[If you're looking for the Harry Potter essay, scroll down, or go here.]
1. This essay on First Things crafts a clear and helpful distinction between charity and tolerance. This is a part of what Kierkegaard gets at when he says that the Christian concept of love is quite different, and sometimes even diametrically opposed, to the worldly concept of love. The worldly concept of love is to “live and let live” (that is, tolerance). The Christian concept of love, one might say, is to be full of grace and truth. Too often, in other words, truth is sacrificed in the name of tolerance. As the author, Brian Graebe, writes, true charity “seeks the moral good of another even when that causes offense.” Read the whole thing.
2. Circumcision, what God required of the Jewish people from the beginning, is increasingly cited as helpful for the prevention of AIDS and other diseases. I realize this remains a somewhat controversial issue, but it is interesting that many of the provisions in the Law given to the Jews turn out, we later learn, to be helpful for social and individual health.
3. More on the fight over whether government-run health care should cover abortions with taxpayer money.
4. Apparently Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Florida Gators and the most famous name right now in college football, is a devout believer and not afraid to speak his mind on abortion and pre-marital abstinence. He is the first home-schooled athlete to win the Heisman trophy.
5. Read this extraordinary story about a girl born missing half her brain, and how her brain has rewired itself so that she can live a normal life. The human body is surely an amazing thing.
6. There are evangelicals who believe that fetuses do not qualify as living human persons who are therefore entitled to the protection of the law. Most evangelicals are, however, opposed to abortion. I was impressed by the simple power of the following video, from John Piper and Desiring God:
I am pro-life, but I hold this position with fear and trembling, because I see the extraordinary sacrifices (though there are extraordinary joys as well) entailed in child-rearing. I am fearful, because: What if I am wrong? If my point of view prevailed, and I were wrong, then I would be complicit in constraining some women to dramatically change their lives rather than destroy the unborn in their wombs. I hope that those who are pro-choice feel a similar fear. What if they are wrong? What if they, through their advocacy for abortion ‘rights,’ are complicit in the deaths of a million children each year?
There is almost a Pascal’s Wager quality to the issue here. Which would you rather be wrong about? If you’re pro-life and wrong, you have compelled many women to have children they would not otherwise have. Most will not regret their decisions, though they will find their lives dramatically altered; and alongside the travails of child-rearing they will also have the joys. There will be some who obtain abortions anyway–which, these days, would involve a black market in pills and not coat hangers. Still, some would face complications and some smaller percentage would die as a result of the complications that follow from obtaining their abortion privately or etc. On the other hand, if you support abortion and you’re wrong, then 1-1.5 million children every year are being killed. True, they are out of sight. Perhaps we would rather avoid the suffering we see (those already born) than the suffering we cannot see.
7. Sounds like the Beer Summit of 2009 passed without incident. As expected, Crowley was not about to admit to racism, and Gates was not about to admit that he had been wrong to assume racist motives on Crowley’s part. See the roundup here.
8. Finally, Today’s Two-Sides. Paul Krugman does what all pundits and partisans do when their argument is not prevailing–he assumes that people are just too dumb to understand the argument. Or, put more delicately, there is a “wall of misinformation”:
Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care — never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.
On the right, Charles Krauthammer says that health care reform was felled by the Congressional Budget Office, which demolished Obama’s argument that his reforms would save money (and thus were not unwise in, but necessitated by the financial crisis). Most interesting is Krauthammer’s claim for what will happen next:
To win back the vast constituency that has insurance, is happy with it, and is mightily resisting the fatal lures of Obamacare, the president will in the end simply impose heavy regulations on the insurance companies that will make what you already have secure, portable and imperishable: no policy cancellations, no pre-existing condition requirements, perhaps even a cap on out-of-pocket expenses.
Nirvana. But wouldn’t this bankrupt the insurance companies? Of course it would. There will be only one way to make this work: Impose an individual mandate. Force the 18 million Americans between 18 and 34 who (often quite rationally) forgo health insurance to buy it. This will create a huge new pool of customers who rarely get sick but will be paying premiums every month. And those premiums will subsidize nirvana health insurance for older folks.
Net result? Another huge transfer of wealth from the young to the old, the now-routine specialty of the baby boomers; an end to the dream of imposing European-style health care on the U.S.; and a president who before Christmas will wave his pen, proclaim victory and watch as the newest conventional wisdom reaffirms his divinity.