The World Wide Religious Web for Monday, January 23, 2012


39 YEARS OF BAD LAW: The Unbearable Wrongness of Roe.

Today [i.e., January 22, 2012], thousands of people at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., are commemorating the thirty-ninth anniversary of a legal and moral monstrosity, Roe v. Wade, and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The two cases, in combination, created an essentially unqualified constitutional right of pregnant women to abortion—the right to kill their children, gestating in their wombs, up to the point of birth. After nearly four decades, Roe’s human death toll stands at nearly sixty million human lives, a total exceeding the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, Pol Pot’s killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined. Over the past forty years, one-sixth of the American population has been killed by abortion. One in four African-Americans is killed before birth. Abortion is the leading cause of (unnatural) death in America.

This brings us to Roe’s utter indefensibility as a matter of constitutional law. If the U.S. Constitution actually protected such an extreme personal legal right to kill the human fetus, that would be troubling enough, but the trouble would be with the content of the Constitution. The further problem with Roe is that it has absolutely no basis in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution. No rule or principle of law fairly traceable to the text, discernible from its structure, or fairly derived from evidence of intention or historical understanding of an authoritative decision of the people, remotely supports the result reached in Roe. In terms of fair principles of constitutional interpretation, Roe is perhaps the least defensible major constitutional decision in the Supreme Court’s history.

LAZINESS & STUPIDITY: Belching Up More Abortion Cliches.

Milbank didn’t interview a single person for his piece. Having never been to the March for Life, he has no plans to do so now. It’s a mistake to announce that you are canceling your subscription to a liberal paper, because that allows someone like Milbank to puff himself up with false virtue and bogus, self-aggrandizing courage — oh, those crazy right-wingers just don’t like truth-to-power journalists.

The problem isn’t bias as much as criminal, sinful incuriousness. It’s laziness and stupidity.

BAD BUSINESS: The Business of Religion vs. Jesus.

It sounds good and aspirational, but it can also be horribly arrogant. It makes very clear who gets it and who doesn’t, elevating “us” over “you people.” And doing that has always given us a good feeling. In fact, it was exactly what the Pharisees were about.

ACCORDING TO 46% OF CHURCHGOERS, YES: The Church Has No Effect On Your Life?

As a sociologist, however, I think the claims by these 46% are pretty dubious. One quintessential claim of sociology is that the socialization we receive is not only powerful and consuming, but is also subtle, often leaving us unaware of the forces that have shaped us. Of course, the fact that these 46% believe their church to have no impact on their lives is certainly an interesting fact, and tells us something important about their relationship with their church (and is likely correlated with their frequency of church attendance). But I would say that it is their belief that is the interesting finding here, not a reality that church actually has no effect on people. Does this reflect a special inability of religious organizations to affect change in the lives of believers, or is it merely another example of the difficulty we have noticing and acknowledging the social forces that shape us?

RELATED: Why Even Go to Church?

So, back to the people whose church attendance hasn’t really impacted their lives, but have nonetheless, had personal experiences with God while attending church. Would they have been able to have those same experiences (at least in intensity) if they had never attended church? Maybe that’s the value of attending church (or synagogue, or Friday prayers, etc.), to “hang out” with others who have the same or similar beliefs, and who are also searching for the same sorts of connections. I could be wrong but it seems to me that the power of religion isn’t in the (mythical) individual experience rather, it is in its inherent social nature.

NOT FUNNY, BUT TRUE: Comedian Stephen Colbert on the Gift of Suffering.

“She [Colbert’s mother] taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain— it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

JUST PLAIN WRONG: Five founders who were skeptical of organized Christianity and couldn’t be elected today. Riiiggghhhttt. Let’s count the ways this goes wrong. (1) Washington was a latitudinarian Anglican, not an evangelical Christian. But his constant appeals to Providence (always capitalized) and conventional practice of Christianity (think Eisenhower) would not have lost him any votes among evangelicals. They would’ve driven atheists up a wall, however. (2) Adams was not an evangelical, but he was a devout Unitarian. In other words, he attended church, prayed, and read his Bible. His public religious language was conventional, and he expressed his theological doubts in more private venues (e.g., letters). In 1800, he was the Federalist candidate, who compared him favorably to Thomas Jefferson, whom they accused of atheism. He lost that election, but not because of his religion. (3) In that same 1800 election, Jefferson’s Federalist opponents made much of his heterodoxy. However, southern Baptists (among other free-church types) loved his stances on political issues. So, here we have a heterodox candidate supported by one group of Christians on political grounds against another group of Christians, whose accusations were theological. Jefferson won. My guess is that the same would happen today. (4) Baptists similarly supported Madison because of his political views. (5) Thomas Paine probably would’ve lost because The Age of Reason made fun of the beliefs of the very people (Baptists) whose votes he needed. (Even Jefferson kept his heterodox views largely private.) He also would’ve lost because of his rabid support of the French Revolution. Scorecard: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison all won their elections, in cases where religion was a campaign issue. The last two won because of the support of one group of Christians over against another group of Christians. So, this author is just plain wrong.

OBAMA LOSES THE VOTE OF A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CATHOLIC: J’ACCUSE! Why Obama is wrong on the HHS conscience regulations.

But, yesterday, as soon as I learned of this decision, I knew instantly that I also could not, in good conscience, ever vote for Mr. Obama again. I once had great faith in Mr. Obama’s judgment and leadership. I do not retract a single word I have written supporting him on issues like health care reform, or bringing the troops home from Iraq, or taking aggressive steps to halt the recession and turn the economy around. I will continue to advocate for those policies. But, I can never convince myself that a person capable of making such a dreadful decision is worthy of my respect or my vote.

DERANGED AND MORALLY REPUGNANT ASSERTION: Jewish paper’s column catches Secret Service’s eye.

[Jewish Telegraphic Agency] also quoted Opher Aviran, the Israeli consul-general in Atlanta as saying he was “appalled at this deranged and morally repugnant assertion. We condemn such calls in the strongest possible terms.”

LESSONS LEARNED: The Travesty of the Texas Evangelical Summit: And Four Lessons It Teaches.

  1. 1.       If you jump into the middle of a food-fight, you’re going to get slimed…
  2. 2.       The older generation of evangelical activists don’t have the influence they once did…
  3. 3.       The older generation of evangelical activists are victims of their own success…
  4. 4.       The younger generation of evangelical leaders are not feeling the same anti-Romney hysteria as their elders…

FORGIVENESS? YES. BUT THE PRESIDENCY? Why Gingrich’s ‘open marriage’ allegation may not scare off evangelicals.

Still, even before this week’s allegation from his ex-wife, Gingrich’s personal baggage had given many evangelicals pause.

“Forgiveness is not the issue here, trust is the issue,” Land said. “Redemption is something that’s in our code as evangelicals, but trusting someone with the presidency is something entirely different.”

WAR OR SOCIAL VALUES? Evangelicals, Ron Paul, and War.

Is supporting war more important for evangelicals than their social values? Isn’t Ron Paul a social conservative? He opposes abortion, gay marriage and promiscuous sex, he has never been divorced and certainly supports family values, but he believes in limited government. Two of his brothers are ministers. Why then are evangelical leaders now opting for Santorum, and before him Gingrich? The one big area of disagreement with Ron Paul is war; foreign wars and the domestic one against drugs. For this they oppose him. Santorum supports unending war in Afghanistan, backing Israel without limit and a new war against Iran.

BETTER AN ADULTERER THAN A MORMON? OR A CONSERVATIVE THAN A MODERATE? Mormon Gap Prevails in SC.

In other words, had evangelicals voted like non-evangelicals, Romney would have won the primary, 38 percent to 33 percent. But since fully 65 percent of GOP primary voters counted themselves as evangelical, he lost, 28 percent to 40 percent. And lest anyone think that Gingrich, the Catholic convert, can’t be the Huckabee of 2012, be it noted that Newt actually did a point better among evangelicals in the Palmetto State than Mike did in 2008

WEALTH & HAPPINESS? Upside of the Downturn.

We all know the bad news. But is there anything good that can be extracted from all this misery? I certainly don’t celebrate our economic suffering, nor do I wish it to continue, but I do think there are potential benefits. They come from two sources: a reduced focus on material success as the measure of all things (because material success has become less likely), and reduced expectations. Why are these benefits? There has been a research boom in recent years on the determinants of well-being, and it shows that material wealth contributes too little to well-being, once incomes are above subsistence, to justify people’s efforts. And it shows us that lowered expectations may enable us to derive satisfaction from life events that would have left us disappointed in the boom years.

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