

Traveling behind the Iron Curtain in the late 1970s and early 1980s, friends and I saw firsthand that Soviet centralized planning was a disaster. People bartered for what little they could get. They begged tourists to trade clothes for the military memorabilia they were able to steal or buy cheap from their soldier friends (it seemed the only things in abundance in the Soviet-controlled lands were items related to military dominance; that fact alone should awaken us to the suffering of the people of the time and place). Even in nice hotels the bathrooms were stocked with newspaper instead of toilet tissue.

All the while there were the prying and ever-present eyes of the police state. Brave Soviet citizens spoke of it occasionally, but only in a hushed whisper, only inside their homes, and only after locking the doors and closing their curtains.

Yes, indeed. Christmas is a good time to think about what you believe.

Why Mitt Romney’s Mormonism Would Be a Blessing to America

A great deal has been made over the fact that Mitt Romney is Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often referred to as just “Latter-Day Saints” or “LDS”).  In many cases the commentary has been negative and even inaccurate.  Interest in LDS faith seems to be growing, as evidenced by my visit to Barnes and Noble yesterday.  The number of books available there on Mormonism has increased dramatically in the last few weeks.

I, of course, am not a member of the LDS faith.  I’m a Roman Catholic.  I’ve had Mormon friends and I’ve studied the doctrines of their faith for some time now.  I’m thoroughly convinced that a president who is LDS and who lives by his church’s doctrines will be a very good thing for the United States of America.  If you understand what mainstream Mormonism teaches, you’ll understand why I hold such a conviction.

Before we go much further, let’s dispose of false idea that Mormonism is a cult.  I see no evidence of that.  Contrary to common misconception, having unusual beliefs doesn’t make a religious community a cult.  Genuine cults are communities where leaders have an excessive and often unhealthy control over their members.  Examples include the Branch Davidians (led by David Koresh) and Heaven’s Gate (led by Marshall Applewhite); members of both groups were led to their deaths by their leaders.

I would not classify the Latter-Day Saints of today as members of a cult, though it may be correct that the original Mormon community under Joseph Smith did shows signs of cult-like adherence.  In addition, please note that I’m talking about the largest group of Latter-Day Saints of which Romney is a member (with its headquarters in Salt Lake City).  I’m not referring to the smaller breakaway groups, some of which may still practice polygamy.  To reiterate, cults are marked more by the control exercised by their charismatic leaders than by unusual doctrines.  It is not uncommon in the study of religious history to encounter communities that began as cults but later became mainstream.

For those who argue that Mormon beliefs are not mainstream, I can’t deny that there is a certain accuracy there.  Mormon doctrines and theology, while retaining the terminology of more traditional Christianity, diverges wildly in how it uses that terminology.  Doctrines such as salvation and the fatherhood of God are understood differently by LDS adherents.  Mormons believe that we humans existed spiritually prior to coming to earth and that highest salvation consists of reaching the status of divine beings.  As earthly children grow to become like their parents, so Mormons believe that their ultimate goal is to grow into the status of the Heavenly Parents from which they received their original creation.

There are those who enjoy poking fun at the Mormon tradition of wearing religious underwear (called “garments”) connected to their first visit to an LDS temple.  Is such a practice drastically different from the Catholic tradition of wearing a scapular underneath our shirts?  Is it very distant from the idea often seen on TV that an evangelist can pray over a small cloth and mail it to someone who has needs that might be answered by prayer?  All religious people use outward signs as symbols of faith.  Recognizing this, it seems fruitless to laugh at each other with the vain idea that our own symbols make sense while the symbols of others are silly.

For sure, Mormon doctrines are very different (heterodox) from the beliefs of wider Christianity.  Nonetheless, Mormons should be considered Christians. They believe that their ultimate fulfillment as future heavenly parents themselves is made possible by the redemption of Jesus Christ.  This particular version of salvation may not sit comfortably with most Christians, but it still qualifies as a theological understanding of the significance of the life and work of Christ as our Savior.  Mormons explain the divergence by insisting that theirs is the true church of Jesus Christ, re-established in these “latter times” because genuine Christian doctrine had been lost, or at least corrupted through history.

Now let’s get to the core of my argument.  Why do I believe Mitt Romney’s Mormonism will bless America?  Well, that part is easy.

Joseph Smith, LDS prophet and founder, was a simple lad from Vermont.  He was born in 1817 and lived much of his early life in the state of New York.  He seems to have been imaginative and of a certain religious bent, though not beyond taking advantage of the gullibility of others to avoid hard work.  Whatever you may think of him, we can’t deny that he was a man of his times, a citizen of a new nation dreaming of unlimited expansion and wealth to the west.  It grew to be understood by most Americans that the young nation’s control of the entire continent, from Atlantic to Pacific, was it’s “manifest destiny.”

This national optimism was infectious.  It found a welcome home in the doctrines of the Latter-Day Saints.  To put it in my own words, Mormonism is the religion of American exceptionalism.  The evidence for this position lies at the heart of all Mormon theology; it’s demonstrated clearly in the Book of Mormon (which Mormons believe to carry the same revelatory weight as the Bible).

For Mormons, many of the early inhabitants of North America were the lost tribes of Israel–members of God’s own chosen people.  The fact that no scientific evidence exists for this position doesn’t change their belief.  In addition, they believe that Christ himself visited these people and preached to them.  Going back even further, Mormons believe that America is so important to the plans of God that the Garden of Eden itself was located here.  And it is here, in what is now the United States of America, that God will establish a divine kingdom on earth at the end of time (the New City of Zion or Heavenly Jerusalem).  We don’t have to fear that Mormons themselves will try to found this kingdom.  In their early days they did try it, and failed.  This failure led them to reformulate their understanding and to leave the kingdom to God’s doing.

Because of their unusual beliefs (along with the personality quirks of Joseph Smith–especially regarding plural marriage), early Mormons suffered tremendously for their faith.  As far as I am aware, they are the only religious group in US history to be identified by a government officer for extermination (the so-called Missouri Executive Order No. 44, issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs in 1838).  Early Mormons perpetrated their share of suffering on others, but for the most part they were on the receiving end of persecution.  Personal responsibility and hard work came to be synonymous with Mormonism.  It is the foundation of the LDS ethos to this day.  (Such commitment to hard work is a bit ironic, given Joseph Smith’s penchant for avoiding it!)

While there are exceptions to every rule, Mormon Americans are generous and kind people who cherish their country and who believe it–and the liberties it recognizes–to be an important part of God’s plan for the world.  One of the reasons that Mormons are so strict about alcohol and caffeine consumption is because of their belief in restoration.  All that was wrong with the world before Joseph Smith’s “revelations” can be corrected through the restored church founded by him.  Theologically speaking, America appears to me to be part of how they understand that divine restoration.

I’m not a Mormon, but I don’t fear having a God-loving Mormon in the White House–even if his understanding of God is different than my own.  Given what I know about “Latter-Day Saints,” I’m looking forward to it.

The Liberty Professor Chooses a Patron Saint!

Many Christians are inspired by patron saints. It’s a common phenomenon among Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and other Christians. These holy patrons have been around a long time. For a Christian there can be no greater examplar than Christ himself, but the steadfast example of subsequent believers can also be useful if their particular experience touches us in some way. It can’t be denied that the practice of honoring a patron saint closely resembles the widespread ancient belief of honoring the patron deities believed to be responsible for a city or empire’s safety. To my mind, however, that only makes the practice more respectable because it says something about what it means to be human. And whatever similarities or differences come to mind with regard to the world’s many differing religious traditions, the one thing that all religious people share is our common humanity.

Accountants have Matthew (the Apostle and tax collector), lawyers have Thomas More (English chancellor beheaded by King Henry VIII), and musicians have Cecilia (an early Roman martyr). There is even a patron saint for exterminators, Magnus of Fussen (a monk of the early medieval period whose lore reports his specialized skill as that of being able to disperse snakes and drive away dragons).  It’s time for political bloggers to have a patron as well.

Therefore, I am happy to announce that this blog has employed the services of St. Sebastian as protector and exemplar (shown in the inset in a 16th-century work by the Venetian artist Carlo Crivelli). The legend of Sebastian reports that he was a Roman soldier who secretly embraced Christianity during the 3rd century. To the Romans, the great crime of the Christians was their general refusal to honor the patron deities that defended and protected the empire; keeping the gods and goddesses satisfied was the primary reason for the existence of Roman religion. Upon discovering the “treachery” of Sebastian, the emperor Diocletian ordered his execution. He was taken outside the city of Rome, reportedly to a spot near the Via Appia, tied to a tree, and used for target practice by the imperial archers.

Though left for dead, a noblewoman named Irene found him still alive and subsequently nursed him back to health. My favorite story of Sebastian reports that he taunted the powerful emperor when he next saw him. Perhaps this was an ancient example of “speaking truth to power.” In any event, Diocletian didn’t take it well and had him beaten to death. As a final insult his body was thrown into a latrine, but the story still doesn’t end there. He reportedly appeared in an apparition to a local widow to explain to her where his body could be found. It was then moved to a catacomb that now bears his name, joining the bodies of other martyrs. The Church of St. Sebastian Fuori le Mure (“outside the walls” of Rome) sits above that catacomb. Because he survived the first attempt on his life yet died a martyr’s death later, he is sometimes known as “the saint who was martyred twice.”

Why Sebastian? Well, because it’s one thing to have strong political opinions. It’s another thing altogether to make a habit of putting those opinions into writing. Doing so can turn those words into a target for all sorts of unsavory comments by those who find them unreasonable and even the cause of their indigestion.

Shot with arrows, beaten to death, then thrown into a latrine … all these seem to be great metaphors for life as a political blogger.  St. Sebastian is an appropriate patron for such a venture, don’t you agree?

Healthcare: The REAL Agenda

Before getting to the point of this post, please allow me to thank you for another milestone.  Yesterday, the hits to this blog once again reached an all-time high.  Thank you for following The Liberty Professor.  Please continue to offer your comments and critiques.  I genuinely believe that truth is discovered most efficiently when people are engaged in honest dialogue.  I hope you’ll continue to share the blog with others.  Now let’s get to the point.

The “mainstream” media is touting the fact that Barack Obama has compromised on the birth control mandate.  Compromise?  I didn’t see any compromise.  All he did was to supposedly shift the cost, a shell game played all the time by the politicians in Washington.  When it comes to making one group pay for things to be given to another, however, Democrats are kings.  As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote yesterday over at Business Insider, Obama won’t make his liberal allies pay for their own reproductive coverage, and Catholics are refusing to pay for the parts of it their church leaders condemn as wrong, so he pulled out his magic elixir and decreed that no one will have to pay for it.

Let’s let the Welfare, uh, White House statement speak for itself:  “Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception.”  Instead,  “insurance companies will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge.”  That’s a fantasy, but those last three words still represent the great doxology of Democrat policies.  They cure all ills.  They fix all problems.  And they are meant to guarantee Democrat victories in national politics for ever and ever, world without end.  To this prayer there are many who are willing to chant, “Amen.”

When owners and investors take the risks of opening a business or establishing a company, it is they who should decide what benefits to offer employees.  It should be the potential employees who decide whether or not to take the jobs offered, based upon those benefits.  To those who have a preference for socialist models, we call this the “free market.”  (Salaries used to be decided by the free market, too, but that’s a topic for another post.) 

Employers should decide whether to offer insurance, or no insurance, and whether or not to cover co-pays and deductibles or any other costs they wish to consider.  Except for preventing fraud and dishonesty in the negotiation and sale of such coverage, government should stay out of the affairs of private persons.  Benefits and employment arrangements, for the most part, are private affairs between private persons.  But that’s not how it works when you have a Godzilla-sized camel named Government that insists on putting its nose into every tent in the country.  “I’m Government,” grins the camel, “and I’m here to help.”  The story is worthy of Dr. Seuss himself.

We all know what the real agenda is for the so-called “progressives” in our nation’s capital:  a single-payer system.  Mark my words, dear reader, when I promise you that they will never rest until they get this.  And at some point they will get it unless we reclaim our constitutional republic.  One can almost feel the disdain with which CBS reported on the fact that “conservatives who believe religious freedom always trumps gender equity in the public arena are outraged.” 

Dear CBS, let’s get it right for a change.  The religious people you criticize in this particular matter haven’t taken anything from anyone.  All they have asked is that they not be forced to pay for or provide coverage for services they believe to be immoral.  Is that so hard to get?  Is that request so unreasonable?  Bluntly, many progressives will reply that it is unreasonable.  Tyranny is always predicated upon some notion of what’s good, even when it has to be a good that is falsified and presented in the shadows.  Nothing matters here but the end game, my friends:  universal, single-payer healthcare coverage.

Why not?  It will be free.  “Free of charge.”  It has a nice ring to it. 

The Left is forever whining about the fact that Americans supposedly pay more for healthcare than anyone else on the planet.  We also spend more on our pets than anywhere else.  Do we need a federal mandate on that, too?

Wait until healthcare is “free.”  As they say down here in the Deep South, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The Pro-Obama Hype: Fools Gone Wild

“Like a dog who returns to its vomit
is a fool who returns to his folly.”
(Proverbs 26:11)

It continues to amaze me that the Founders of our nation showed such remarkable restraint and wisdom when it came to federal power.  They instinctively knew what some today are only beginning to grasp:  power, once taken, is seldom curtailed.  Looking at history we see that this is true.  Those who have power over others quite often use that power to advance it toward increase.  In an effort to prevent this the authors of the Constitution established three distinct branches of government, each of which was intended to keep an eye on and limit the others.  If politicians are busy watching each other, it was thought, perhaps they won’t have much time to bother the people and disturb their liberties.

Then they added two other ingredients to the plan, both enshrined in that part of the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights:  a guarantee of freedom for the press, and an explicit statement that all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved to the States and their people.  If the three branches monitor each other and the press monitors all three, we can rest comfortably in the knowledge that governmental tyranny can be prevented.  The plan was bold and terrific.

But what if the press were to become the mouthpiece for powerful government?  What if the hope of a Utopia in America were to lead members of the press to lose their objectivity and support the agenda of limiting liberty?  In The Rights of Man (1792), Thomas Paine wrote that “it is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.”  Thank God he did not write, “when political elites horde power in order to promise us impossible benefits, a thrill goes up my leg.”

When British troops surrendered to the Continental Army at Yorktown in 1781, the British band played The World Turned Upside-Down.  The mightiest army had been beaten by liberty-minded, colonial upstarts.  The world truly seemed a different place.

Well, if Washington Post political writer Melinda Henneberger is any indicator, the world may have turned over again–not for the better, but tilted in the favor of tyranny.  On Wednesday of this week she appeared on Hardball, the CNN news program hosted by Chris Matthews.  Unable to control her tongue, and obviously fishing for something intelligent to say, she offered this dangerous notion:  “Maybe the Founders were wrong to guarantee free exercise of religion in the First Amendment but that is what they did ….”

This debate, despite what the liberal talking heads are saying, is not about reproductive rights or a woman’s power over her own body.  Even among Catholics the question of birth control is controversial.  As a Catholic theologian I cannot fail to recognize that.  But the debate about Catholic doctrine belongs to Catholics, just as the debate of all religious organizations about their own beliefs belongs with them.  The federal government has no right to demand that a religious organization pay for services that go against its teachings.  If any American is willing to give even a single millimeter on this issue then the Constitution might as well be used in the bottom of a bird cage.

The debate isn’t about birth control.  It’s about who can be forced to pay for it.  My advice is this:  condoms are cheap, so buy your own.  Or visit your local health department where you’ll normally receive them for free.

This decision was made unilaterally by one man:  President Barack Obama.  Even Vice President Joe Biden warned against it.  It is a shame that we are debating the law itself instead of the fact that any single person in this Republic should have so much power.  This was a partisan decision, purely and simply.  It amounts to nothing more than an attempt by Obama to shore up his liberal base.  He doesn’t give a damn about the Constitution as long as he and the Democrat party remain in power.  It is unreasonable.  It is dangerous.  It is tyrannical.  It’s unconstitutional in the most obvious of ways.  And yet too many in the press and in other quarters are willing to look the other direction.

Today they’ll limit the rights of Catholics.  Whose rights will be limited tomorrow?  Maybe the government will tell Baptists that they can’t print Bibles anymore because it causes global warming.  Or perhaps Jews will be told they can no longer speak of their support for Israel because it might cause a disruption of the peace process in the Middle East.  Maybe Uncle Sam will take the gold from churches and temples to be melted down for the sake of the poor.  Once we fool ourselves and trade our freedom for an unrealistic Utopia there is no end to the dangers we face.

The Catholic bishops who supported Obamacare in the hope of a better America are waking up to the fact that the one with whom they jumped into bed cannot be trusted.  After a meeting with President Obama, Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Timothy Dolan of New York was satisfied that the Emperor would respect religious rights.  He was wrong; he feels that he was betrayed.  Maybe now the University of Notre Dame will take back the honorary doctorate it hastily awarded Obama in 2009.

Barack Obama is the King of Feel-Good Politics, a land where money grows on trees and can be spent without negative repercussions.  There is always more.  It’s a land where personal freedoms are granted not by God, but by government.  His blind supporters remain asleep and they fail to grasp that America is at a new crossroads, one that offers the false vision of a just future if only we will stop demanding our freedom.  Grant the government just a little more power, they say, and the Kingdom of Righteousness will come.  Just a bit more, then just a little more, and then ever so small a slice more power.  It never ends.

If, perhaps, the Founders were “wrong” to guarantee religious freedom, then perhaps they were wrong to imagine a system of limited government at all.  Perhaps they were wrong to allow freedom of the press, or the right to peaceful assembly.  Maybe they were wrong to demand the due process of law for all who stand accused.  Hmm.  Come to think of it, this is the strange new world we’re being offered already.

Tyranny always has as its excuse the hope of a better society.  William Pitt reminded us in 1793 that necessity is “the argument of tyrants” and “the plea for every infringement of human freedom.”

On the day that Barack Obama was elected, some of us were already sounding the alarm.  We were ridiculed.  It was wrongly thought that words like “tyranny” and “liberty” were leftovers from history with no meaning for us today.  Now, even the Catholic bishops are sounding the alarm.  Can we hear it?