Secularism and Religion

Many here are aware that the basis of western civilization is in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Often we merely assert this, since we have known it all our lives, but it can be examined fruitfully.

I admire Melanie Phillips greatly because not only is she a very good writer and speaker, she is fully capable of thinking through things. And she does so here. Yes, this is a long read, but I think you’ll find it valuable to read the whole thing.

It has become the orthodoxy in the West that freedom, human rights and reason all derive from secularism and that the greatest threat to all these good things is religion.

I want to suggest that the opposite is true. In the service of this orthodoxy, the West is undermining and destroying the very values which it holds most dear as the defining characteristics of a civilised society.

In truth, in the United States, we don’t hear it explicitly very often, but in Britain, it is quite common in my experience. Not to mention very strident, not only from the secularists, but from Randians, and other assorted libertine groups.

Some of this hostility is being driven by the perceived threat from Islamic terrorism and the Islamisation of Western culture. However, this animus against religion has far deeper roots and can be traced back to what is considered the birthplace of Western reason, the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Actually, it goes back specifically to the French Enlightenment. In England and Scotland, the Enlightenment developed reason and political liberty within the framework of Biblical belief. In France, by contrast, anti-clericalism morphed into fundamental hostility to Christianity and to religion itself.

“Ecrasez l’infame,” said Voltaire (crush infamy) — the infamy to which he referred being not just the Church but Christianity, which he wanted to replace with the religion of reason, virtue and liberty, “drawn from the bosom of nature”.

[…] Instead of God producing heaven on earth, it would be mankind which would bring that about. Reason would create the perfect society and “progress” was the process by which utopia would be attained.

Far from utopia, however, this thinking resulted in something more akin to hell on earth. For the worship of man through reason led straight to totalitarianism. It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of Man on earth. And just like medieval apocalyptic Christian belief, this secular doctrine would also be unchallengeable and heretics would be punished. This kind of fanaticism infused the three great tyrannical movements that were spun out of Enlightenment thinking: the French Revolution, Communism and Fascism. […]

In the Sixties, the baby-boomer generation bought heavily into the idea propounded by Herbert Marcuse and other Marxist radicals that the way to transform the West lay not through the seizure of political or economic control but through the transformation of the culture. This has been achieved over the past half century through what has been called a “long march through the institutions”, the infiltration into all the institutions of the culture — the universities, media, professions, politics, civil service, churches — of ideas that would then become the orthodoxy.

From multiculturalism to environmentalism, from post-nationalism to “human rights” doctrine, Western progressives have fixated upon universalising ideas which reject values anchored in the particulars of religion or culture. All that matters is a theoretical future in which war, want and prejudice will be abolished: the return of fallen humanity to a lost Eden. And like all utopian projects, which are by definition impossible and unattainable, these dogmas are enforced through coercion: bullying, intimidation, character assassination, professional and social exclusion.

The core doctrine is equality. Not the Biblical doctrine that every human being is owed equal respect because they are formed in the image of God: equality has been redefined as identicality, the insistence that there can be no hierarchy of values of lifestyles or cultures. There can no longer be different outcomes depending on different circumstances or how people behave. To differentiate at all is to be bigoted and on a fast track back to fascism and war.

So the married family was kicked off its perch. Sexual restraint was abolished. The formerly transgressive became normative. Education could no longer transmit a culture down through the generations but had to teach that the Western nation was innately racist and exploitative.

Subjective trumped objective. There was no longer any absolute truth. Everyone could arbitrate their own truth. That way bigotry and prejudice would be excised from the human heart, the oppressed of the developing world would be freed from their Western oppressors and instead of the Western nation there would be the brotherhood of man.

All this was done in name of freedom, reason and enlightenment and in opposition to religion, the supposed source of oppression, irrationality and obscurantism.

At the heart of it was an onslaught against the moral codes of Christianity. Those moral codes are actually the Mosaic laws of the Hebrew Bible.

[…] What they [Western “progressives” and the Islamists] also have in common is hostility to Judaism, Israel or the Jewish people. The genocidal hatred of Israel and the Jews that drives the Islamic jihad against the West is not acknowledged or countered by the West because its most high-minded citizens share at least some of that prejudice. Both Western liberals and Islamists believe in utopias to which the Jews are an obstacle. The State of Israel is an obstacle to both the rule of Islam over the earth and a world where there are no divisions based on religion or creed. The Jews are an obstacle to the unconstrained individualism of Western libertines and to the onslaught against individual human dignity and freedom by the Islamists. Both the liberal utopias of a world without prejudice, divisions or war and the Islamist utopia of a world without unbelievers are universalist ideologies. The people who are always in the way of universalising utopias are the Jews.

Do read it all, and there is a deal more than I have given you. The full title is: Secularism and religion: the onslaught against the West’s moral codes. It is simply a superb examination of where our basic morality came from, and how it has allowed us to exceed former civilizations by orders of magnitude, and how it has come to be endangered.

Crossposted from All along the Watchtower.


Two for Tuesday

Well, let’s try something, I keep falling behind, and often I have two (or more) articles that bear on the same thing. Let’s see if we can connect them and make a coherent whole out of it. For Instance:

The school shooting in Florida is still rattling around the internet, but finally, some sensible people are saying things. These thoughtful people we should maybe be reading and thinking about. Gene Veith over at Cranach picked up an article that got my attention too at The Federalist. Rev Veith says:

On the most basic level, according to Romans 13, we are not to impose justice by taking personal “revenge.”  Rather, God protects us and punishes evildoers through the agency of authorities whom He has called to “bear the sword.”  In today’s terms, that would include police officers, our military, and other lawful officers.

A well-ordered society is not going to be what later political theorists would call “a state of nature,” in which everyone has to battle everyone else in order to survive.  God’s gifts of vocations makes for an interdependent society.  Then again, not all societies are well-ordered.  Lawless societies, as in the “wild west,” function differently.  And even in a well-ordered society, those who “bear the sword” cannot be everywhere.  But vocation still applies.  Keep in mind that we have multiple vocations, not just in our particular line of work, but in our families, the church, and society.

That’s important I think. We do have multiple vocations. Like him I’m using the term in the Lutheran sense of a God-given job, whether it’s preaching, policing, carpentering, homemaking, fathering, mothering, whatever. None of us is only one thing.

In his article linked from Rev Veith, Mathew Cochran says this:

It is therefore no wonder that, like people who work in schools and other gun-free zones, American Christians are beginning to ask themselves, “What happens when the shooter comes to my church?” How are we to handle a situation like that? Like anyone else, Christians would rather mentally and physically prepare for such an eventuality rather than being caught unawares.

I recently encountered a story about one such congregation’s deliberation on the issue. They opted to take advantage of a course on active-shooter situations offered by their local police department. Unsurprisingly, they caught a lot of flack on social media.

There was, of course the usual hatred about how these killings prove the supposed inefficacy of prayer or non-existence of God (how that reasoning applies to a religion that believes God sent his own son to be killed for us, they never quite explain). But someone also questioned how Christians, who are supposed to love their enemies, could possibly fight back against a shooter. Doesn’t “thou shalt not kill” prevent a Christian congregation from shooting a guy who came to murder them all? It’s not only a question Christians are asked, but one that we also ask ourselves.

On the Question of Returning Fire

First, nothing in that story talks about the congregation arming themselves so they can fight back. Nor is that implied simply by arranging a class of this kind. I attended the same kind of class at my church several years ago, and while I think they broached the possibility of shooting back once or twice, it was largely focused on other strategies to maximize survival.

And yet, there is no inherent dichotomy in a congregant returning fire. Last night I reread, Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense. It’s something I do regularly, and you probably should too. In matters of life and death, there is no substitute for getting it right the first time.

Not for the first time, I was struck by how closely the US law on self-defense parallels the just war theory as expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas, and yes that has secular predecessors as well. One of the things that gets us is a quirk of the English language. Most of us know the Commandment as “Thou shalt not Kill” but the usage of the work kill has broadened since the King James version was written. For what we mean as kill, the translators used slay. For what they meant as kill, we use murder, including involuntary homicide, which is a different matter.

It’s still something you have to figure out between you and your God, but it seems pretty clear to me.

But that doesn’t really solve the problem, does it, although it might lower the body count a bit. Other factors than self-defense are necessary to make a real difference. My friend Leslie Loftus on Medium wrote a bit about how training is everything and linked us to another article there. That article is by Benjamin Sledge, and it is outstanding.

The Military Does a Better Job at Gun Control Than Anyone

One thing that has baffled me over the years is that I can go to the grocery store and buy a pack of tic-tacs and then walk across the street and buy a gun. I’m not baffled that I can buy a gun, as I believe it’s an important liberty to have, but it’s the ease and utter lack of training in which I can buy something that has no other role than to kill something.

A knife can be used for cooking and a bat for baseball. But a gun? Unless you’re collecting them for a museum, the point of a gun is to kill something.

Let me give you a breakdown of how the military has gun control right, and society has the process backwards.

When you enlist in the military, you will spend several weeks learning weapons safety and training. Before you are ever allowed to fire a weapon, you must be able to disassemble the rifle, clean it, and then reassemble the weapon. You will take tests and quizzes asking you questions pertaining to the distance and speed a bullet can travel. Once you pass your exams, you will then fire the weapon under the supervision and training of drill sergeants and weapons experts. Last, you must qualify with your weapon on targets. If you’re unable to do that, they will not allow you to graduate from basic training.

He’s correct, it is rather silly. When the system works properly (not always a given) we do check if one is a felon, and sometimes if there are mental issues, but it’s not all that rigorous, and it’s pretty much of a one-shot deal, even more than your driver’s license is. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Read his article – I don’t completely agree with all of his points, but it makes the most sense of anything I’ve read on the subject.

For instance, I have no problem with arming teachers who volunteer, with their eyes wide open to the responsibility and possibilities, say like veterans who have become teachers, but there is room for debate there, not simply the yelling at each other we have been doing. I understand why we are doing that yelling, I do my share. But while it is important not to give away our God-given rights, this is not productive, in fact, it is harmful, to us, and to the Republic.

What cannot continue, will not continue, and having our kids shot down in school should not continue, and won’t for all that long.

Gone to Glory

Rev Gavin Ashenden, the former chaplain to the Queen recommends that we pay attention to this last message from Rev Billy Graham.

To our ears these days, it rather sounds like “That Old Time Religion” but it is the same faith, that the Apostle’s embraced, and died for, unchanged for 2000 years. That built the world we live in.

So yesterday it was announced that Billy Graham has left this mortal coil. We say that we can never know who God’ people are here, but if I make the cut, I’d be very surprised not to see the Rv. Graham there. I’m sure he had his sins, as we all do, but I’m also sure that he confessed them and was forgiven.

I was a bit young for his big Crusades, although they were rather ubiquitous on TV, and I watched some of them, but it was with the eyes of a child, my response would probably have been much different in my forties. But even as a child they moved me. And to watch him again on YouTube, moves me beyond measure, as I now have the experience, much of it painful, to understand this faith of ours.

How remarkable it is, that God himself came into the world and allowed us to kill him, as we still do daily, but that was not the end. Three days later he rose again, and if we do what is required, we shall spend eternity with him.

But I’m not the preacher man, Brother Billy was, and one of the best ever, I think, and now he too is gone from amongst us, but he is not gone, for he lives in each of us whom he brought his message too, and yes, one glorious day we will see him again.

Once again the Trumpets sounded on the other side, to recognize one of God’s own children, returning home, to God, and yes, to Ruth as well.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”


A Turkey of a Mess

Jed Babbin over at The American Spectator has written about Turkey, and how it is increasingly becoming a bad fit with the US, especially when contrasted with the Kurds, who with our help have taken the lead in destroying ISIS.

[L]ast week, President Trump had what must have been a tense telephone conversation with Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan’s forces are attacking Kurdish forces allied with America in the Afrin region of Syria. Erdogan has said his forces would pursue the Kurdish militias into Manbij, where U.S. forces are operating with the Kurds against the remnants of ISIS and Syrian forces.

That conversation led nowhere. Neither is Erdogan stopping the attacks against our Kurdish allies nor is Trump declaring them off-limits and promising to defend them. The fact that Trump isn’t ordering our forces to defend the Kurds is a confession of failure. It’s the result of thinking stalemated by the fact that one of our so-called allies — Turkey — has chosen to be at war with a real ally, the Kurds.

The Kurds are one of the many ancient peoples indigenous to the Middle East. About thirty million of them are spread over parts of northern Iraq, southern Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and Iran. A Kurdish autonomous zone of Iraq is rich with oil. But there is no nation of Kurdistan.

When Woodrow Wilson and the other victorious leaders of the allies that won World War One sat in Paris in 1919, carving up old empires and creating new nations, their announced goal was to create nations around self-governing peoples. One treaty created a Kurdish state and another signed shortly afterward dissolved it.

Since then U.S. relations with the Kurds have been an on again, off again affair. We supported Kurdish attempts to overthrow the Baathist regime of Iraq in the 1970s, withdrew support for most of the 1980s, but brokered a peace agreement between Kurdish factions in 1998.

The Kurds have suffered before and since. Typical was the March 1988 attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja by Saddam Hussein’s forces, using artillery and chemical weapons, that killed at least five thousand. We imposed a no-fly zone over Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, enforced by U.S. and British aircraft.

When Turkey denied passage for U.S. troops entering Iraq in 2003, the Kurds tried to help. They have been an ally ever since.

Kurdish forces — usually characterized as militias but with far more skill, organization, and effectiveness — have been at the forefront of our fight against ISIS for over ten years.

Turkey has always feared and resented the Kurdish population on its southern border. It fears their drive for independence which, if effective, could carve out a large portion of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq to create an independent Kurdistan.

None of what he wrote is, as far as I can see either untrue or unfair. It may be incomplete though. There is no rule that the US has to decide everything overtly, or that it should. Caroline Glick at Warsclerotic takes the same facts, and get to a somewhat different destination.

Last Saturday, Erdogan sent his forces over Turkey’s southern border to invade the Afrin region of Syria. The U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have controlled the area, northwest of Aleppo, since 2012.

There are no U.S. forces in Afrin. But the area is predominantly populated by non-Arab minorities, including Yazidis, Armenians, and Kurds — all of whom are pro-American.

The Turks say their objective in “Operation Olive Branch” is to seize a 20-mile wide buffer zone on the Syrian side of their border. That includes the town of Manbij, located 60 miles east of Afrin, also controlled by the YPG.

Unlike Afrin, there are many U.S. forces in that city. A contingent of U.S. Special Forces charged with training YPG forces are stationed there. On Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu threatened those forces. “Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” he said, according to Reuters. “If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop this.”

Cavusoglu added, “The future of our relations depends on the steps the United States will take next.”

The Turks’ pretext for the Afrin operation is as anti-American as it is anti-Kurdish.

On January 14, Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Baghdad said that the U.S. is training a Kurdish border patrol force in Syria that will eventually number some 30,000 troops. On January 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. has no timetable for removing its forces from Syria.

In response, Erdogan vowed to “drown” the border protection force “before it is even born.”

Erdogan then threatened the U.S.

“This is what we have to say to all our allies: Don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.”

The Trump administration’s immediate response to Turkey’s aggression against its Kurdish allies was deferential, to say the least.

Tillerson disavowed Dillon’s statement, saying the plan to train a border force was never approved.

“That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed. Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said

A senior White House official told the New York Times that senior White House and National Security Council officials had never seriously considered the 30,000-man border force.

These statements are consistent with the U.S.’s general practice for the past 15 years, as Erdogan has gradually transformed Turkey from a Westernized democracy and a core member of NATO into an Islamist tyranny whose values and goals have brought it into alliance with U.S. foes Iran and Russia and into cahoots with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS. The U.S. has met ever more extreme behavior from Ankara with a combination of denial and obsequiousness.

For example, the U.S. never sanctioned Turkey for its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The U.S. didn’t penalize Turkey for its effective sponsorship of ISIS. For years, the Turks permitted ISIS to use their territory as its logistical base. ISIS’s foreign recruits entered Syria through Turkey. Its terrorists received medical care in Turkey. Turkey was the main purchaser of oil from ISIS- controlled territory and there were repeated allegations that ISIS was receiving arms from Turkey.

And the U.S. turned a blind eye.

True, and nobody likes to admit that an ally no longer is, let alone that it may have become an enemy. Sometimes it’s not worth the embarrassment to say anything.

But the read-out of their conversation also reflected the distinct possibility that the Trump administration is implementing a sophisticated strategy for contending with Erdogan’s Turkey and its open and growing hostility to the US and its allies.

{I would bet on that possibility. – LS}

To understand that strategy it is first imperative to understand the present state of Turkey’s military.

While it is true that Turkey’s military is second only to the U.S. in size among NATO allies, the state of the Turkish military is atrocious. As former Pentagon official Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute wrote this week in the Washington Examiner, Erdogan has gutted his armed forces in the wake of the failed military coup against his regime in July 2016.

Forty percent of Turkey’s senior officer corps has been purged. A quarter of Turkish pilots are in prison. Turkey has twice as many F-16s as trained pilots.

Turkey’s performance in combat in Syria has been abysmal, from the very earliest stages of the war. Rubin noted that in 2012 Syrian forces downed a Turkish F-4, and Kurds have downed Turkish helicopters.

Syria has been a prime killing ground for Turkish tanks. Kurds, ISIS and Syrian regime forces have all destroyed Turkish tanks. The Kurds have nabbed Turkish intelligence officers. Turkey’s power projection capabilities are weak.

None of this has escaped the Pentagon’s notice.

Last summer, as the U.S. launched its campaign to oust ISIS from its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Erdogan told the Americans that he would deploy his forces to fight alongside U.S. forces in Raqqa if the U.S. agreed to ditch the Kurdish YPG. The U.S. refused. Washington opted to side with the Kurds.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Pentagon has a low opinion of Turkish capabilities. Turkish troops lack “the training, logistics and weaponry to successfully launch the siege of a fortified and well-defended city.”

On the other hand, the Pentagon assessed that the YPG were up to the task of assaulting and destroying ISIS forces in Raqqa. And as the battle of Raqqa demonstrated, they were right.

Rubin wrote that the Kurds in Afrin may well defeat the Turks.

So far, the Turks initial push has been unsuccessful.

While the U.S. has consistently treated Erdogan with respect, it has also sought to diminish U.S. dependence on Turkey.

Consider the issue of the NATO airbase at Incirlik, Turkey.

The Turks view Incirlik as their insurance policy. NATO air operations in Syria are coordinated from Incirlik. Most of the anti-ISIS coalition warplanes are based there. So long as NATO is dependent on Incirlik, so the thinking goes, Turkey can behave as abominably as it wishes.

So it was that following the failed coup in July 2016, Erdogan shut down Incirlik and paralyzed the coalition campaign against ISIS.

Erdogan failed to realize that his actions forced NATO allies to reconsider Turkey’s role in the alliance.

The U.S. responded to Erdogan’s move against Incirlik by expanding its air operations in Romania. And last summer, Germany’s Die Welt reported that the German military had identified eight alternatives to Incirlik, including three sites each in Kuwait and Jordan and two in Cyprus.

So while the stated policy of the U.S. towards Turkey is to continue to treat Turkey as an ally, the unstated U.S. policy is to bypass Turkey and render it irrelevant militarily while diminishing its capacity to harm either the U.S. or its allies.

I think that is a reasonable read of the situation, and if it is deliberate policy, well, good on the administration. We’ve enough open enemies to not need to make more, even ineffectual ones, and so merely sidelining one of them strikes me as good thing.

Peter Hitchens in Copenhagen

Peter Hitchens recently spoke to the Danish Free Speech Society. His message, while quite downbeat, is also quite (I fear) true. Perhaps, more so for Europe and Britain than for the United States, but perhaps we are all in this boat together. Sadly you young people will see. Listening to him put me in mind of King Arthur, to wit: The Once and Future King, the dream we share with the Roman Britons, that thing will be once again put right, but unexplained in that thought is exactly who will put them right.

In any case, a powerful and moving speech.


There is also a fairly long question and answer session that followed. To be honest, I haven’t made it all the way through it, but what I have, it is quite illuminating, so here it is.

Life is Winning in America

A few videos, scenes, not to mention words that moved me relating to The March for Life in Washington last Friday. Enjoy!

Over at Life News, there is an amazing time-lapse video of the people streaming the streets.

One more video maybe

The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, wrote an op-ed in the National Review last Friday.

In short, life is winning in America again. It’s winning because of the policies of our administration, and because of the commitment and compassion of those who gather today in our nation’s capital, and in marches, meetings, and homes all across the country.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins.

Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis-pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who bring comfort and care to women, in cities and towns across this country.

And life is winning through the quiet counsel between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee on college campuses, where the truth is being told, and hope is defeating despair.

We must continue to be a movement that embraces all and cares for all out of respect for the dignity and worth of every person. We must recommit ourselves to be a movement of compassion, not confrontation, of generosity, not judgment, and above all else, we must continue to be a movement of love.

This I know we’ll do – because I have faith.

I have faith in the goodness of the American people. I have faith in the president they elected. And I have that other kind of faith – the faith that moves mountains, and that, even now, stirs all across America.

And Senator Mike Lee with a floor speech in the United States Senate.

Mr. President, today hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life will participate in the 45th annual March for Life.

Why do these citizens march, year after year?

It certainly isn’t for their health … Or for the media coverage.

No, these Americans march on behalf of those who cannot.

They march for uniquely vulnerable members of the human family. For the unborn. For those threatened by abortion. And for the countless innocent lives already lost.

These Americans march to protest the legal regime that sustains abortion.

The cornerstone of that crumbling edifice is Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that invented a so-called “right” to abortion in the Constitution, and in so doing stripped the unborn of their right to life.

The principal effect of Roe on our culture has been to cheapen the value of humanity itself. 

Roe has insinuated into the law a poisonous notion, the notion that some human beings may be treated as things. As objects to be discarded when they are inconvenient. We’ve seen this before in human history.

But an unintended effect of Roe has been to kick-start a movement that has lasted for four-and-a-half decades.

Roe did not resolve the abortion debate — although it tried to. Rather it intensified the debate.

The nation’s conscience was not deadened by Roe’s euphemisms and evasions; rather it was brought to life.

Like a firebell in the night, Roe awakened a generation of Americans to the injustice of abortion.

Countless thousands of them are marching in Washington, Salt Lake City, and cities across the country today.

But the institution of abortion still has its defenders. Vociferous defenders, even.

Why does this issue arouse such anger and passion?

I argue it is because the pro-life and pro-abortion rights movements offer competing moral visions for our society. Indeed, competing arguments about human dignity and what it means to be human in the first place.

Both moral visions are as old as the nation. They have appeared in various guises all throughout our history.

But there is a consistent trend in how the clash of visions has played out in every era.

The vision advanced by the pro-life movement has inspired righteous protests. The other vision has been used to rationalize hideous injustices.

The pro-life vision embraces our country’s noblest truth. The pro-abortion vision twists it.

Let me explain what I mean.

Our Declaration of Independence contains one of the most succinct and revolutionary statements in human history.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We know that the United States has not always acted on this high principle. We have denied life, liberty, and opportunity to our fellow man in countless cruel and unfortunate ways.

But even in the darkest times, patriots and reformers have looked to this passage as a guiding light, because it is the conscience of our nation.

Abraham Lincoln referred to the Declaration constantly in his speeches, calling it the “sheet anchor of American republicanism” and the “Father of all moral principle.”

He called the Declaration’s statement on human equality the “electric cord” that links patriotic Americans through the ages.

Now that electric cord has reached us. It is a direct line that runs from the Founding Generation to the very heart of the pro-life movement.

The core conviction of the pro-life movement is that “all men are created equal.” That all have a right to life.

We believe that every human being has dignity and merits protection simply by virtue of being human.

You will often hear pro-lifers emphasize the human features of unborn children, as well we should.

We point out that the human heart begins to beat as early as 16 days after conception. We point out that the unborn child can yawn, react to pain, and suck her thumb. And we point out that that thumb even has a one-of-a-kind fingerprint.

But we do not mention these characteristics because they are what give unborn children worth. It is not our fingerprints or even our beating hearts that make us people.

Rather, we point to these characteristics because they point in turn to something more fundamental.

They point to the inescapable fact that the unborn child is a human being, just like us. A member of our messy family.

It is that endowment, that shared humanity, that gives us all moral worth.

And so, to summarize the pro-life position, we have only to repeat those five words in the Declaration: “All men are created equal.” All are entitled to life.

But to be sure, not everyone shares the belief that all men are created equal.

At various times this belief has been called an “error of the past generation.” It has even been called a “self-evident lie!”

Few today would denounce the Declaration of Independence in such terms.

But defenders of abortion still repudiate the Declaration by their actions, and by the arguments they advance to protect legal abortion.

Defenders of abortion no longer dispute that unborn children are living human beings. How could they? Science testifies unequivocally to our shared humanity.

Most sophisticated defenders of abortion do not even dispute that abortion is a violent act.

If you do not believe me on this point, perhaps you will believe Ronald Dworkin, a prominent apologist for the pro-choice position: “Abortion,” Dworkin writes, “[is] deliberately killing a developing human embryo.”

He goes on to describe abortion as a “choice for death.”

So if abortion defenders do not deny the humanity of the fetus, and if they do not deny that abortion kills the fetus, how then do they defend abortion?

In short, they do it by segregating the human family into two classes: Human beings who are worthy of life — sometimes referred to as “human persons”– and human beings who are unworthy of life — “human non-persons.”

According to this view, human beings do not deserve protection on the basis of their humanity alone.

Rather they gain the right to life when they attain certain characteristics — usually some level of cognitive ability or bodily development.

Since the unborn lack these magic personhood qualities, they lack the right to life and may be dismembered in the womb. They are “human non-persons.” Or so the argument goes.

There are many problems with this chilling view. It has been rebutted at length by smarter men and women than me.

But for the purposes of today, it is enough to point out the track record of this argument.

Because it just so happens that every time mankind has been artificially divided into classes — into “persons” and “non-persons” based on their race, sex, genetic fitness, or any other attribute — the result has been calamity.

Which leads to a very simple question that has never been satisfactorily answered by abortion’s defenders: Why should we believe that this time is any different?

Abortion is a difficult subject matter for so many reasons, but on another level it is quite simple.

Our society has to choose between the two visions of human dignity described above.

Put simply, do we believe that all men are created equal? Or that some are more equal than others?

This simple question deserves a simple response: We must choose the first of those options, and affirm that all human beings are created with dignity.

And we must reject all attempts to separate the human family into higher and lower classes.

Let us see these attempts for what they are: Cruel fictions that cheapen life itself.

Just as there is no such thing as “life unworthy of life,” there is no such thing as a “human non-person.” There are just people. And we are each fearfully and wonderfully made.

Yes, dignity was ours before we stirred in the womb. It is stamped onto the very fabric of our genome. It is printed onto our soul.

This is the truth so brilliantly proclaimed in our nation’s Founding Documents — even as it is denied by our legal system, starting with Roe v. Wade.

But even though the laws of man are against us (for now!), the truth is with us. And the truth can erode even the most formidable edifice of lies.

And so, on this forty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let us respond to Roe as Frederick Douglass responded to a similar indignity, Dred Scott v. Sandford.

“Happily for the whole human family,” Douglass thundered, “their rights have been defined, declared, and decided in a court higher than the Supreme Court.”

Those words are as true today as they were when they were spoken.

They call us to continue the winding march for justice — and for life –until the unalienable rights of every human being are respected in our land.

Thank you.


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