Sunday, July 4, 2004

What's He Saying?

I don't want to make too much of this and maybe I'm misinterpreting him, so you tell me, is William Rivers Pitt over at the anti-Bush site TruthOut actually hoping for an armed insurrection to depose the Bush administration? If not, what else does his poem mean? If so, is the entire left now howling at the moon or are there still a few sane souls to be found on that side of the ideological divide?

The concluding lines of Pitt's poem:
The fail-safe, should matters become grave: The next sentence after "...from the consent of the governed."
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
The Declaration of Independence.
Which proves the existence of hope, again.

Misplaced Faith

Here's a piece on the different approaches to religion taken by President Bush and Senator Kerry. It gives a little insight into Bush, somewhat less into Kerry, except there is this interesting anecdote about the senator:

Kerry drew a more detailed contrast with Bush on his approach to science, in particular stem-cell research. Where Bush's attitude toward stem-cell research was shaped by his faith, Kerry declared his trust in facts. "We need a president who will once again embrace our tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear," he said. Backed by the endorsement of 48 Nobel prize-winning scientists, Kerry said he would "listen to the advice of our scientists" before making his policy decisions (as opposed to evangelical groups). "I have full faith," he explained in an entirely nonreligious way, "that our scientists will go forward with a moral compass-with humane values and sound ethics guiding the way."

This is odd. After assuring us that, unlike Bush, he will base his decisions on scientific facts he talks about his faith in the ethical judgment of scientists, which leads one to wonder whether he is consulting the scientists for facts or for moral advice. It appears it's both, but then what's the point of his implicit criticism of Bush?

Bush's reservations about stem cell research have nothing to do with the scientific facts of the matter, of course, and everything to do with the morality of producing human embryos only to have them killed by extracting their stem cells. Why listening to scientists rather than theologians on a matter of morality is a particularly wise course of action is unclear. No doubt that if President Bush had a question about what stem cell research can do, he would consult scientists, but the important questions are about what we ought to do, and in that arena scientists qua scientists must be silent.

In what has to be one of the most vacuous comments of the campaign Senator Kerry says he has faith that scientists will follow a moral compass. Well, I suppose they will, although history gives us reason to wonder which way their needle points. Scientists have not infrequently been guided by the maxim, "If we can do it then we should do it," so one wonders what it is, exactly, that the senator bases his faith in the ethical judgment of his scientists upon.

Scientists, at least in Senator Kerry's view, deal only with facts. By their own admission, in addressing moral questions, they would be mere laymen encroaching upon the domain of theologians and ethicists. These, however, are the very people president Bush has properly drawn upon for guidance in the matter of whether the Federal government should fund stem cell research.

Kerry's beliefs, we are given to understand, lead him to consult scientists on a matter of ethics, whereas Bush's lead him to consult theologians and ethicists. And Kerry criticizes Bush?

For a much deeper look at how Bush's Christian faith shapes him as a man and as a president see Terry Eastland's piece in the March 1st, 2004 Weekly Standard titled Bush's Gospel.


Christianity Today reports that Sojourners' David Batstone is calling for the Catholic bishops to excommunicate any Roman Catholic who supports the Iraqi war. In a letter to the Catholic bishops Batstone writes:

Sorry to speak so boldly, but you have no basis for so selectively narrowing your rich moral tradition. .. We recently have witnessed in the United States a decision and act by our political leaders to pre-emptively invade a sovereign nation-state. The social teaching of the Church explicitly prohibits and condemns such aggressive behavior. Pope John Paul II certainly understands this fact, as he made clear in an audience with President George W. Bush last month.

I have not heard one U.S. Bishop even suggest that Holy Communion might be withheld for any politician who enacted, or voted for, the immoral pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. Yet the consequent loss of human lives-both Iraqi and American-and the devastation of Iraqi society have been nothing short of tragic. Furthermore, this act of spiritual arrogance-invoking God's guidance while invading-has deepened historical animosities that surely will lead to more senseless bloodshed in the Middle East and across the globe.

Why is it that the bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church are unable to see this serious breach of morality? Over 250 of you are gathered in Colorado this week, and you only see fit to make public pronouncements about a sole moral issue.

Friends and brothers, I fear that your narrow-mindedness is turning the voice of the Church into something far worse than irrelevant. You risk stumbling into hypocrisy. I urge you to reclaim the full gospel of life, and announce it prophetically to those who would trample on the rights of the defenseless-those who have already been born as much as those yet unborn.

CT notes, however, that:

Most politicians who supported the Iraq war believed they were doing the work of justice and charity. A politician who supports abortion, however, would have a hard time saying he was protecting the unborn - the church radically differs on its teachings of abortion and war. "The killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified," the American bishops said in their most recent statement. The Roman Catholic Church has always held that war can be justified. The debate was whether invading Iraq met the qualifications of a just war, and it's worth noting that folks in the Bush camp tended to reference traditionally Catholic doctrine on this issue while folks in the Sojourners camp tended to take a more pacifist view.

CT does a good job of responding to Batstone's argument, and the entire article will be of special interest to Catholics as well as readers of Sojourners.

Dumb Philosophers Dept.

More evidence that philosophers are no smarter than anybody else:

"The Fuhrer alone is the present and future German reality and its law. Learn to know ever more deeply: from now on every single thing demands decison, and every action responsiblity."

Martin Heidegger, from an appeal by Heidegger to the students of Freiburg University