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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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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