Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hadley Arkes: "Rick Warren's Predicament, Obama's Chilling Cleverness"

Prof. Hadley Arkes writes at The Catholic Thing:

As we move each day closer to the Age of Obama, few things have been as chilling – or revealing – as that gesture offered as a grand show of “reaching out to the other side”: the invitation to Pastor Rick Warren. Warren is the author of that highly noted work The Purpose Driven Life. He also presided over that famous session at the Saddleback Forum, in which Obama remarked, on the subject of abortion, that the question of when human life begins was one beyond his “pay grade.” That encounter turned out to be, for Obama, a minor disaster. All of which seemed to bespeak a large nature when he invited the Rev. Warren to give one of the invocations at the upcoming inauguration.

For Warren has been quite clear in his public teaching as pro-life, opposed to same-sex marriage, and unwilling to regard the homosexual life on the same plane of legitimacy as that “sexuality imprinted in our natures.” The invitation to Warren has sparked cries of “betrayal” and spasms of violent outrage on the part of gay activists and the partisans of legal abortion. Another group, even more fevered, has sought to go to court to block Warren from invoking Jesus Christ on this high public occasion. Warren, an evangelical, professes not to know how to give anything called a prayer without invoking Christ. But while Warren has become a target of hatred, the clear winner, sailing serenely beyond it all, has been Barack Obama. As James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal observed, the show of hatred on the part of the Left has simply drawn to Obama the sympathy and good will of the religious in this country as he holds to his decision and refuses to disinvite the Rev. Warren.

And yet, as this controversy has unfolded, there has been surprisingly little attention given to the dilemma of the Rev. Warren, or to injuries he is likely to impart by lending his benediction to this event. Against all reason, against all evidence available to the senses, the surveys reveal a bloc of people, evangelicals and Catholics, who actually think Obama is pro-life. For Warren to offer his blessings at the inauguration is to foster the impression, irresistibly, that Obama’s intentions reflect at least a good will, that his policies on abortion come well within the range that Warren may regard as defensible and legitimate.

And yet, any sober look at Obama’s record, and the planning for the new administration, should sweep away instantly any such benign haze. We already knew that on the first day in office, Obama would overturn the executive orders restored by President Bush barring the funds of the national government from any agency, foreign or domestic, that promoted or performed abortions. But with the departure of the Republican administration, there would be no veto on a host of measures that the Democratic majority has been gearing up to pass: the removal of restraints on the funding of abortions in military facilities, in every program and agency of the government and the District of Columbia, and even in the Indian Health service, with its program for Native Americans. Obama may emit sounds about finding common ground, but it would require a vast project in self-deception for anyone to believe that Obama would make the slightest concession to any moral premise on the pro-life side.

Pastor Warren cannot believe that his presence would do anything more than preserve, for certain evangelicals and Catholics, the deception that has beguiled them. But Warren’s dilemma was that he could not decorously refuse. He would appear small-natured, and his community of Christians narrow, unbending. Could he use the occasion, not only to invoke the Lord, but to raise anew the call to respect the lives of the unborn? That would only make things worse. For it would do nothing to summon Democrats and it would only further the impression that those pro-life sentiments were shared by the new president. Nothing has brought home more surely the consummate cleverness of Obama in offering that invitation to Warren, making it impossible for him to refuse, and gaining nothing but dividends for himself from every angle.

My Comments:
When the news first broke of Rev. Warren's being chosen to deliver a prayer at President-elect Obama's inauguration, I remarked to Sarah that this was a brilliant piece of triangulation on Obama's part.

Obama gets to curry favor with values voters without actually doing anything to pursue their agenda objectives, while at the same time having a "Sister Souljah moment" with the gay lobby and the abortion lobby, all the while pursuing a pro-same-sex and pro-abortion agenda.

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At 1/07/2009 11:25 AM, Blogger SQUELLY said...

This is so awful! My prayers are with you America-your faith is great. Keep fighting!

At 1/07/2009 12:58 PM, Blogger A Y said...

I understand your disdain for abortion, but why do you insist on talking about the "pro-same-sex agenda" as if it is in the same moral category as abortion? It seems like every time you talk about abortion, you always sneak a reference to homosexual relationships. The two are in such different moral categories that I am not sure how in the world someone would even think of mentioning one when talking about the other.

I am pro-life, but at the same time support homosexual marriages because I see absolutely no valid reason to reject them. I think homosexual relationships and marriages can be moral or immoral depending on the context of the relationship. The same is true of heterosexual relationships.

It does not bother me so much that you think homosexual marriages or unions are immoral. What irritates me is that you think homosexuals have some sort of agenda that is different from the "heterosexual agenda." They want the same rights that you have, namely to be in a legally recognized relationship with the person they love.

At 1/07/2009 1:14 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Of course he could refuse. I would have refused. I would have told Obama that I would give the invocation at his inauguration if he would repudiate his support for unlimited abortion crime (and I would use this language). I would explain why his position is morally indefensible.

He obviously would not accept my conditions and I would take that opportunity to explain why his position in favor of abortion violence was morally indefensible. I would attempt to begin the process of driving a deep wedge between anti-life Democratic politicians like Obama and the Black and Hispanic communities. I would do this by pointing out how many minority children will lose their lives as a result of Obama taking power (about 300, 000 additional lives lost). Nothing would stop me doing this. What would prevent Warren from doing the same thing? Probably because he does not support unborn human rights to the same extent that I do.

Again and again and again our movement is fatally weakened and compromised by people who claim to be "pro-life" but are not really willing to do what it takes actually to stop abortion crime.

Until we do what it takes and get all our supporters to do the same I do not think we can win this struggle. Treating an abortionist politician like Obama as in any way legitimate is not a good start.

At 1/07/2009 1:16 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"I understand your disdain for abortion, but why do you insist on talking about the "pro-same-sex agenda" as if it is in the same moral category as abortion?"

Because this is a Catholic blog with a focus on culture of life issues ("culture of life" in this context refers to more than just abortion) and, as such, supports the Church's social teaching, which deems BOTH abortion and same-sex "marriage" to be not only contrary to the common good, but to be items that are "not-negotiable" for Catholic voters:

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

- protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

- the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

What I have referred to as the "same-sex agenda" affects the 2nd and 3rd items in Pope Benedict's list, the first one directly and the second one indirectly (see, e.g., the case of the Massachusetts father who objected to a book in his young son's class about same-sex "marriage").

At 1/07/2009 1:31 PM, Blogger The Dutchman said...

Why not just take this at face value? I think Obama really is trying to reach out and try to bring some unity to this fragmented country.

Does it really do the country any good for you to keep on hating him over one issue? Over a minority position? Over an issue which 2/3 of American support him on?

The only difference between Obama and McCain on abortion is that Obama admitted that abortion was here to stay while McCain pretended he would buck the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Americans and do something about it. (Guess what? He was lying!)

Do you think, maybe, we could just give our President Elect a chance to do something about the war, or the economy, or the heath-care mess, or any of the dozens of pressing issues that face the country today?

At 1/07/2009 1:39 PM, Anonymous M.Z. said...

Who are all these folks who think Obama is pro-life? The election is done. There were pro-lifers, many pro-lifers, that voted for Obama that knew perfectly well his position on abortion. The condescention that treats that as ignorant rubes doesn't benefit anyone. The most likely explanation is that some pro-lifers disagree, a completely foreign concept in social affairs, with others on the efficacy of voting for McCain over Obama. And yes, I know that statement was made in the quoted text and not by Jay.

As for convocation or whatever is, is it really worth it? It no more affects the cause for ending abortion than tying my left shoe before my right shoe. Joe offering his martyrdom in the comments is silly. It is time to get back to substance. Is Warren's act increasing the incidence of abortion? No. Then move on.

At 1/07/2009 1:47 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

Who "hates" Obama? Not me. I profoundly disagree with him and believe him to be bad news for the culture of life, which is not the same thing as "hating" him.

And who said anything about John McCain? Who said John McCain was going to do anything about abortion? Not I. But then, you had your talking point ready before you bothered to read a single thing I've ever written on the subject of John McCain's numerous shortcomings. I wish Obama's sycophantic apologists were at least as honest about where he falls short of the Catholic ideal as those who held their noses to reluctantly vote for McCain. (Please note that I do not include M.Z. in that category. He was quite forthright in pointing out where President-elect Obama fell short on culture of life issues.)

And the facts are the facts: President-elect Obama holds positions on abortion and same-sex "marriage" that are contrary to Catholic teaching. And he, in fact, is trying to "reach out" to values voters without actually doing anything to advance their agenda on these matters.

You haven't refuted any of this, only tried to make excuses for it by appealing to what "the majority" of Americans allegedly want. But, as Pope Benedict has stated, "Truth is not determined by a majority vote."

At 1/07/2009 2:42 PM, Blogger A Y said...

Mr. Anderson, I guess that is my principle problem with Pope Benedict XVI, that he is willing to claim that homosexual relationships are such a negative force on society. In terms of voting issues, I cannot say that homosexual relationships are even on my list. I think that homosexuals ought to have their rights, but there are much more pressing needs to address in this nation at the moment.

I have a deep respect for the current pope, and respect a lot of the work he has done in trying to establish the seeds of hope and peace into the lives of people throughout the world. I just think that he is far off base with his criticisms of homosexuals. I do not see how two people enjoying a self-giving love within the context of homosexual relationships compares to the destruction of a human life within the context of abortion. I guess I do not think that homosexual relationships degrade the "Culture of Life." In fact, I think they can enhance it.

On a different note, though, I do enjoy your blog. I do not always agree with you, but you do provide a lot of links that I would never come across otherwise. As far as that goes, please keep up the good work!

At 1/07/2009 2:51 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

The Church's teaching on homosexuality are the Church's teachings, not Pope Benedict's. He is merely re-asserting what the Church has always taught on the matter.

At 1/07/2009 3:05 PM, Blogger Adrienne said...

Well - ok. Guess I'll have to be one of the lone voices here. Jay IMHO you are correct and, as per usual, the more liberal minded must resort to ad hominem attacks.

Dutchman "Does it really do the country any good for you to keep on hating him over one issue? Over a minority position? Over an issue which 2/3 of American support him on?"

Forming your values and your conscience according to popular opinion is not always the best course of action.

I don't "hate" him either. I do view him with a profound sense of sadness. He is nothing more than a power hungry puppet being used by people way smarter and more powerful.

At 1/07/2009 3:51 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

Okay, Adrienne, now I feel compelled to respond to your comment (a) because today at your blog you mentioned people who fail to respond to comments and (b) because, contrary to my usual practice, I've responded to practically everyone else who has commented at this post.


At 1/07/2009 5:16 PM, Blogger Adrienne said...

LOL - You were never in that category. Funny how people responded to what I wrote. They were either overcome with sadness for me (?) or guilt about their own perceived failings. Ah, the power of the pen.

Really and truly, other than one certain priest in Great Briton (who shall remain nameless), I pay little attention once I've left a comment.

I certainly realize folks like you with important jobs and young families have little time for such things. As to commenting to the others - well, you sort of had to.

I generally never, ever leave comments that do not agree with the blogger. My exception is if a blogger buddy is being unfairly attacked. I see no point in comment box flame wars.

Now how's that for "too much information?"

At 1/08/2009 2:20 PM, Blogger The Dutchman said...

Okay, the facts are the facts: For some thirty-five years about two-thirds of Americans have thought abortion should be legal. These numbers have not changed and show no sign of changing in the future. It’s over. We’ve lost. This issue is not in play any more. Time to move on.

[Please, please, please, don’t go telling me that I shouldn’t form my conscience to popular opinion, or that a majority doesn’t define truth. My point is that, in a democracy, a majority does decide social policy, and that abortion has had that majority for thirty-five years now.]

You want to lose on the same sex marriage issue as well? Keep putting it in moral terms and you will loose on the “fairness” issue. For twenty years we have been harping on the morality of gay marriage and we’ve been loosing ground. Each new cohort of voters is ever more liberal on this issue and, right now, it’s just a matter of time before an absolute majority of Americans thinks that “discriminating” against homosexuals is “unfair.” Our only chance is to recast this as a social policy issue (i.e. “Do we want to give marital benefits to couples who cannot produce a family?”) and to quit trying to impose our Catholic world-view on an increasingly secular society.

There are issues in play now that are far more pressing than either abortion or gay marriage. The economy is a wreak, we are hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs overseas, or health-care system is over-priced and inefficient, our infrastructure is crumbling, and all of these issues affect the quality of our daily lives. Criticizing Obama on these issues might be relevant; harping on abortion and gay marriage is not.

At 1/08/2009 3:30 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"More pressing"? To whom? Certainly not to me.

Forgive me if I find the indiscriminate killing of the unborn and a desire on the part of the President-elect and his party to remove any and all obstacles thereto slightly "more pressing" that whatever your pet issue of the moment may be.

I'm beginning to think the Regular Guy is prophetic, at least when it comes to assessing certain commenters.

At 1/08/2009 10:02 PM, Blogger The Dutchman said...

I own a print shop. About every six months someone will come in with big ideas and a small budget. Maybe a design student who has $300- to get a thousand post cards for his friend’s band. And maybe he wants die cutting. Now, I’ll give him an estimate for, say $500-, and then he’ll try playing with the numbers. What if we do fewer cards? What if we use cheaper paper? As soon as I see what he’s up to, I’ll point out that the big nut is the die-cutting, which accounts for about $300- of the cost. Finally, sometimes sooner but usually later, he’ll come clean about his budget, we’ll get realistic about what he can afford, and he’ll get some cards.

What does this got to do with the politics of abortion? Simple — like that art student, you haven’t got the budget. The support for banning abortion simply isn’t there and, given present trends, won’t be there in my lifetime. Now, it costs the art student nothing to get a quote from me, but it costs Pro-Life voters any voice they may have in politics whenever they throw away their franchise by voting on the basis of an issue that dead in the water.

"More pressing"? Yes — objectively more pressing. Decisions will be made on the economy, foreign trade, energy policy, health care delivery, war and peace. These issues will be decided and, if you spend all of your political capital on the abortion issue, they will be decided without you. But the decision about abortion was a fait accompli long ago, and we lost.

No change will take place on the abortion front. Right now, there are no obstacles to getting an abortion in America today. Despite what the scaremongers have told you, FOCA changes nothing. (It merely codifies Roe v. Wade as an act of Congress, and is thus completely redundant.)

Characterizing concern with the actual questions facing the electorate today as “pet issues of the moment” is simply name-calling.

At 1/08/2009 11:36 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"Despite what the scaremongers have told you, FOCA changes nothing. (It merely codifies Roe v. Wade as an act of Congress, and is thus completely redundant.)"

In addition to being grossly insulting to those of us who can determine for ourselves (you know, some of us do have legal training) what FOCA will do, your comment has the added benefit of being completely untruthful. FOCA will go far beyond the status quo, and will wipe out what few protections for the unborn do exist (such as the PBA ban, parental consent/notification laws, conscience clauses for health-care providers, etc.)

And just who are these "scaremongers" you mention? Cardinal George? Cardinal Rigali? My own Bishop Blair? All of whom, in addition to the entire USCCB, have issued statements condemning FOCA for the very reasons I've stated above. Sorry, but I'm going with my own reading of FOCA (as a lawyer) and with that of the Catholic Bishops, rather than with the obvious Obama Catholic talking points that you're regurgitating.

At this point, you're just pathetic - you've become such an Obama sycophant that you're more willing to take the Obama spin at face value than you are to listen to the voices of your own Bishops, who you've relegated to the status of "scaremongers".

At 1/09/2009 1:56 AM, Blogger The Dutchman said...

That's what Douglas Kmiec says FOCA will do, and he was U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Reagan and Bush.

At 1/09/2009 8:18 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"That's what Douglas Kmiec says FOCA will do ..."

Doug Kmiec? Seriously? You're going to quote that guy as an authority at this blog? LOL!

You might want to investigate my blog a little further to discover just how much (or little) cache Prof. Kmiec's endorsement carries around here. What a frickin' joke!

At 1/09/2009 9:27 AM, Anonymous crankycon said...

That's what Douglas Kmiec says FOCA will do, and he was U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Reagan and Bush.

That has to be the most unintentionally hilarious comment in the history of his blog.

At 1/09/2009 9:43 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"That's what Douglas Kmiec says FOCA will do, and he was U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Reagan and Bush."

Yeah, and Judas was treasurer for Jesus Christ. What's your point?

"That has to be the most unintentionally hilarious comment in the history of his blog."

It's certainly right up there in the top 2 or 3.


At 1/09/2009 4:14 PM, Blogger The Dutchman said...

Doug Kmiec? Seriously? You're going to quote that guy as an authority at this blog? LOL!

Yes, he is an authority. He has a long and distinguished record of government service and academic achievement. You might not like him, you might not agree with his opinion, but by any objective standard he is an authority.

Yeah, and Judas was treasurer for Jesus Christ. What's your point?

So — when, after about thirty some years of political involvement, of close association with both the Republican Party and the Pro-Life movement, Douglas Kmiec comes out against the Republicans and says that a pro-life voter can, in good conscience, vote for Obama this proves, not that the Republicans are in any way discredited, but only that Doug Kmiec is a Judas?

I see …

If I were a Republican, and someone with Kmiec’s record as a Republican and staunch pro-lifer changed sides, it would make me reassess, think things over. I would not simply denounce him as a “Judas.”

I thought that we were having a discussion here so that we could think things over, clarify our positions, entertain doubt, learn from each other. But now I see that this is merely a soap-box for the closed-minded.

Sorry I intruded on your private party.

At 1/09/2009 4:45 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"But now I see that this is merely a soap-box for the closed-minded."

Get over yourself. Rather than jumping to conclusions about what I think, why don't you read a little more in-depth what I've written at this blog?

You obviously don't have a clue, but rather are reacting to the fact that I have profound disagreements with Pres-elect Obama, and are seeking to attribute those disagreements first to malice, then to ignorance, and now to closed-mindedness on my part.

Furthermore, my issues with Kmiec are not so much that he decided to support Obama - there are several people with whom I am friends or who I admire that voted for Obama. My problem with Kmiec - and I think this is true of most pro-life Catholics who have criticized him - is with the disingenuous reasons he provided for doing so.

By the way, where did I call Kmiec a "Judas"?


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