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 | LifeNews.com.

Obama forgets Marbury v. Madison

It’s refreshing to see Democrats worried about an “activist” court, since they haven’t complained about justices “legislating from the bench” when they advance their pet issues.  But President Obama’s recent rants against the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down Obamacare when it hasn’t even happened yet–unless someone leaked their secret vote–is strangely oblivious to what the Supreme Court does all the time.  From a Wall Street Journal editorial:

President Obama is a former president of the Harvard Law Review and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. But did he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury v. Madison?

That’s a fair question after Mr. Obama’s astonishing remarks on Monday at the White House when he ruminated for the first time in public on the Supreme Court’s recent ObamaCare deliberations. “I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” he declared.

Presidents are paid to be confident about their own laws, but what’s up with that “unprecedented”? In Marbury in 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall laid down the doctrine of judicial review. In the 209 years since, the Supreme Court has invalidated part or all of countless laws on grounds that they violated the Constitution. All of those laws were passed by a “democratically elected” legislature of some kind, either Congress or in one of the states. And no doubt many of them were passed by “strong” majorities.

As it happens, probably stronger majorities than passed the Affordable Care Act. Readers may recall that the law was dragooned through a reluctant Senate without a single GOP vote and barely the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Despite a huge Democratic majority in the House, it passed by only 219-212.

via Review & Outlook: Obama vs. Marbury v. Madison – WSJ.com.

The vocation of card sharking?

Recently, we discussed what occupations would be off-limits for Christians–that is to say, not a true calling from God, a.k.a. “vocation.”  We talked a little about blackjack dealers.  Well, what do you think about this, a group of card counters who give the money they win to “ministry”?

By day, Mark Treas leads worship and baptizes new believers. By night, he plays blackjack at Caesars Palace and other Vegas casinos.

It’s all in a day’s work for Treas, who calls himself a Christian card counter. He’s part of a highly successful team of professional blackjack players known as the Church Team. The group was composed of 90 percent active Christians, included pastors, worship leaders, and church planters.

At times, the team acted like any other fellowship group, gathering for quarterly meetings, keeping each other accountable, and encouraging each other to be lights in the dark casino environment. But they spent their nights in Las Vegas, winning more than $3 million in three years and getting kicked out of casinos across North America.

Colin Jones, the co-founder of the Church Team, said the group’s overarching goal was to use their activities as a platform for living out their faith: “The way we see the world, everything a Christian does is a ministry, whether you’re a plumber or a priest.”

But many question if card counting is compatible with a Christian worldview. Even the players themselves mention the gray areas and differing opinions about their work.

Card counting is a strategy in blackjack where the player mentally tracks what cards are played to calculate the probability of a certain hand. While not illegal, casinos consider the practice cheating and will ban players they catch beating their system.

Jones and Ben Crawford first picked up the basic techniques of card counting as a hobby, but when friends from church expressed interest, they created the Church Team as a business venture in 2006.

Using money from outside investors and their own bank accounts – some risking mortgages and life savings – the Church Team rolled in $3.2 million from 2006-2009, with investors making a 35 percent annual return on their money. The players were confident in the statistics behind card counting and compared playing blackjack to playing the stock market. . . .

Many players . . .[say]  they hate the way casinos exploit people. Liberating money from casinos was an extra motivator, and one player said that he considered playing blackjack “a calling,” not a hustle.Jones also said that professional gambling can actually keep players from falling into gambling addictions. “Most addictions have everything to do with trying to escape reality. But when you’re a professional blackjack player, you’re not escaping reality at all. You’re exhausted after eight hours of sitting at a table using your mind to play.”

They also tried to hold each other accountable while working in an environment with a lot of temptations: “We felt that if people were falling into sin because of this job we’d shut the business down,” said Jones.

But as unhappy casinos continued to kick out the card counters, more “gray areas” arose.

Casinos have a business’s right to deny service to any customer, including card counters, and players sometimes disguised themselves to avoid detection by security. In the documentary, Crawford is seen donning a range of costumes, including an MIT professor and a black-lipped goth.

via Holy card shark | World on Campus: news for college students from a Christian perspective..  [Free subscription required]

This particular group has disbanded.  Notice the attempt to invoke vocation (“everything a Christian does is a ministry, whether you’re a plumber or a priest”) without really understanding what that doctrine entails (plumbers and priests are masks of God in loving and serving their neighbors, but how is a card shark a mask of God and how is he loving and serving his neighbors who run the casinos?).

Which is worse, gambling or cheating at gambling?  An honest blackjack dealer or a dishonest Christian player in a disguise?  Gambling or a theologically  problematic understanding of ministry?

Luther and the Euro crisis

From Lutheranism to its depths to Lutheranism in its shallows. . .

The BBC, of all media, has a feature on the influence of Luther and Lutheranism on Germany’s reactions to the current economic crisis in Europe.  This is at best a cultural influence, to be sure, not a theological one, but it’s worth noting, especially for a nation whose word for “job” is “calling” (Beruf), a legacy of the doctrine of vocation:

Exactly 500 years ago, one of Europe’s greatest thinkers was getting increasingly worried that good German money was being wasted.

Cash was heading to the Mediterranean, subsidising a bunch of badly behaved foreigners.

The 16th Century German thinker was Martin Luther and he was desperate to stay part of that great European project known as the Roman Catholic Church, but equally desperate not to support those who were ripping off German believers to pay to build St Peter’s in Rome.

The unfairness of the abuses fed popular resentment until German patience finally snapped. Luther broke away from his beloved Catholic Church, “protesting” in that great rebellion we know as the creation of Protestant-ism, the Reformation.

Nowadays, Germans – even those who are Catholic or non-Christian – cannot escape the Lutheran past.

It’s also the Lutheran present. The most powerful woman in the world, Angela Merkel, is a Lutheran believer, the daughter of a pastor. The new German president, Joachim Gauck, is a former Lutheran pastor.

And that cliche of “the Protestant work ethic” – hardworking German taxpayers, even if they are not actually Protestant, continue to bail out the euro while being caught in a squeeze as acute as Luther in the 16th Century.

In their hearts, from Merkel to the car worker on the Volkswagen assembly line, the German people are desperate to be good Europeans, just as Luther was desperate to be a good Catholic.

But in their heads, most Germans suspect there may be something wrong – something morally wrong as well as economically dangerous – about giving money to those who, in the German view, have been at best reckless and at worst dishonest. . . .

[After describing an interview with Chancellor Merkel.]  I was struck by Mrs Merkel’s political genius – quiet, cautious, the Hausfrau of her nation, so unlike the noisier, catastrophic male German leaders of the first half of the 20th Century.

The puzzle now is when her political decision to be a good European collides with her Lutheran conscience not to reward bad behaviour or be reckless with money.

I wondered whether for Frau Merkel, like Martin Luther, another reformation in Europe might be on the cards – not tomorrow, perhaps, but one day.

HT:  ABC3Miscellany

And yet, the reason Luther started the Reformation was NOT economic, though arguably the economic issues made people more receptive to the Reformation.   And wouldn’t Germans be tight with their money even if they aren’t Lutheran?  Don’t Catholic Germans feel the same way?  Or Reformed or “Evangelical and Reformed” members of the state church?  And does ANY European country really want to bail out the irresponsible Greeks?

Obamacare defenders taken by surprise

Even fans of Obamacare are admitting how poorly the administration lawyers handled the argument before the Supreme Court.  It is as if they didn’t anticipate the opposing arguments, much less prepare an answer for them.  It is as if they didn’t even conceive of how anyone could disagree with the goodness of the law.  From Rand Simberg (links to the quotes are in the linked article):

Having seen the transcripts of Tuesday’s hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only conclude that . . .testing their arguments against those of their political opponents. . .not only never occurred to the solicitor general or his defenders in the media, but that the very notion that their arguments had any flaws never crossed their minds.

In fact, even Mother Jones said that it was a judicial disaster for the government:

“Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. should be grateful to the Supreme Court for refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom, because his defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court.

…Justice Samuel Alito asked the same question later. “Could you just -— before you move on, could you express your limiting principle as succinctly as you possibly can?” Verrilli turned to precedent again. “It’s very much like Wickard in that respect, it’s very much like Raich in that respect,” Verrilli said, pointing to two previous Supreme Court opinions liberals have held up to defend the individual mandate. Where the lawyers challenging the mandate invoked the Federalist Papers and the framers of the Constitution, Verrilli offered jargon and political talking points. If the law is upheld, it will be in spite of Verrilli’s performance, not because of it.”

The months leading up to the arguments made it clear that the government would face this obvious question. The law’s defenders knew that they had to find a simple way of answering it so that its argument didn’t leave the federal government with unlimited power. That is, Obamacare defenders would have to explain to the justices why allowing the government to compel individuals to buy insurance did not mean that the government could make individuals buy anything -— (say, broccoli or health club memberships, both of which Scalia mentioned). Verrilli was unable to do so concisely, leaving the Democratic appointees on the court to throw him life lines, all of which a flailing Verrilli failed to grasp.

It apparently never occurred to him that he might be challenged on these issues. Why was he so unprepared?

For months we’ve been hearing from the usual suspects in the MSM about how ludicrous was the notion that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to compel someone to purchase a product, as though proponents of the proposition were advocating the legitimacy of slavery, or the notion that the government couldn’t prevent someone from growing wheat for their own use on their own land, or that it couldn’t prevent an individual from growing marijuana to treat her own cancer.

As evidence for their scoffing, they pointed out how that great constitutional scholar Nancy Pelosi was incredulous at the notion that there could possibly be an issue with it, or the more honest Democrat congressman (who somehow inexplicably later lost his election) who didn’t even think that it mattered. They also pointed out the sophisticated legal argument that it must be constitutional, otherwise its proponents would have actually put forth legal arguments supporting the case:

“That the law is constitutional is best illustrated by the fact that — until recently — the Obama administration expended almost no energy defending it.”

Could there be a more airtight defense? Perhaps, if one had a sieve.

All of this is evidence of the media/academic cocoon in which so many of these commentators live. It is a world in which it is unimaginable that Wickard v. Filburn may have been wrongly decided, in which there may actually be limits to federal power. It is unimaginable that the great solons on the Hill — Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, Frank — could possibly write a bill which might actually be unconstitutional despite its hundreds of pages that not one person read, and that we couldn’t possibly know what was in it until they passed it.

As a specific example of how completely gobsmacked they were, read “legal analyst” Jeffrey Toobin’s reaction to the hearing:

‘“This law looks like it’s going to be struck down,” he said. “I’m telling you, all of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong.”’

Shocking, Jeffrey, we know. Just shocking.

Shocking, that is, to anyone completely unfamiliar with the founding document and the intent of the Founders. Sadly, this includes most people in the traditional media, on which too many continue to rely for their analysis. The White House could have avoided, or at least mitigated, this disaster by hiring the smartest opponents of the law to come in and do a moot court exercise against them, in order to prepare their advocate in advance. But, whether due to arrogance, incompetence, or both, it did not.

via PJ Media » The White House/Media Cocoon on ObamaCare.

He made Himself nothing

What a sermon we had on Palm Sunday to introduce Holy Week!  Pastor Douthwaite preached on Philippians 2:5-8:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He made Himself nothing.

The word used there is the word ekenosen, which means He emptied Himself. Some Bibles translate it that way, and so its important to know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that the Son of God left His godness behind in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean that when He was arrested and manhandled by the Roman soldiers, when He stood before Pilate, and when He hung on the cross, He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. He could have. Easily. The same Son of God who healed folks of every disease and sickness, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, who could command all creation by His Word, whose glory shone in His transfiguration, and who had power over death – that is the Jesus of the Passion. The Son of God who willingly didn’t use all that power when it came time to save Himself. He made Himself nothing.

Yet perhaps we could go even farther than that, if that’s possible – He made Himself less than nothing. Taking upon Himself the sin of the world, He was the greatest sinner ever. Whoever you usually think has that title, the most evilest person you can think of, you’re wrong – it’s Jesus. He is the worst idolater, the worst unbeliever, the worst hater, the worst scoundrel, the worst murderer, the worst adulterer, the worst thief, the worst liar, the worst cheat, the worst everything . . . because He’s got all your sins and all my sins and all the sin of all the people out there, on Him.

Unfair? No. He took them. He wanted them. So that they would be on Him and not on you. So that they would be held against Him and not against you. So that He would be forsaken for them and die for them and not you.

He made Himself nothing.

The king becomes a servant. God becomes man. The One subject to none makes Himself subject to all. The author of life dies. The glory of God is hung on a cross.

Why? For you.

That’s what this day, and all this week, is all about. With all that you hear today, all that you hear this week, the thought to put in your mind is this: He did all this for me. For me. Not just for the world. For me. He made Himself nothing, to make you something. To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.

Maybe you think you’re nothing and that’s why you spend so much time trying to make yourself something. But there is simply nothing greater you can do or make yourself than what Jesus has made you: a child of God. That gives you more value than anything else in this world. And God has done that. He said it to you when you were baptized: You are now My beloved Son.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palmarum/Passion Sunday Sermon.