The Down Syndrome Community’s Death Debate

Let’s try an experiment: Imagine you are a high school junior just starting to think about college. You have your heart set on The Big Catholic Football School with A Good Academic Reputation. But your mom and dad want you to have options, so they make you go onto the websites of a few other schools and ask them to send you their application materials. When these arrive in the mail, you toss them into a corner where they sit for months and months. After all, your mind’s already mostly made up—there’s really only one school you’re thinking of going to. Continue Reading »

America’s War Against Catholicism

Anti-Catholicism was the driving force behind the Mexican-American War, argues John C. Pinheiro in his gripping new study. The evidence he carefully assembles suggests an even stronger point: that it was the defining attitude undergirding the early Republic and antebellum years. Continue Reading »

The Bolshevik Moment

During commencement season, a number of speakers were deemed politically impure. Earlier in the spring, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was outted as a supporter of traditional marriage by gay bloggers and resigned under pressure. More recently, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock has been under attack. His sin? He’s a consistent liberal who has worked to defend the religious liberty of those with whom he disagrees about gay marriage and other moral issues. But these are just a few publicized incidents of what we all feel. Anyone working for a major corporation, law firm, university, or other establishment institution knows that deviation from progressive causes—especially gay rights—can bring the ­professional death penalty.We’re in a Bolshevik moment of sorts. After the February Revolution and the tsar’s abdication, liberals and other reform-minded leaders attempted to run the country. But they were uncertain of their own legitimacy. Unable to master the ongoing social turmoil and faced with the prospect of a military coup, they empowered the Bolsheviks and their militant Red Guard. Those whose ideological clarity justified assassination and intimidation very quickly assumed control.America in 2014 certainly is not Russia in 1917. Our society is stable. Our liberal elites are very much in control of the institutions they dominate, and their watchword increasingly is sustainability, not revolution. But theirs is a muddy, ad hoc ruling mentality. We’re to be inclusive—except when we’re not to be. We’re to be tolerant—except when faced with the intolerable. We’re to affirm—except when we’re to deny and denounce. We’re to think ­critically—except about liberal pieties. Our Ivy League presidents are all liberals, but I sincerely doubt they could give a coherent explanation of or justification for where the lines are to be drawn. This fuzziness makes them vulnerable. They’re easily intimidated by students and faculty who out-flank them on the left. They’re cowed by the Party of the Pure. Continue Reading »

Shaken not Smoked

Marijuana is becoming more socially acceptable and legally available. It would seem that a majority of Americans are in favor of decriminalizing the recreational use of pot, and the Department of Justice has advised federal prosecutors that possession of a small amount of it is not an “enforcement priority.” Those of us not opposed to a stiff drink will have to ask ourselves some hard questions. Why condemn joints when we’re okay with single malt scotch? Should the Church step in where parents and politicians are pulling out?Once limited to the black market, cannabis now has the seal of medical approval in many states. It’s come over the pharmaceutical counter and is poised to take a leap onto the supermarket shelves. At that point, consumerism will kick in and drive morality out. After all, in an age of taurine supplements, memory enhancers, wheatgrass juice, personal cappuccino machines, and colonic irrigations, most Americans find it hard to pass judgment on how others use their purchasing power to manage their stress. When peace of mind becomes a pleasure cheaply bought, the moral high ground is hard to find. Continue Reading »

Learning from Bodies

The baby in my arms lacks the majority of his brain. He was born just fifteen minutes before this moment, and he is likely to die before another fifteen minutes pass. He has taken no first breath and will give no first cry. He cannot see. He cannot hear. He does not feel the warm weight of my hand as it rests on his chest and belly. I quietly weep and pray as the last gift of oxygen his mother’s body gave him dwindles and his rosy newborn glow fades to gray. His soul gently slips out of his body, and his life ends.Ability is not what makes death significant. At birth this baby had capacities below that of a healthy fetus at ten weeks. Holding his body, living and then dead, proves to me that it doesn’t matter how early the human heart beats, how early it is possible to feel pain, or when the senses develop. No ability or strength confers human status—not being viable or sentient or undamaged or wanted. Being of human descent is enough; you cannot earn or forfeit your humanity. If this baby’s death does not matter, no death matters. Continue Reading »

How I Evolved on Gay Marriage

A young Christian, I arrived at college in the fall of 2004 with some of the usual intellectual difficulties: evolution, creation, the authority of Scripture, and so on. But I could think through them undisturbed, working them out in my reading rather than in debates. No one was asking, “Where do you stand?”With gay marriage on the horizon, that soon changed. It was a time when everyone was supposed to evolve—and I did, just not in the way I was supposed to. Unlike many other young Christians, coming around to approving gay unions as marriages never became a possibility for me. Continue Reading »

Libertarian Delusions

Recently I was invited to give a lecture on libertarianism at a prestigious Christian college. The large lecture hall was packed with bright-eyed, wholesome-looking Christian students, a number of whom lingered afterward to press their case for . . . libertarianism.Only ten years ago, this scene would have been unlikely. Most people had never heard of libertarianism, and for those who had, the idea consisted of not much more than vague associations with pot-smoking atheism and adolescent rebellion. No more. Once an eccentric and uneasy uncle within the American conservative movement, libertarianism has become the smart, disciplined, and well-dressed son, ready to claim his inheritance from his declining, if not doddering, father.Modern liberals tend to call anyone who defends the free market and limited government a “libertarian,” but this is incorrect, and serves merely to protect them from seriously engaging the issues. Whereas modern liberals relegate economic liberty to a secondary status, libertarians root it in self-ownership and regard it as the most fundamental right, without which no other rights are meaningful. Libertarians therefore are “minarchists.” They believe that the only legitimate use of the state power is to prevent coercion. Continue Reading »

Neither Side Got What It Wanted

On July 21, the President issued an Executive Order prohibiting government contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no exception for religious organizations with government contracts. But neither is there any override of existing legal protections for religious liberty. The Department of Labor is to issue more detailed implementing regulations in ninety days. Continue Reading »

Will Doctors Be Forced to Kill?

The wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters over the modest Hobby Lobby decision has me worried. Apparently, many on the political port side of the country believe that once a favored public policy has been enacted, it immediately becomes a “right” that can never be altered or denied. More, once such a “right” is established for the individual, others should have the duty to ensure access—even at the cost of violating their own religious consciences. Continue Reading »

Conservatives’ Mixed Message on Immigration

America has “bad-faith open borders.” We limit immigration but we enforce those limits only sporadically. Fred Bauer argues that this “is a distorted hybrid of the United States’ tradition of ordered borders and of the transnationalist aim of entirely open borders.” The distortion is real, but it is not rooted entirely in transnationalism. It is also rooted in a certain kind of American exceptionalism that has a history on the right, but that conservatives don’t talk about very much. Getting past “bad-faith open borders” will require rejecting romanticism and looking to the facts of the American present. Continue Reading »