Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who’s Legislating Morality Now?

Published: 11.20.09 at Townhall.

When I argue that abortion under most circumstances should be illegal, I am charged with trying to legislate morality.

When I say divorce ought to be harder to obtain, not easier, I am said to be trying to legislate morality.

And when I say states should be free to make laws concerning adultery, homosexual behavior, contraception, or premarital sex, I am accused of trying to legislate morality.

Yet when Barack Obama and the Democrats propose making it a crime to not carry health insurance, no one seems to notice that they are very aggressively trying to legislate morality.

In fact, the same people who object to my proposed legislations of morality seem to think it’s a wonderful virtue that he wants to do so many “good” things for the poor people who can’t currently get health insurance. And if that plan entails criminalizing the decision to forego such insurance, well, why wouldn’t we fine people or put them in jail for refusing to repent of their obstinate immorality in obstructing such a virtuous social project?

We have been told that poor people, children, and people with pre-existing medical conditions are all being mistreated by our current health care system. We have been told that it’s embarrassing to be the only developed nation in the world to not provide universal health coverage to its citizens. And we have repeatedly been told, “The status quo is unacceptable.” The only possible meaning here is that it is “morally” unacceptable.

But President Obama hasn’t merely claimed that “we must” (read, “it’s morally necessary that we”) help people get insurance, he’s actually gone a significant step further by grounding his moral vision in arguments from the Bible. The President has said that opposition to his plans comes from people who are unwilling to obey the Biblical mandate to “be our brother’s keeper.” He’s not just legislating morality. He’s doing so on the basis of religion. If a conservative dared to offer such rationale, “Republicans Seek Theocracy” would be the Newsweek cover, not some picture of a former governor in biker shorts.

Now, before misunderstandings take root, let me make one thing perfectly clear: None of this bothers me in the least. Hearing Obamacare sold with moral and even Biblical language is perfectly fine with me. What irritates me is the hypocrisy of people who accuse their enemies of legislating morality and then blithely resort to making moral arguments in favor of their own political agenda. So in the name of clarity and finality, I suggest we all admit one simple, obvious fact:

All laws legislate morality.

To clarify, a law is nothing more and nothing less than a piece of codified intolerance. A society, through whatever mechanism it makes such decisions, agrees that some behavior is not just bad, but so bad it must be prevented by force, and that’s how you get a law. Whether that behavior is abortion, adultery, divorce, speeding, marrying more than one woman, using heroin, or refusing to purchase health insurance, the point is that all laws prohibit behavior society deems evil enough that force “should” be used to discourage and punish it.

Furthermore, if morality did not precede and underpin legislation, there would be no basis for criticizing “unjust” laws. Slavery was banished, women were given the vote, and interracial marriages were finally allowed for supremely moral reasons. Not only is morality the basis for “good” laws, it is the vital motivation for rectifying “bad” ones.

“But legislating morality doesn’t work.” Really? Well, I know there is truth in the claim that you can’t change hearts by coercing the body, but there is also truth in the claim that laws create taboos which influence both behavior and hearts over the long run. Laws have a stigmatizing effect on behavior, thus being both the result of and the reinforcement for the culture’s moral codes.

Also, even though law is an admittedly clumsy instrument of moral influence, it does tend to make people behave as if they are good even when they are not. And so far as the public interest is concerned, getting people to act good is nearly as useful as getting them to truly be good. Although I’d prefer you not stab me because you are a decent person, I’m still willing to stand in line next to you at the baseball game so long as I know you’re merely (but vividly) afraid of what will be done to you if you do act on your violent impulse. Simply put, we legislate morality because it’s the only way to get some people to behave.

Oh, to be sure, many legislations of morality are unwise. But the notion that there could ever be some amoral legislation which is preferable to the moral sort is pure nonsense. There is no other kind of law besides that which coerces a particular vision of morality. After all, what besides a strong moral argument could ever justify taking people’s liberty or property away? Yet somehow, in a linguistic masterwork fit for the propaganda hall of fame, some (usually conservative) proposals are decried as “unjust” moral legislations, whereas other (usually liberal) proposals are just good ideas whose time has come.

“But your conservative proposals infringe on individual liberty.” Agreed. Just like your liberal proposals infringe on individual property (and often liberty as well). And I really don’t mind, just so long as you recognize that we are all making laws on the basis of our vision of morality and a “good” society.

So the next time someone complains in print, in person, or over the air that some proposal is an illegitimate legislation of morality, I suggest booing him. If you have a newspaper nearby, whap him on the nose…twice for good measure. Short of a self-induced epiphany, this may be the only way he finally notices that saying it’s “wrong” to legislate morality is itself an overtly moral position.

Finally, just to be sure the point is made rather than implied, I have no problem with Barack Obama phrasing his moral ideas in Biblical language. I don’t generally agree with his interpretation of Scripture, but I certainly have no objection on principle to him amplifying his case this way. However, I just want to be sure that the next time I refer to the Bible in explaining what I believe, I don’t have to endure another hypocrite claiming that I’m injecting religion into the public arena. Let’s make sure the strike zone is the same for everyone.

If people are going to be allowed to legislate their morality (remember, there really isn’t another option) this means religion is going to be in play in these discussions. If such reasons are unpersuasive to you, so be it. But please don’t give me any silliness about how it’s fundamentally wrong to mention religion in the public sphere. For the vast majority of people, including both the President and me, our morality flows from our religion. Hence our political views are ultimately going to be religious views, even the ones about freedom and tolerance.

This means that all laws not only enforce a moral vision, but they also all represent some sort of religious vision as well. Even the complaints that one religious viewpoint is being “unjustly” overemphasized or that some religious principles “ought” not be codified in law are both themselves byproducts of particular ideas about the place of freedom in God’s world. If this final step seems like simply too much for you to embrace in a single column, that’s okay. I understand. It can be painful to suddenly discover yourself ravaged by so much previously undiagnosed hypocrisy.

Hence, I’m quite satisfied merely to see us all agree that morality is, in fact, the only source and justification for law. Restoring tolerance for religious talk may be one cognitive bridge too far for today. But you can’t blame me for trying. After all, I’m only following the lead of my President.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is Obamacare Like Mandatory Auto Insurance?

Published: 11.17.09 at Townhall and 11.17.09 at Crosswalk.

Teaching introductory logic for ten years made me vividly aware of the low average quality of reasoning among college students. It also showed me how little improvement can realistically be accomplished by only one semester’s training in the art of thinking clearly. By all rights, then, I should have severely pessimistic expectations about public discourse in this country. Nevertheless, whether I suffer from my own strain of bad induction or just unquenchable naïveté, pandemic outbreaks of illogical memes still catch me by surprise.

That’s why I’ve been so shocked at the widespread assertion that a national mandate requiring individuals to carry health insurance is legitimate (and even Constitutional) because we already require everyone to purchase auto insurance. There’s just one small error this idea seems to forget: the federal government does not actually have a law requiring individual drivers to carry such insurance. Only states do.

And since federalism is at the center of the Constitutional concerns surrounding Obamacare, I find it stunningly bold to claim the federal government has authority for a project because of something similar the states currently do. The argument seems to be, “Congress can do it because it’s just like something else that Congress doesn’t do.” Now, obviously, if we were debating whether individual states could mandate health coverage, at least the levels of government being analogized would be the same. But the leap from what states do to what Congress can do betrays vistas of ignorance concerning our system of government. A college freshman would be embarrassed to make such a weak argument, yet members of Congress have said precisely this.

Senator Burris, for instance, recently told CNS News that it’s okay to make individuals purchase health insurance because, “Under state law, we have every one required to have automobile insurance…so, that’s the same thing proportionally to automobile insurance. I mean, it’s comparable.” The good news here, of course, is that the former Illinois Secretary of State (hence, overseer of the DMV) rightly situated the law at the state level. The sad news is that this United States Senator has taken an oath of office to uphold a document he apparently has not read. But perhaps we can forgive his lapse, seeing as how he’s the Senatorial equivalent of a baseball September call-up put into office by a now-deposed criminal of a governor. What excuse do his colleagues have?

See, in some sense, those of us who live in states (like Illinois) which require minimum coverage might understandably forget that not all things “the government” requires are things “the national government” requires. But I’m especially surprised that inhabitants of New Hampshire and Wisconsin haven’t immediately exposed this line of reasoning since their states have no such requirement at all, a barely publicized truth which underscores the fact that there is no national car insurance law.

Still, let’s put aside the equivocation between federal and state authority and investigate whether the analogy would hold even if mandatory auto insurance actually were a federal law. In so doing, I must apologize in advance for marching over slightly more well-traveled territory.

The reason states require car insurance is because of the risks to other people and their property which driving so obviously entails. The underlying legal basis here is tort law, which holds me liable for any harm I cause to others. Since driving increases both the likelihood and extent of such torts, mandatory insurance (or proof of financial ability to pay in NH and WI) “insures” that I can restore my victims to wholeness. In a world without car insurance, every accident would lead either to a court ruling or a settlement. Insurance payouts are rooted in this and are simply a more expeditious way of resolving torts. But in basing health insurance on this model, I’m naturally led to ask about the underlying rationale. Whom, exactly, should I have sued when I caught the flu or broke my leg falling down the stairs if I hadn’t had health insurance?

Unless I was deliberately coughed upon or pushed, there is no one to blame. So there simply is no parallel with tort law to draw upon here. Moreover, the two possible types of auto insurance which would fit fairly well with a health insurance mandate (collision and medical payments) are specifically not ever required by the states.

Additionally, you should note that no state requires you to have liability insurance until you positively engage in some enhanced risk activity, like driving, performing surgery, or opening a restaurant. Even though any of us at any time could harm another person (bicycling, playing softball, or even just tripping on a crowded escalator), no one is required by law to carry bodily motion insurance.

Taken together, all of this means that, far from being a good example to draw upon, current auto insurance laws are actually quite a robust counter-analogy to mandatory health insurance because the two are so starkly asymmetrical. The similarities between the two types of insurance seem to begin and end with their shared name.

But wait, there’s more.

One of the most debated aspects of current health care reform proposals is the “public option,” or government delivery of health insurance. Once again we find a glaring disconnect in the comparison with auto coverage. Although 47 individual states make insurance a precondition of driving (Virginia will allow you to simply pay a $500 annual fee in lieu of having it), no state to my knowledge actually supplies the required insurance to anyone. Geico, Allstate, Country Companies, and State Farm do not have to compete with “Vermont Casualty Group” or “The Florida Collision Underwriting Consortium.” Thus, if auto insurance is a good object lesson, it seems to urge us to specifically not involve the federal government as a provider.

Is there anything else we can learn from mandatory car insurance to guide us in the current debate? Well, one thing is that the presupposition behind such mandates (where they exist) is the recognition of driving as a privilege rather than an entitlement. Driving prohibitions can’t be litigated as deprivations “without due process of law” because there is no fundamental right to endanger others through the operation of a motor vehicle. But what privileged behavior am I engaging in before I must carry health insurance?

I must breathe.

Since I’m forced to take Congress seriously when they make their arguments, I am driven (sorry) to conclude their use of the auto insurance analogy means they consider some aspect of my behavior to be a privilege rather than a right. The only contenders are existence and breathing. Since they don’t appear to be meta-physicians (sorry again), I have to infer that Congress views breathing as a privilege rather than a right. And since they want to insure all breathers, should I also anticipate the parallel institution of breathing licenses for which we must visit the DMV and pass a proficiency test? Perhaps I should begin studying now. I’d hate to have to refrain from breathing pending a make-up exam.

Furthermore, the actual car coverage levels requires by most states are extremely low. Although I suppose some people are satisfied with $25,000/$50,000 coverage (a common benchmark), most drivers understand that $100,000/$300,000 is much more prudent. But if the more robust protections are so obviously smart, why aren’t they required? It’s simple. Because all of the states recognize the need to balance the wisdom of carrying insurance against the restraint all levels of government must exercise when infringing upon the core value of individual liberty.

Since the right to property (in this case to not pay insurance premiums) is so fundamental in our system, it must be violated only for the most extreme of reasons and only to the most humble of extents. Thus, basing health care reform on this same pattern would require at most only some sort of minimum catastrophic coverage. Suffice it to say that current proposals which cover every form of health care down to the most routine are not modeled on the same recognition of liberty and property rights.

So, having taken a more diligent look at whether mandatory automobile insurance justifies the imposition of health insurance, we now have a much better sense of its validity. In order to make the comparison justify current health care proposals, Congress (not the states) would have to currently require that all people (regardless of personal wealth or actual car ownership) owned an insurance policy provided by Congress itself that covered routine maintenance, periodic breakdown, and collision repair to their own cars, even ones they acquire with pre-existing defects (like from a junkyard).

Since not one single element of this hypothetical currently exists, and since breathing is not a privilege, my request is simple. During the two weeks that are fair to allow this column to circulate through society, simply boo anyone who makes the car insurance argument in public. Thereafter, I recommend noogies. It’s what one does to recalcitrant freshmen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What’s Racism Got To Do With It?

Published: 10.06.09 at Townhall and 10.07.09 at Crosswalk.

Are those who strongly oppose President Obama racists? President Carter and Maureen Dowd think so. But President Clinton and even Mr. Obama himself don’t think so. Who is correct?

Two questions should guide us in finding our answer. First, how do we tell who is and who is not a racist? Second, what is the causal connection between racism and strong opposition to President Obama’s policies (SOTMOP)?

1. Who is a racist?

The biggest hindrance to identifying racists in America is the nearly universal suppression of racism in public. Since openly expressing racism immediately entails being ostracized, very few people are willing to do it, which means that racists quickly learn to talk like non-racists. Thus, evidence of racism is hard to acquire and often fairly thin, sometimes so thin that no amount of squinting will reveal it.

For example, Maureen Dowd recently became convinced Rep. Joe Wilson was a racist because he rudely shouted, “You lie!” during the President’s health care address to Congress. Such words do not normally indicate racism. Tens of millions of people have called President Bush a liar, and few, if any, of them are racists. But Obama is black, Wilson is white, and racism is heavily closeted in America. So perhaps Dowd is just a better detective than others. Let’s look further.

Consider language Mr. Wilson might have used to more clearly identify his views. If he were openly racist, for instance, he might have said, “You lie, you dirty, knuckle-dragging Negro!” But if he were a true egalitarian who yet believed himself to have been lied to, the most likely thing he would have said was, “You lie!” By contrast with the open racist, Mr. Wilson clearly doesn’t sound racist at all. And in contrast with the non-racist,…well, there isn’t any contrast, is there? In other words, the evidentiary difference between what Rep. Wilson actually said and what a non-racist who felt lied to would have said is zero. Nevertheless, this non-evidence is offered as indicating his racism.

All this begs the question of how Mr. Wilson could have expressed his frustration without running the risk of being called a racist by Ms. Dowd. Perhaps a real egalitarian who felt lied to by the President would have said, “You lie, you beautiful black genius!” Ironically, I suspect this too would have been taken for racism, which indicates there is no safe language for a white Congressman to use when claiming a black President lies. I’m not at all defending Mr. Wilson’s disrespectful outburst. I’m just saying that it strikes me as particularly weak evidence of racism.

2. Is racism the root of opposition to Obama?

But even if Ms. Dowd is a bit over-zealous in her racism super-sleuthing, perhaps President Carter is still right that the “overwhelming portion” of SOTPOP is still inspired by racism. In considering how to validate this claim, we yet again find ourselves hindered by the severe difficulty of separating political opposition rooted in racism from the sort that is not.

Clearly, strong animosity is possible even in the absence of racism. Again, observe President Bush’s treatment by the left during his term. Further, even when Clarence Thomas was being castigated by whites on the left, I think we were all willing to agree that this was not racism in action, but mere political disagreement. Since we have no trouble imagining liberals being so furious without being racists, it should be possible to imagine opponents of Obama being equally furious regardless of racism.

But we needn’t speculate. Everyone knows that people on the right have expressed opposition to white liberal politicians every bit as ferociously as they have toward Mr. Obama. I’m sure that Secretary Clinton, the late Senator Kennedy, and Vice-President Gore would all be eager to dispel the allegation that conservatives are uniquely antipathetic towards our President.

And even if there is racism among some or even many who express SOTPOP, the right question is whether they would be any friendlier to a white President who pursued his same agenda. No less a commentator on race issues than President Clinton himself has answered this, saying, “I believe that 100 percent of those who are opposing him now would be against him if he were a white Democrat.”

And that’s really the point. Are there any people in America who would be for Barack Obama if he were white but who are against him now because he is black? In what can only be labeled a tremendous bit of irony, for this to be true would require that the supposedly racist conservative backlash against him isn’t coming from conservatives at all. Conservatives are already disposed to SOTPOP on purely ideological grounds. If racism is creating opponents to Obama, it can only be creating them among white moderates and white liberals who would gladly follow a white President along Obama’s path, but just can’t stand it happening under a black man. Perhaps it’s just my lack of imagination, but I have some trouble believing the Tea Party protestors are secretly liberal racists temporarily cavorting with conservatives out of racial animosity toward a black President of their own ideological stripe.

I wonder whether it’s even plausible for racism to overwhelm political opinions. If this train of reasoning is true and there are liberal racists who now oppose Obama because he’s black, are there also conservative racists who would oppose a black Republican? The conservatives I know are quite fond of Clarence Thomas, JC Watts, Walter Williams, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice. Yet if any of those people became President, I shudder to imagine the opposition they would draw. Still, I doubt anyone would say it was rooted in racism. Perhaps it’s only because we’ve been so conditioned to think that liberals are incapable of racism whereas conservatives are incapable of escaping it. But with all the deep animosity people on the left have toward anyone on the right based entirely on ideology, why is it so incomprehensible that people of equally strong conviction on the right would react vehemently to a liberal President who just happened to be black?


On some slightly more careful analysis, then, things seem fairly simple. Identifying racists is difficult at best, and strong political opposition seems to be completely unconnected to the presence of racism. So maybe the best way for us all to proceed is to treat “racist” and “racism” as words which themselves have no place in civilized political discourse anymore.

And what should we do with those angry white protestors who are expressing anything but fondness for our first black President? I say we celebrate them, even if we don’t agree with them.

See, America won’t be racially healed until we’re willing to accept a world in which whites sometimes hate blacks for reasons completely unrelated to race and in which this hatred isn’t misdiagnosed as racism. The right to be hated for reasons other than skin color, as weird as it sounds, might just be the key test of a truly equal society. We’ve finally elected a black man President. The question remains whether we’ll truly fulfill this amazing accomplishment by allowing white Americans to openly and fearlessly oppose him without being called racists.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Open Letter To President Obama About Health Care

Published: 09.23.09 at and
Note: I have directly submitted this letter to the White House, details are below the colum.
Reference: To read up on the health care debate, go here.

Mr. President, I want you to understand two things about me. First, I like my current health plan, both the health care itself and the price I pay for it. Second, I am a conservative, which means I fear large government.

I tell you this at the outset so you understand that the current state of health care in this country suits me and my family just fine. Thus, in asking me to support your plan to revolutionize that status quo, you must realize that you’re asking me to jeopardize a good thing I already have and to deny my deepest political instincts about the dangers of large government. I might be willing to do both, but only if you give me the right answers to a few questions. This means that I’m the conservative you want to talk to. And I’ve got to tell you that, so far, I’m not impressed.

All your adamant hand-wringing and bold asserting about the necessity to do something has not convinced me. I’ve heard you talk about the importance of clear, simple language in financial instruments (which I like), but then you offer me a thousand page document and ask me to blindly trust you that’s it’s exactly what we need. You tell me that it’s important to set a civil tone in Washington, but then you accuse pediatricians of being vicious money-grubbers who perform elective tonsillectomies on children. And when I or the people I respect raise what seem like legitimate concerns about your plans, you accuse us of bearing false witness and resisting the Biblical mandate to care for our fellow man.

As I conservative, I should tell you that I do, in fact, want all people to get the best health care they can. If it were up to me, I would probably run a hospital into the ground by giving away too much of everything I have. If it were up to me, I would gladly provide health care to illegal immigrants and even export health care to other countries because I don’t believe that the only people who matter are the ones who happened to be born within our borders. And although I am often accused of the opposite, I care deeply about children and their needs. I have three of them so far myself, and I’m the guy who cries when I hear stories about parents who can’t give their kids everything they need because I can’t imagine what it would be like to suffer that pain myself. Also, I don’t believe health care in this country is perfect. It cost me around $400 to have our first child and $4,000 to have each of the other two, all three of which were perfectly normal without complications. They’re well worth the price, but that price seems outrageous to me.

So with all this in mind, I have a few simple questions for you. If you answer them adequately, I can’t promise I’ll be with you, but I can promise that I’ll feel much less like I’m in a fight to the death to preserve my way of life and the principles that I have long believed this country stands for. In short, I won’t feel like you’re betraying this country any more, even though I may still be hesitant about this particular agenda item. I don’t believe that the only way for my country to be secure is for me to always have my way. I didn’t vote for you, but I did go on the air the day after the election to proclaim that you were my President-elect. But if you want me to continue being the loyal opposition rather than an organizer of the revolution, I need some answers, and I need them fast.

1. Bad ideas to avoid.

First, I want to know whether you think there are any ways government could make health care worse and, if so, precisely what they are in contrast with your plan. See, I’m worried you might actually believe the federal government will make things better in health care merely by getting involved in it, regardless of what it actually does. I get the sense you think government is a magic wand that can fix anything if only we’ll wave it fast enough at the problem. And if you can’t show me you’re aware of the danger areas and unwise options for health care reform, then I’m left thinking you do believe government will improve things no matter what it does.

A big part of knowing how to succeed in anything is knowing what mistakes not to make. This is true in warfare, business, relationships, lawn care, whatever. Show me that you understand the distinction between bad government involvement in a field and good government involvement in a field by telling me the health care changes government intervention must not make. I know you’re convinced the status quo is unacceptable, but please reassure me you understand there are ways the federal government could actually make things worse.

2. Commitment and Criteria

Second, since I believe government is so woefully capable of making things worse than they already are, I need some collateral to secure this loan of my faith in your program. Since I’m not yet convinced you and your idea are a good credit risk, I need something more than just sweet words and heartfelt promises. Here are my two requirements.

I need you to show me you believe in this plan so much that you’re willing to impose it upon yourself and all the members of Congress. The only possible reason not to sign up for it yourselves is that you’re only willing to risk my family’s health care, but not your own. (Ideally, I’d even love to see you try your program only on government employees for a year or two just to be sure you’ve got the kinks out of the thing before you enroll a few hundred million people.) You see, the rule of law requires that the people making the laws be subject to them. Otherwise their personal interest incentives are lost and all we have remaining to impede foolish lawmaking is trust in the nobility of our political leadership. Surely you can understand that I’m not quite that deep a believer in the overall virtuosity of those inside the beltway.

Even more important, I want some criteria so we can measure whether your system is working or failing after we try it out. And I want a guarantee that if these indicators aren’t being met, that your system will go away immediately. See, one of the great lessons this country learned from the war in Vietnam was to have clear, measurable objectives so we can know whether to persist with any endeavor after we’ve started it. If you’re so confident that your plan will make health care better in all sorts of particular ways, then it should be easy to provide a list of the specific numerical criteria we can refer to over the next two or three years to verify that it’s working properly or not.

3. Exit Strategy

Third, since I believe government should always be the solution of last resort, I want to know what sort of an exit strategy you have for the federal government regarding health care. Again, Vietnam taught us very clearly that we not only needed to know how to get into a major entanglement, but we also needed to know how to get out both in defeat and in victory. You have repeatedly said that you don’t want to own a car company and you don’t want to own banks. I believe you.

I presume you think that the auto industry and banking are only temporarily troubled and will eventually become strong enough to stand on their own. In these two cases, you presumably view your interventions like a cast applied to a broken leg. The fracture needs time and protection to heal, but eventually the cast must come off. Based on your argument that the private sector will benefit from some honest competition, you clearly believe that private health insurance is an arena which must not simply disappear into the ocean of government. So, if you can lay out your plan for a government exit of the health care market once the adjustments and healing you think must take place have occurred, that would assure me that you aren’t secretly intending to permanently nationalize one sixth of our country’s economy.

So these are my requests. They don’t cover all the issues raised in the course of the past few weeks, and I’ll probably have other questions along the way. But answering these three simple questions will make me much more willing to live with whatever plan you propose. I will know that you are aware of the dangers to be avoided in government intervention in health care. I will know that Congress must live under its own law and that measurable objectives will definitively show whether their plan is working. And I will know that you have a clear but temporary plan for getting our health care industry back on track. If you can answer these three requests, I might even be willing to forgive your suspicious haste in doing all of this. I understand the importance of timing in politics, and providing these assurances, I’m willing to believe you’re acting in haste for this reason rather than because you know that a thorough inspection of the house will reveal sagging ceilings and foundation cracks.

I am a conservative. I do fear big government. And I do like my health care. But I’m willing to take your health plan more seriously if you can answer these questions the right way.

On Friday, September 25, I submitted the following email through the contact form at If I receive any feedback from the White House, I will post it here.

Text of email:
am a talk show host on a Christian radio station, and I've written an open letter to President Obama on health care which was published at Crosswalk, Townhall, and on my own website (all three links are below). I did not write it just as a column for editorial readers. I wrote it to genuinely be a letter for the President, and I hope you will read it and recommend it to him. If you would, please email me to confirm that you received this, and I would very much prefer to know who actually read the letter/saw the column in the White House. I know Mr. Obama cannot read most things sent to him, but I would still like to know who did read it, especially if he actually does.
(Here, I included the three links.)

Their form response to the submission on the website reads:
Thank you for contacting the White House.

President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history. That begins with taking comments and questions from you, the public, through our website.

Our office receives tens of thousands of messages from Americans each day. We do our best to reply to as many as we can, but please be aware that you may find more information and answers to your questions online.

We encourage you to visit regularly to follow news and updates, and to learn more about President Obama’s agenda for change.

For an easy-to-navigate source of information on Federal government services, please visit:

Thank you again for your message.

The Office of Presidential Correspondence

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Reminder to Pro-Life Christians

Published 01.21.09 at and

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling which essentially decriminalized abortion for our entire country. Those who endorse Roe are holding celebrations, while those who condemn it are holding protest rallies. Yet, like so many other issues, there are valid warnings for people on both sides.

For the moment, however, I want to speak exclusively to those of you who consider yourselves pro-life and Christian. The rest of you may follow along as you see fit.

For starters, we live in a country that is made up largely of self-identified Christians. This means that most pro-lifers follow Christ (though not all, importantly). But it also means that most pro-choicers identify themselves as Christians as well. Though many of us would prefer to marginalize their faith by claiming that they are merely nominal Christians or some other derisive comment, we should be very careful about implying that saving faith can only reside in members of our own political persuasion.

Now, lest you worry that this will degrade into an argument for moral equivalence or even for keeping silent, I want to assure you that I agree with you that abortion is the single greatest moral evil of our day. Nothing else even comes close. Yet, precisely because of our zeal to save babies, we run the very real risk of forgetting that Christ is more important than our cause. And though correcting our pro-choice brothers and sisters is appropriate, condemning them is not.

See, just like any atrocity, a serious view of abortion’s awfulness can easily jeopardize our Christian joy and happiness. “How dare you smile in a country where over a million defenseless lives are extinguished every year!” Furthermore, we can feel extra guilt over enjoying anything frivolous while age-based genocide surrounds us. “How dare you enjoy sushi or ‘American Idol’?”

But we must strive to remember that our joy comes—or ought to come—from being loved by Christ, not from making the world a more desirable place, including the prevention of abortion. And it is vital to maintain some humility in the midst of this particular evil.

Such humility comes from remembering that God cares more about the unborn than we do … infinitely more. After all, is there any one of us who has been humiliated, flogged and crucified on a cross in order to save them?

Furthermore, God knows the awfulness of this practice far more deeply than we do. Your pain at the destruction of life is but a passing whim compared with the deep grief felt by God any time one of His children loses their lives.

And yet, God smiles. He rejoices. He dances. He sings. He is radiant in happiness over the reclamation of any one sinner, and He is overjoyed to see those so recovered live out the simple joy of deriving every ounce of their identity, satisfaction and significance from Him. God smiles.

But how could He?

How dare He?

Does He not know?

Does He not care?

Oh, yes. Far more than either you or I do.

And one of the subsequent pains He experiences at the very real evil of abortion is the compounded evil of allowing our own interest in this issue to interfere with the joy we should have in Him and in Him alone. If we are not extremely careful, we can (almost without noticing the transaction) allow our passion for this very right and noble cause to fuel a bitterness over the death of children which will poison our passion for God … a God who is capable of smiling in the midst of the very thing we both ferociously despise.

If we act as if only the ending of abortion will allow us to be joyful, we are essentially acting as though Christ is inadequate for us—telling God that He is not enough. We must have our way as well.

Thus, we must be diligent daily to not let our pro-lifeism become an idol which we worship by seeking our real delight from what it can never deliver and has never done for us.

God loves abortionists. God loves women who abort. And God loves pro-choice politicians. And God even loves pro-choice Christians … just as He loves you in the midst of whatever known and secret sins He has paid to forgive.

How dare we hate whom God loves? And how dare we put our own judgment above His by allowing this particular issue to acquire more importance than the real Love of our lives.

“But I’ve never done anything so awful as those people ...”

Ahhhh. Now we see the real issue. Maybe you think that you are saved in part by Christ and in part by your own righteousness. And so maybe we are humble, grateful, loving and forgiving to the extent that we think we owe Him—but no further. The real problem is not in how much better than them we are. The real problem is not recognizing that, in and of ourselves, we are not better than them.

Until we realize that we are absolutely no better than anyone and that Christ still absolutely loved each of us enough to give up everything and come rescue us by His own sacrifice, we will always treat with contempt those who violate the rules we think are out of reach of our own depravity. And even if we succeed at getting this particular abomination stopped, we will have done two even more awful things in the process.

First, we will have alienated from Christ anyone who encounters our wrath. And second, we will have failed to heal the alienation from Christ in us which is the only malignancy that can produce such wrath.

And lest I be misunderstood, I should re-state something very simple: It would be the worst of all shames if you read this article and somehow sought to simply stifle your anger and behave more decently in your fight to end abortion.

You can’t.

But even if you could, that would be worse because then you would be oh so proud of yourself for fixing this heretofore unexamined sin.

Just as with every other element of your salvation, it is Christ alone and our pondering of just how much He has loved us that will transform us into the kind of people who can safely be entrusted with carrying the pro-life message and honoring God at the same time.

Take this to Him. Ponder His love for you. Allow Him to heal you. And from that, watch as your actions become completely different—finally running the risk of winning souls in addition to merely winning lives.