Pro-life dissident’s great escape

Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese lawyer who has been battling China’s forced abortion policy.  For his efforts, he has been in and out of prison since 2005.  After his last release in 2010, Mr. Chen has been under house arrest even though he has not been charged with a crime.  That means that his home is surrounded by armed plain-clothed guards who prevent him and his wife from leaving and from receiving any visitors.

Last week Mr. Chen somehow escaped and made his way 300 miles to Beijing.  Oh, yes.  Mr. Chen is  totally blind.

He has reportedly taken refuge in the U. S. Embassy.  American diplomats are saying that this comes at the worse possible time because Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner are coming to Beijing this week for high-level talks and they fear the incident may harm  relations between the two countries.

via Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese lawyer-activist, escapes house arrest – The Washington Post.

So why are we worried about how this makes China feel?  Shouldn’t China be embarrassed, at the very least, about its brutal treatment of Mr. Chen and, much more importantly, the untold numbers of women whom it forces to get abortions after they have the allotted one child?

Should churches push contraceptives to their singles?

An evangelical conclave has recommended that churches encourage their single members to take contraceptives as a way to cut down on Christians getting abortions:

Two weeks ago, younger evangelical leaders gathered in Washington D.C. to reflect about the shape Christianity should take in the world. Q, the conference hosted by Gabe Lyons, is one of the more interesting spots in the evangelical landscape. Self-conscious in its cultural (which is to say, not political) orientation, conference attendees are an interesting cross-section of the evangelical world. Some might be emergent, others might be Reformed, but no one talks much about all that. It’s concern about social issues, rather than distinctive theological ones, that attendees seem to gather around.

In a breathtaking moment of unity, however, conference attendees affirmed that churches should advocate for contraceptives for the single people in their midst. After a panel discussion on the best ways to reduce abortions in the church (tacit answer: contraception), an instant poll put the question to attendees: “Do you believe churches should advocate contraception for their single twentysomethings?” The question is ambiguously worded (Advocate how? From the pulpit? Which twentysomethings? All of them?). But even so, 70 percent of respondents understood enough to say “yes.”

via Why Churches Shouldn’t Push Contraceptives to Their Singles | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

So if churches can’t influence their members enough to teach them to not have sex or, failing that, to not have abortions, why do they think they can influence them to use contraceptives?  That is for starters.  How else is this problematic?

He murdered 77 “out of good, not evil”

Few people do bad things out of a desire to do something evil.  Rather, they convince themselves that what they are doing is “good.”  And the spirit of self-righteousness, ironically, can lead to the most horrible of sins.  An example is the testimony of the Norwegian mass-murderer, of whose 77 victims, 69 were young people at a youth camp:

The Norwegian far-right activist who killed 77 people last year has told a court that he was fighting a battle against multi-culturalism and acted out of “goodness, not evil”.

Reading from a 13-page document that he wrote in custody, Anders Behring Breivik defended his massacre and called it the most “spectacular attack by a nationalist militant since World War Two”.

He said he would repeat his actions again, if he could.

“Yes, I would do it again,” he said, adding that life in prison or dying for “his people” would be “the biggest honour”.

The 33-year-old lashed out at the Norwegian and other European governments for embracing immigration and multi-culturalism and claimed he was a “second-rate citizen”.

He said the aim of the killings was for “racial purity” and to “change the direction of multi-cultural drift to avoid greater confrontation and civil war”.

He claimed the only way he could “protect the white native Norwegian” was through violence. . . .

Journalist Trygve Sorvaag, who is tweeting inside the court for Sky News, said: “For many people, it was very surprising to hear how soft, almost nasal, his voice was. He didn’t appear dangerous in any way.

“It was very hard to see that this softly spoken man is actually the person who murdered 77 people.”

via Norway Killer: Trial Of Anders Behring Breivik – Far-Right Utoya Island Shootings And Oslo Explosion | World News | Sky News.

Can you think of other cases in which “goodness” becomes a cover for “evil”?

Christianity and politics, reconsidered

E. J. Dionne is a Catholic who is liberal politically.  I wonder, though, if all sides could find some agreement in what he says about Christianity recognizing the “limits” of politics:

It’s hard not to notice that Christianity hasn’t been presented in its own best light during this election year because Christians have not exactly been putting forward their best selves.

My colleague Michael Gerson wrote recently about the “crude” way religion has played out in the Republican primaries, including “the systematic subordination of a rich tradition of social justice to a narrow and predictable political agenda.”

Gerson is exactly right, but I don’t propose to use his admirable column as an excuse to pile onto the religious right. Instead, I want to suggest that what should most bother Christians of all political persuasions is that there are right and wrong ways to apply religion to politics, and much that’s happening now involves the wrong ways. Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

What I’m not saying is that Christianity should be disengaged from politics. In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression. There is great debate over how to understand the relationship between Jesus’s spirituality and his approach to politics, but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.

But because Christians have a realistic and non-utopian view of human nature, they should be especially alive to the ambiguities and ambivalences of politics. The philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain captured this well in reflecting on Augustine’s writings. “If Augustine is a thorn in the side of those who would cure the universe once and for all,” she wrote, “he similarly torments critics who disdain any project of human community, or justice, or possibility.”

Christians, she’s saying, thus have a duty to grasp both the possibilities and the limits of politics. This, in turn, means that the absolutism so many associate with Christian engagement in politics ought to be seen as contrary to the Christian tradition. And that’s the case even if many Christians over the course of history have acted otherwise.

via A kinder mix of religion and politics during Holy Week – The Washington Post.

Now liberals keep bashing conservative Christians for their relatively recent interest in politics.  They don’t say much, though, about the overtly political agendas of the liberal churches.  I grew up in one of them and attended their conferences.  It has been said (by sociologist Peter Berger) that the best way to understand what the American left is up to is to attend meetings of the National Council of Churches. That agenda, by the way, is utterly utopian.

So I can appreciate what Dionne says, especially if he is willing to apply it to his own side.  (Liberal Catholics, by the way, are just as politically focused with a leftwing ideology as the Protestants in the National Council of Churches, if not more so, what with the revolutionary ideology of liberation theology.)

At the same time, all of this talk about “social justice” strikes me as rank hypocrisy as long as it excludes the justice due to babies being killed in their mother’s wombs.  In fact, I would argue that much of the “Christian right” is animated primarily by horror at legalized abortion.  And that if the issue of abortion were taken off the table–either by Democrats tolerating pro-lifers or Republicans embracing pro-choicers–the Christian right would diffuse its presence politically, though they won’t go away as long as this grotesque social evil continues.

Jimmy Carter vs. Abortion

Former president Jimmy Carter is calling on the Democratic Party to change its pro-abortion stance:

Appearing on the radio talk show of conservative radio host Laura Ingraham today, former President Jimmy Carter said he believes the Democratic Party should moderate its position on abortion, which it currently supports without limits and funded at taxpayer expense.

Carter said toning down the stridently pro-abortion position would help win back Republicans who abandoned the Democrats because of abortion and other liberal social issue positions.

Carter said:

“I never have believed that Jesus Christ would approve of abortions and that was one of the problems I had when I was president having to uphold Roe v. Wade and I did everything I could to minimize the need for abortions. I made it easy to adopt children for instance who were unwanted and also initiated the program called Women and Infant Children or WIC program that’s still in existence now. But except for the times when a mother’s life is in danger or when a pregnancy is caused by rape or incest I would certainly not or never have approved of any abortions.”

“I’ve signed a public letter calling for the Democratic Party at the next convention to espouse my position on abortion which is to minimize the need, requirement for abortion and limit it only to women whose life are in danger or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. I think if the Democratic Party would adopt that policy that would be acceptable to a lot of people who are now estranged from our party because of the abortion issue.”

via Jimmy Carter: Democrats Should Abandon Pro-Abortion Position |

A second abortion mandate in Obamacare

National Review has uncovered a second abortion mandate in Obamacare:

Finalized on March 12, 2012 (and set to go into effect with the 2014 exchanges), the new HHS rule implements Section 1303 of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The new rule imposes mandates on every single enrollee in a qualified health plan that happens to include abortion coverage. In particular, federal law will soon mandate that every single individual enrolled in such a plan make payments to a private fund designated solely to the payment of abortion. This scheme allows Obamacare to get around the controversial issue of government-funded abortions with a new funding source: mandatory private payments by you, the insured.

Here’s how it works. The new rule authorizes issuers to offer abortion coverage as part of their plans in the government-subsidized exchanges. For issuers that voluntarily include abortion coverage as part of their health plans, the new HHS rule mandates the private insurer to compel all enrollees to directly pay a separate abortion premium “without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex or family status.” Not surprisingly, the abortion premium also must be paid without regard to whether the individual has a religious or moral objection to funding other people’s abortions.

The new rule specifies that the abortion premium must be separately itemized on each enrollee’s bill or payroll deduction. The Obama administration’s new rule then directs the issuer to place the abortion premiums into “allocation accounts” to be used “exclusively” to pay for other people’s elective abortion. It’s astounding. It’s also a violation of religious liberty for the reasons set forth in the friend-of-the-court brief that we recently filed to aid the Supreme Court in its review of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

So, if you want to avoid abortion premiums, you can simply pick an abortion-free plan, right? Well, the new HHS rule seems deliberately designed to foil that option. With an audacious snub of the concept of consumer transparency, the HHS rule expressly instructs the issuer to hide the abortion coverage and the mandated separate abortion-premium payment from any advertising or information listings in the state exchanges.

According to the rule: “A [qualified health plan] that provides for coverage of [elective abortion] must provide a notice to enrollees, only . . . at the time of enrollment.” It goes on to provide that the issuer’s advertising in the exchange must provide information “only with respect to the total amount of the combined payments” (without the need to put consumers on notice by breaking out the abortion amount to be billed separately). Thus consumers picking plans will likely have no idea about which ones come with the abortion premium mandate.

Who will end up in these plans? First, many people will accidentally walk into the rule’s trap and buy a policy under which the federal government will force them to make monthly abortion-premium payments — something they would not do if the government mandated transparency (or at least permitted transparency!) about the abortion-premium mandates. Second, many people will end up in these plans if it is the plan chosen by their employers. Third, many people may be forced to select these plans if available alternatives do not have the coverage or doctor networks their families need.

One way or another, millions of Americans will soon find themselves in plans that require these separate abortion payments as a matter of federal law.

via What Rules Us – By Dorinda C. Bordlee & Nikolas T. Nikas & Mark Rienzi – Bench Memos – National Review Online.

HT:  Leroy Huizenga