Phil Lawler

To fix the American political system, first fix the American culture

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler
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November 9, 2012 (CatholicCulture.org) - Let’s face facts squarely. We have lost an election. We are in grave danger of losing a nation.

The 2012 elections were a decisive defeat for the culture of life. But this defeat did not “just happen” on November 6. It was the result of a long trend. If we don’t take action now to reverse that trend, we can expect even more disastrous defeats in 2014, 2016, and beyond.

The re-election of President Obama—who did his utmost to make unrestricted legal abortion a major campaign issue—is only the most obvious of the losses the pro-family movement suffered. In four different states, voters chose to move toward legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Up until this week, when American voters had the opportunity to weigh similar proposals, the results had been 32 victories for traditional marriage. It was 0 for a change. Now that perfect record has been broken; the momentum has shifted. In Massachusetts, the electorate only just barely defeated a bid to legalize assisted suicide, and the slim margin of victory for life is probably attributable to the fact that the legislation was very poorly crafted; advocates of suicide will surely try again soon. In Missouri and Indiana—states with strong pro-life leanings—Senate candidates were savaged for making ill-phrased remarks about abortion in extreme cases, and ultimately went down in defeat.

Yes we lost, and lost badly. Liberal commentators have been quick to conclude that the pro-life/pro-family cause was a burden that Republican candidates could not carry. Dan Gilgorff of CNN proclaimed happily that “Tuesday’s election results seemed to mark a dramatic rejection of the Christian right’s agenda…”

Not so fast. Was the agenda of the “Christian right”—the culture of life—ever really presented to the American public to be accepted or rejected? Certainly Barack Obama rallied his hard-left supporters by depicting the pro-family movement as a threat. But was there any corresponding effort by Mitt Romney and his Republican supporters to make the case of the pro-family cause?

Sure, Romney did occasionally claim the pro-life mantle—when he was speaking to a friendly audience. But he admitted that he had no plans to change the status quo (which allows for abortion on demand), and he never argued the case for pro-life policies. His running-mate Paul Ryan began to make that case during a televised debate with Vice President Joe Biden, but stopped short of making the natural-law argument in defense of human life, and failed to to show the true appeal of the pro-life cause.

So the Obama-Biden campaign scored a tactical victory by successfully portraying pro-lifers as extremists. This was an astonishing coup. Poll after poll shows that most Americans do not support unrestricted legal abortion on demand, and would support modest efforts to protect unborn children and their mothers. Yet the Republicans, who quietly support such modest measures, are perceived as the extremists, while the Democrats, who insist on protecting and even subsidizing abortion in every possible circumstance, have successfully presented themselves to the American people as the “moderates” in this debate!

How is this possible? How can it be that after nearly 40 years of energetic effort, the pro-life movement has failed to persuade the American public of the justice of our cause? My college tennis coach had a favorite maxim: “Never change a winning game. Always change a losing game.”

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

There’s an old adage in politics: “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Or as a grizzled campaign veteran once put it in a conversation, “You can’t make bear soup without a bear.” That compelling logic applies to political causes as well as political candidates. If only one side of the debate is heard, that side wins.

Forty years later I still find his logic compelling.

Back in the 1980s, pro-life campaigners could safely state their opposition to legal abortion and assume that a majority of constituents would agree with them. No longer. The climate of American public opinion has changed; acceptance of legal abortion has spread. What was self-evident in 1776 and in 1976 is not evident to most Americans today. The voters need to be persuaded; the natural-law argument needs to be made.

Unfortunately, at precisely the time when we should have been emphasizing that natural-law argument, many pro-life activists adopted a very different strategy. Rather than urging political candidates to make the arguments forcefully, pro-lifers began embracing candidates who downplayed the abortion issue, hoping to avoid debates. Sometimes the strategy was successful, and the candidates won. But over time, because the pro-life cause was not actively presented, the terms of the debate shifted toward acceptance of legal abortion. Soon we were being asked to accept candidates who were unwilling to endorse any pro-life legislation, simply because they were less objectionable than their rabidly pro-abortion opponents.

Many candidates who won pro-life endorsements because they seemed friendly to the cause have proved unreliable. Quite a few politicians who were elected with the enthusiastic support of the pro-life movement failed to deliver on their campaign promises. Some have openly deserted the case and joined the swelling ranks of the “pro-choice” crowd. There has been precious little movement in the opposite direction; the political current flows only one way.

For years the pro-life movement has tried to win elections without winning hearts and minds. We have been willing to compromise our fundamental principles in the quest for a temporary political advantage. Now we are left with neither. It’s time—past time—for a change in our approach.

In the argument above I have concentrated on the abortion issue, because it has been the focus of so much attention since 1973. But the same arguments could be made about issues such as same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, gays in the military, euthanasia, and religious liberty. On every front, the pro-life/pro-family movement has been yielding ground. On every issue, Republican political campaigners have, as a rule, been loath to take a stand, anxious to avoid a confrontation, during general elections.

In his stump speeches Mitt Romney pounded relentlessly on the theme that his policies would help create more jobs. This was unquestionably an important issue in a time of economic distress. But keep in mind that President Obama, too, claimed that he would create new jobs. Obama’s argument was implausible, but the point is that some voters accepted it. The main thrust of Romney’s message was persuasive only to those voters who accepted the Republican narrative regarding job creation. Meanwhile the unhealthy trend that affects every American household just as surely as job losses and economic recession—the decline of healthy family life—was nearly ignored in this presidential race.

Our economic problems may seem more pressing today, but the questions of family life—of what sort of society we choose to be—have far more long-term impact. Writing for National Review, Mark Steyn made the point:

If this is the way America wants to go off the cliff, so be it. But I wish we’d at least had a Big Picture election. The motto of the British SAS is “Who dares wins.” The Republicans chose a different path. A play-it-safe don’t-frighten-the-horses strategy may have had a certain logic, but it’s unworthy of the times.

But before we pin all the blame for our current troubles on shy Republican candidates, let’s be honest enough to look at things from their perspective. They feared that if they made the cause of life a major theme of their campaigns, they would lose. Alas, Tuesday’s results suggest that they might be right. We aren’t ready to win these arguments; we haven’t persuaded the American public. That’s why unless something changes—unless we adopt a different approach, and start quickly down a new route—we’ll lose again in 2014.

In a short but incisive analysis for World magazine, the evangelical scholar Marvin Olasky argues that our losses in 2012 were the fruit of 50 years’ worth of mistaken strategic decisions. Christians allowed liberal secularists to gain control of academic life, and indoctrinate the rising generations. We acceded to no-fault divorce, and the subsequent breakdown of families. We allowed ourselves to be caught up in the details of political contests, when we should have been noticing the adverse long-term cultural trends. We accepted noisy talk-show hosts as our main sources of information, when we should have been developing our own means of communication. Now after a full generation of political activism, the “Christian right” is worse off than when it first appeared on the American political scene.

Mitt Romney worried aloud about the growing number of Americans who now rely on government largesse. But there are far more disturbing trends in American society: the percentage of children born out of wedlock (a stunning 41%, and rising!), the number of marriages that end in divorce; the number of pregnancies ended in abortion; the number of young people living together without benefit of marriage; the number of families that never go to church. We aren’t just losing elections. We’re losing a way of life.

Look at the exit polls from Tuesday’s elections. The voters who attend church services regularly, the voters who live in intact families: these constituencies are still strongly supportive of the “culture of life.” We have been trying, for far too long, to use political methods to change cultural trends. It’s time to turn that approach around completely. If we can reverse the deadly trends in American social life, political success will naturally follow.

Twelve years ago, after my own unsuccessful campaign for elected office, I wrote: “My excursion into secular politics leaves me more convinced than ever that we cannot expect reform in society at large until we achieve reform within our Church.” To revitalize our country we must revitalize our culture. And to revitalize our culture we must revitalize our faith.

How appropriate, then, that Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed this a Year of Faith! At his public audience on November 7—coincidentally, the day after the American elections—the Pope said that Christians must help their secularized neighbors to recognize the “mysterious desire for God” that is an innate aspect of human nature. We must, he said, lead our neighbors in “learning or re-learning an authentic taste for the joys of life.” Every man and woman on earth is predisposed to religious faith, and to seek contentment in a happy family. If we can help people to realize these desires—which are pre-programmed in their nature—we can still recover our culture and our nation.

But how?

First, I suggest, by encouraging marriage. Be civil to unmarried couples who are living together, but don’t accept their situation as normal. Encourage married couples who are having tough times to stick together. Next by education—beginning in our homes and in our neighborhoods. Eventually we must join the battle to recapture the schools. Then by active involvement in the public battle of ideas. Since the mass media are hostile we must establish our own lines of communication, and the new social media give us ample opportunity. Most all, by example. Happy households are attractive; our neighbors will want to know our secrets. (If you are a regular visitor to the CatholicCulture.org website, I’m sure you will notice that the path I am recommending is one that we have been traveling for several years. I encourage you to join the campaign!)

We cannot and should not expect easy victories. This will be a long, difficult campaign. Things may get worse before they get better. In fact, with the renewed mandate of the Obama administration, they probably will. Cardinal Francis George has made the point in dramatic fashion, saying that “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” We all may be asked to pay a price for our faith—perhaps not at the cost of our lives, but at the cost of popularity or professional standing or even the cost of a job. But courageous witness will not go unrewarded. As Cardinal George said, in the long run a faithful Church will “pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.” If enough Christians are willing to pay the price our success is assured.

How can we restore the culture of life in America? It’s simple, really—not easy, but simple: by practicing our faith.

Reprinted with permission from CatholicCulture.org.

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Michael Lorsch, the real-life gay stripper hired by Canadian children's charity, Free the Children.
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So, a gay stripper walks into a top children’s charity and asks for a job…

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By Anthony Esolen

This week I'm taking a break from my essays on how to form in your children a wholesome moral imagination.  Instead I'd like to engage my readers in a fantasy of decadence.

Let's suppose that a prominent child-oriented charity in a once Christian nation hires somebody to meet with teenagers to encourage them to be “shameless idealists.”  Imagine that the pedagogue is a male stripper for a gay ho-down called Boylesque. 

At the Boylesque webpage, suppose you find a Mountie in a passionate kiss with a lumberjack, who is holding a bottle of beer foaming over. “Imagine your dearest Canadian icons,” say the Boylesque promoters, “stripped down and slathered in maple syrup for your viewing pleasure!”

Free the children? Teach them to blush. It's a good start.

The page features “Ray Gunn,” the Canadian “Mount-Me Police,” a rousing rendition of “O Canada” to make you “stand at attention,” an ad for a Valentine celebration of “debauch” at “our den of iniquity,” somebody named “Bruin Pounder,” somebody else named “Sigourney Beaver,” some stars of a “bisexual-athon,” and so forth. 

Imagine third-rate puns, puerile fascination with the parts down under, dopey titillation, debauchery, and “putting male nudity at center stage where it belongs.”

Now, let's see, what else can we add to this eye-rolling story? Suppose the boy-man who strips at Boylesque at night, after he works with girls and boys during the day, calls himself Mickey D Liscious. Let's give him an absurdly bogus education - a major in Sexuality Studies. Suppose the people who run the charity do more than look demurely aside from Mickey's mooning and lighting. They name him Rookie of the Year.

Now, to complicate the plot, suppose that people catch on to Mr. Liscious' nightly swinging, and complain to the charity. The directors say what cannot possibly be true.  They say they do not “discriminate” on the basis of what their employees do after hours. We presume that although whores and nudie wigglers may be welcome, people who write for conservative magazines would not be welcome, or embezzlers, pickpockets, bookies, loan sharks, dogfight promoters, or peddlers of contraband sealskin. The line has to be drawn somewhere. Prudence is a virtue. After all, we're dealing with boys and girls here. A priest who says, “Men and women are meant for one another, in marriage,” is to be shunned, but not somebody who simulates sex in front of hooting and howling strangers.

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Let's add the icing to the fantasy. We'll call the charity Free the Children, and we'll suppose that Free the Children encourages Mr. Mickey D Liscious to tell teenagers to be “shameless idealists.” 

Of course, everything in this tawdry and silly fantasy is fact. You can't make it up. No one would believe it.

You might suppose that I'd criticize Free the Children for its choice of Cool Child Companion, saying that he is the wrong boy to tell boys and girls to be “shameless idealists.” Mr. Liscious, for his part, believes that what he does at night and what he does during the day are of a piece, greasing the grooves and pistons of change. I take him at his word. He's right, and the directors of Free the Children agree. It's our turn to try to figure out what they mean.

By “idealist,” Mr. Liscious and his promoters do not mean “someone who believes that the immaterial is more real than the material.” Mickey is not giving lectures on Plato's Republic. They also do not mean, colloquially, “someone who believes in a high standard of personal virtue,” since such standards would deprive Boylesque of all those boys who like “a dirty flashmob” and “a Tim Horton's double-double served straight up.” They cannot mean that, because shame is what people with a strong sense of virtue often feel when they behave in a base or cowardly way.

The best they can mean is “unembarrassed promoters of some idea,” some fantasy of perfection upon earth, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the dictatorship of the proletariat, a “better world,” and other gauzy dreams that earn you points at a beauty contest, while you tilt your head like a poodle and modulate your voice for caring and sharing. 

And all I can say is that the last hundred years have been stuffed to the eyeballs with shameless idealists: shameless ideologues. They had an idea, or an idea had them, and shame on them for it. The more wicked among them had names like Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Khomeini. The more foolish had names like Harold Laski, who carried water for Lenin; Beatrice Webb, who carried water for Stalin; and Neville Chamberlain, who made a nice little pact with Hitler and proclaimed “Peace in our Time.”

Wilson was an idealist whose ideas got the better of his prudence and shame. We paid for that idealism in a crushed and belligerent Germany. The flower people of the sixties were idealists who scoffed at “hangups.” They could gaze upon the stars and sing about the Age of Aquarius, while their children looked to the empty place at table where Daddy or Mommy used to sit. Margaret Sanger was a shameless idealist. Hospital dumpsters are full of the result. 

We have had enough of shamelessness and foolish wars against reality.  

You cannot make “the world” a better place. The world is the world, old and stupid. Man is a sinner, and worst when he forgets that he is. That's not to say that you should sit and do nothing. Do the dishes. Read a good book. Be kind to your bothersome neighbor. Darken the church door and bend your knee in prayer.

Accept reality, and do the hard and unheralded work of cultivating virtue. Children are imprudent because they lack experience. Let them learn prudence from their elders. It takes no courage to follow the dreamy fad of the day, and children are suggestible. Let them learn the courage to resist the foolish and ephemeral. Children are often intemperate, because they're full of energy and so are given to hasty action and violent passions. Let them master and marshal their passions by subordinating them to right reason. Children see the world in stark oppositions of just and unjust. Let them keep their strong sense of justice, but let them temper it with the mercy that comes from acknowledgment of sin. Let shame instruct them in clemency.

Deny reality, dive deep into vice, and you will be a slave. Free the children? Teach them to blush. It's a good start.

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
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‘I am just getting started’: Florida AG vows to defend marriage despite rulings

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By Dustin Siggins

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is not backing down in her effort to defend the state's marriage amendment, even in the face of five judicial decisions against it.

On Thursday, the same day that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the state's amendment was unconstitutional, Bondi told reporters that her continued defense of marriage was related to her "oath to defend the Constitution of the state of Florida."

"When I was sworn in as attorney general, the 37th attorney general of the state of Florida, I took an oath," continued Bondi. “Six years ago, by over 62 percent of the vote, the voters of this state put [the ban on same-sex marriage] into our Constitution. That is part of the Constitution, which I am sworn to uphold."

Bondi acknowledged Hinkle's ruling in her comments, including his "stay" of the ruling, and said that her continued defense of the law "is me doing my job as attorney general. And I will continue to do that and if anybody wants me to moderate my message or stand for less, I have a message for them: I am just getting started.”

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bondi has taken fire for her defense of the state law. Critics point to her two divorces and a recent trip she took with her fiance as evidence of a double-standard, and in May she was heavily criticized for saying overturning the state's law would "impose significant public harm.” Same-sex "marriage" advocates took the comments as evidence that Bondi believes heterosexual relationships are superior to homosexual relationships.

Shortly after the uproar over Bondi's May statement, State Solicitor General Allen Winsor said in a statement that “Florida is harmed whenever a federal court enjoins enforcement of its laws, including the laws at issue here.”

“Florida’s voters approved a constitutional amendment, which is being challenged, and it is the attorney general’s duty to defend Florida law," he added.

Numerous studies, most prominently one done by Mark Regnerus in 2012, show that the best environment for children is that which consists of a married heterosexual couple.

Bondi joins a number of state attorneys general from both parties who are defending their state laws. Some Democratic attorneys general, perhaps most prominently Virginia's Mark Herring, have said they will not defend their state's marriage laws.

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Shock: UK mom abandons disabled daughter, keeps healthy son after twin surrogacy

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By Pete Baklinski

A UK woman who is the biological mother of twins born from a surrogate mom, has allegedly abandoned one of the children because she was born with a severe muscular condition, while taking the girl's healthy sibling home with her.

The surrogate mother, also from the UK — referred to as "Jenny" to protect her identity — revealed to The Sun the phone conversation that took place between herself and the biological mother over the fate of the disabled girl.

“I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a f****** dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child,’” she said.

Jenny, who has children of her own, said she decided to become a surrogate to “help a mother who couldn’t have children.” She agreed to have two embryos implanted in her womb and to give birth for £12,000 ($20,000 USD).

With just six weeks to the due date, doctors told Jenny she needed an emergency caesarean to save the babies. It was not until a few weeks after the premature births that the twin girl was diagnosed with congenital myotonic dystrophy.

When Jenny phoned the biological mother to tell her of the girl’s condition, the mother rejected the girl.

Jenny has decided along with her partner to raise the girl. They have called her Amy.

“I was stunned when I heard her reject Amy,” Jenny said. “She had basically told me that she didn’t want a disabled child.”

Jenny said she felt “very angry” towards the girl’s biological parents. "I hate them for what they did.”

The twins are now legally separated. A Children and Family Court has awarded the healthy boy to the biological mother and the disabled girl to her surrogate.

The story comes about two weeks after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their surrogate son in Thailand after he was born with Down syndrome, while taking the healthy twin girl back with them to Australia.

Rickard Newman, director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles, called the Australian story a “tragedy” that “results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.”

“Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation,” he said. 

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