Thursday, March 15, 2007

Coulter's Evil, Rock's Cool

According to Drudge when LIFE recently asked comic Chris Rock if America is ready for an African American president, Rock told LIFE: "It's ready for a retarded president, why wouldn't it be ready for an African American president?"

Well, now. Perhaps in liberal salons there are nuances punctiliously limned and fine distinctions carefully drawn between calling a politician a "faggot" and calling a president "retarded." Indeed, we might conclude that they must be different sorts of attributions altogether since we heard all about Ann Coulter's insensitivity and coarseness when she referred to John Edwards as a faggot, but we haven't heard a peep of liberal criticism of Chris Rock for calling George Bush retarded. Nor, of course, do we expect to.

The difference between the Coulter and Rock episodes is telling. Coulter's slur made news primarily because it is in fact so unusual to hear a highly placed conservative indulge in such unseemly rhetoric. Rock's insult, however, is not news, at least not on the left, because such rhetoric is almost de rigueur among liberals. It's so commonplace and so widely accepted that it scarcely gets noticed.


Same As the Old Boss

There is a civil war simmering in the Democratic party and this will not help soothe the hostilities:

Senate Democrats will unveil a 2008 budget today that would boost spending for uninsured children, students and veterans without cutting funds for defense or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The budget also would not roll back any of President Bush's tax cuts after 2010, when they are set to expire. It says the tax cuts can be extended if they are paid for.

The Democrats have been proclaiming since last November that they have a mandate from the people to end the war and repeal the Bush tax cuts. It turns out the leadership is inclined to do neither. Lots of folks in the rank and file, however, are incensed at what they see as a massive betrayal by the people they elevated to power in November. We expect that pretty soon there'll be open warfare on the left. It'll be fun.


The NAE on Torture (Pt. I)

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has released an 18 page document laying out the theological, moral and legal basis for its opposition to any resort to torture. It is in many ways a fine document and in some ways an unfortunate one. The document is commendable for its affirmation of human dignity and human rights grounded in divine revelation and the imago dei, but it really does not grapple convincingly with the matter of torture. It's biggest failing, though not its only failing, is that it absolutizes its proscription of torture and makes no allowance for the motive or reason for which torture is employed.

It is certainly true that for Christians subjecting someone to torture for the purpose of punishment, revenge, or the amusement of the torturer is absolutely and heinously wrong, but there are circumstances in which, in our opinion, a ban on torture makes no moral sense.

Over the course of several posts we'll critique the reasoning in the NAE's document and try to show why we think it to be inadequate. We begin with this claim:

We believe that a scrupulous commitment to human rights, among which is the right not to be tortured, is one of these Christian moral convictions.

There is of course for the Christian a prima facie right of all persons to be secure and safe in their person, but that this right can never be forfeit is obviously false. We do not feel that a policeman is violating someone's rights when he kills an attacker in self-defense, for example. In other words, no human right is absolute, inviolable, or inalienable. My right to life and liberty does not confer upon me a further right to commit crime with impunity. A man's right not to be harmed is surrendered the moment he sets out to harm another.

The sanctity of life is the conviction that all human beings, in any and every state of consciousness or self-awareness, of any and every race, color, ethnicity, level of intelligence, religion, language, nationality, gender, character, behavior, physical ability/disability, potential, class, social status, etc., of any and every particular quality of relationship to the viewing subject, are to be perceived as sacred, as persons of equal and immeasurable worth and of inviolable dignity. Therefore they must be treated with the reverence and respect commensurate with this elevated moral status. This begins with a commitment to the preservation of their lives and protection of their basic rights. Understood in all of its fullness, it includes a commitment to the flourishing of every person's life.

All of this is, of course, entailed by Jesus' command to love our neighbor. It does not follow, however, that a commitment to "the preservation of their lives and protection of their basic rights ... [and] to the flourishing of every person's life" is absolute. If it did then we would be enjoined by such a commitment to abjure always and everywhere the use of force in defense of ourselves and in defense of others. There are some who strive to make the case that Scripture enjoins this degree of pacifism upon us, but I find their arguments to be in direct conflict with the law of love and the command to do justice.

It is not loving to permit an aggressor to harm one's family when the harm could be prevented by using force against the attacker. It is foolish to insist that police not use force to restrain criminals. It would be suicidal, given the world in which we live, to do away with our military, and it is unjust to refuse to punish criminals. Yet were we to follow the logic of the NAE's argument we would have to renounce the use of force in every situation and bend to the will of the criminals in our midst, suffering their depredations, rapes, and murders while refusing to take up arms to prevent them.

If we hesitate to follow the NAE logic this far, as I think all but a few would, then we must acknowledge that there are times when force against another human being is legitimate. The question then is what kinds of force are legitimate and under what circumstances may it be employed?

We'll take up those questions as we continue to examine the NAE statement. Meanwhile interested readers may want to peruse the document at the above link.