Chen and his cause

The blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, whom we have been blogging about, has been released and has arrived in the United States, where he will be a fellow at New York University.  Melinda Henneberger writes about the human rights issue Chen has been battling:

The day of Mei Shunping’s fifth forced abortion in China was “the saddest day of my life,’’ she told a congressional subcommittee this week.

The cause that human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has so long championed is often glossed over in this country, where we tend to focus on how cool it is that a blind guy scaled a fence and escaped his captors like some kind of action hero. But Mei spelled out the gory particulars for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.

This undated photo provided by the China Aid Association shows blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng, right, with wife Yuan Weijing and son, Chen Kerui in China. (AP)

On a monthly basis, she told those of us in the hearing room, she and all other female employees in the textile factory where she worked were subjected to humiliating physical exams to document that they weren’t pregnant; otherwise, under China’s one-child policy, they weren’t paid. And when any woman not approved for childbearing was even suspected of missing a period, co-workers were quick to inform on her, because when one became illegally pregnant, all were punished.

On the worst day of Mei’s life, not only was she physically dragged to the hospital, she said, but she collapsed in pain after complications following the procedure. She had no one to lean on, either, since her husband had been thrown in jail for arguing with the doctors: “My young son didn’t know what was happening and kept crying for his father. I didn’t know what to do and could only hold my son and cry with him. Even now, when I think of all this, my heart shudders and the pain throbs.”

via Why Chen fights, and why U.S. abortion rights supporters should care – She The People – The Washington Post.

If those who believe in abortion are really “pro-choice,” as opposed to pro-abortion, why aren’t they protesting forced abortion?

The importance of Christ’s Ascension

Yesterday was Ascension Day, marking the resurrected Christ’s return to His Father.  Pastor Reeder quotes the classic Bible scholar Paul E. Kretzmann on what the Ascension means:

“By His exaltation and ascension the Son of Man, also according to His human body, has entered into the full and unlimited use of His divine omnipresence. His gracious presence is therefore assured to His congregation on earth. He is now nearer to His believers than He was to His disciples in the days of His flesh.

He is now sitting at the right hand of His heavenly Father. As our Brother He has assumed the full use of the divine power and majesty. He reigns with omnipotence over all things, but especially also over His Church. God has put all things under His feet, and has given Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, Eph. 1, 22. 23.

By His Word and Sacrament He gathers unto Himself a congregation and Church upon earth. He works in and with His servants; He governs in the midst of His enemies. He preserves and protects His Church against all the enmity of the hostile world and against the very portals of hell. And His intercession before His heavenly Father makes our salvation a certainty, Rom. 8, 34.”

via On the Lord’s Ascension « Pastor Reeder’s Blog.

Strangely, the Reformed use the Ascension as an argument against the presence of Christ in the sacrament.  (“Jesus isn’t here any more.  He’s in Heaven.”)  But Lutherans use the Ascension as an argument for the Real Presence, since now the Son of God, having taken His place in the Godhead, is omnipresent.

Military chaplains must perform gay weddings?

So says the Obama administration.  Rod Dreher  comments:

Remember how no clergy member will be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their will. If the Obama administration has its way, all US military chaplains will have to do so. Excerpt:

“The Obama administration “strongly objects” to provisions in a House defense authorization bill that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies, and protect military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to perform ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).”

If this goes through, the Catholic and the Orthodox chaplains will have to be withdrawn from the US military. Many Evangelical chaplains will choose to leave. If same-sex marriage is constitutionalized by Supreme Court ruling, then I don’t see how even a legislative exemption would be possible. This is another one of the answers to the question, “How does my gay neighbor’s marriage to his partner affect me?”

via Goodbye, Military Chaplains | The American Conservative.

I suppose the large contingent of chaplains who belong to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod would also have to leave.  That would leave liberal  mainline Protestants to minister to the troops, though many of them are anti-war.

Interstate taxing

Say you get a good job in the environs of our nation’s capital. (The region has some of the country’s lowest unemployment rates, with jobs in government, high-tech, and the military-industrial complex.)  Your choices of where to live are the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia.

Maryland has just chosen to raise its income tax rates to match those of D.C., so they will be tied for fourth highest in the nation.  Virginia’s taxes, on the other hand, are not too far from reasonable.  Where would you choose to live?  What do you think will happen in the long run to the economy of these three regions?

From the Washington Post:

More than 300,000 Maryland residents will pay higher income taxes under a package given final approval by the legislature Wednesday.

The tax increase affects single-filers reporting income in excess of $100,000 and joint-filers reporting more than $150,000 in Maryland, the state with the nation’s highest per-capita income.

Democratic lawmakers closed ranks behind Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who argued that his administration needed more money to continue record spending on education.

O’Malley’s tax increases — combined with a move the legislature supported to shift teacher pension costs to counties — will close half of a $1 billion gap that had been forecast for the rest of the decade.

The legislation — passed by the Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday — will also widen the income tax divide between Maryland and Virginia. Maryland’s new top state-local tax bracket will tie the District’s for fourth-highest in the nation, at 8.95 percent. Across the Potomac, the top rate in Virginia is 5.75 percent.

via Md. passes income tax hike on six-figure earners – The Washington Post.

Just post the Second Table of the Law?

A judge in a Virginia lawsuit over posting the Ten Commandments in a public school has proposed cutting out the first few that are about God and allowing the rest of them to be displayed.  (The so-called “First Table” is about love of God; the “Second Table” is about love of neighbor.)

Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.

Would that neutralize the religious overtones of a commandments display that has the Giles County School Board in legal hot water?

That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.

After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation – with a suggestion:

Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.

Ever since the lawsuit was filed in September amid heated community reaction, school officials have said the display is not religious because it also includes historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?’” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

“But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.”

via Cut Ten Commandments down to 6? –

(The discussion uses Protestant numbering, rather than the Catholic and Lutheran numbering, which considers “no other gods” and “no graven images” to be part of the same commandment, counting two commandments against coveting, one about property and the other about relationships.  By that reckoning, the First Table contains three commandments and the Second Table seven.)

If we are to post the Commandments in the public square, would this be a solution?  Would it be better than nothing? Or would nothing be better?

New politics project can’t find a candidate

A lot of people don’t like either the Republican or the Democratic candidate.  Many people believe politics has gotten too extreme and want to vote for a centrist.  Quite a few people are sick of so much partisanship, believing that our hard times call for a national unity slate.  Lots of people believe our political system, with its caucuses and in-person rubber-stamping conventions, is antiquated and that the internet holds promise for greater participation in our democracy.

So Americans Elect was formed, with substantial backing, and gained ballot access in half the states.  Ordinary Americans would choose the candidates in a virtual convention.  The Presidential and Vice-presidential candidates would have to be from different parties.  (Thus the organization is saying it isn’t a third party, just a coalition of the two existing parties, though its candidate would be a third option.)

But despite the groundswell of support, the good ideas, the noble intentions, and the technological and financial infrastructure, the whole effort is fizzling.

According to the rules of the organization, candidates for the Americans Elect nomination will be in contention at the virtual convention if they get at least 10,000 online votes.  But no one has garnered more than 6,000.  (The one who has that many votes is former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer.)  The deadline for voting has passed.  The quasi-party has ballot access and a convention scheduled but no candidates.

Board members are planning to get together to decide on what to do.  Maybe they will change the rules.  But it doesn’t look promising for a new approach to politics.


Centrist group having trouble finding a presidential candidate – The Washington Post.