Category: abortion

The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ

XXX TED CRUZ 2016 HDB327.JPG A  HKO USA VAWhen Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University reaction on the left was predictable.  Some suggested that Liberty students were only in their seats because attendance at chapel is mandatory at Liberty. Liberals don’t like Ted and the feeling is mutual.

Libertarian response was mixed.  Ted’s political career is funded by billionaire libertarians Charles and David Koch, he despises Obamacare, and he wants to abolish the IRS.

Libertarians haven’t forgotten that Cruz’s famous filibuster speech against Obamacare was studded with Ayn Rand quotations.

Who could ask for anything more?

But hard core, “objectivist” libertarians are baffled by Ted’s fervent embrace of the religious right, in general, and his staunch opposition to abortion, in particular.  Why, for instance, did a lifelong admirer of Ayn Rand announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University?

Ayn Rand hated philosophical compromise as much as she hated Jesus; and she hated Jesus very, very much.  Consider this oft-quoted line from her novel, The Fountainhead:

The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent.  He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves . . . this is the essence of altruism.

Jesus and Ayn share one quality: consistency.

Rand asserted that nothing beyond the demands of the detached and independent ego really matters.  Altruism, living in response to the needs of others, was thus the worst kind of heresy.  When we live in service to others, she taught, we become slaves.

Randian objectivists wish Ted would lose his religion so they wouldn’t have to qualify for their support.  But everyone, even libertarians, appreciate that Ted’s career arc would plummet to earth if he trampled on the cross.  In America, we are free to disagree with Jesus on every important point, so long as we’re singing “Oh How I Love Jesus”.

A cynic would assert that Ted Cruz embraces both Christ and anti-Christ because he is a pragmatic politician. But you can’t understand the Junior Senator from Texas apart from the culture that shaped him.  Religious superstars from Dwight L. Moody to Billy Graham embraced Wall Street for the same reason Ted Cruz courts the Koch brothers–publicity is expensive.

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

The best way to impress the wealthy is to tell them how wonderful they are, and Ayn Rand made a comfortable living singing paeans to the powerful.  They were the only people that mattered to her; everybody else she called ‘looters’, ‘moochers,’ and (when she was feeling kind) ‘parasites’.

Not all wealthy people enjoy praise and adulation, of course, but most of them do. Charles and David Koch love Ayn Rand and Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter because they speak rapturously of the wealthy and contemptuously of everyone else.  No surprises there.

Ted Cruz grew up in a religious subculture in which Christianity and laissez-faire capitalism dovetailed neatly.  Mainstream evangelical Christianity soft-pedals Jesus’ teaching on money, greed and solidarity with the poor because, while no one was watching, we became a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America.  If you think this is overly-harsh, check out the Sermon on the Mount and you will see the problem.

But this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ goes deeper than political pragmatism and the lure of mammon.  Ted Cruz isn’t just a conservative Southern Baptist who occasionally shows up at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; he is also an enthusiastic Dominionist.

This stealth enterprise goes by a variety of names: the Reconstructionist Movement, Dominionism or, more recently, the New Apostolic Reformation (I have written extensively on this subject).

Dominionism is rooted in the “presuppositional” theology of Cornelius Van Til and the political-religious musings of Rousas John Rushdoony.  (If you are unfamiliar with Cornelius and Rousas, this primer will come in handy.)

Think of it as the Reformed doctrine of election on steroids.  Rushdoony put it like this:

“The purpose of Christ’s coming was in terms of the creation mandate… The redeemed are called to the original purpose of man, to exercise dominion under God, to be covenant-keepers, and to fulfill “the righteousness of the law” (Rom. 8:4) . . . Man is summoned to create the society God requires.”

The theological category of “election” makes the marriage of Christ and anti-Christ possible.

Both Randian objectivists and Christian dominionists contrast the glories of “us” with the depravity of “them”.

It’s an anti-Christian species of Calvinism.  The wealthy and the powerful have the right to dictate to the poor and the powerless because, well, they’re so super.  Dominionists associate this authority with God (from whom all blessings flow).  For Randian objectivists it’s the law of the jungle: If the makers don’t rule the takers, the takers will rule the makers, and we can’t have that.  Both conservative Christians and anti-Christ objectivists dream of that great day when the elect will triumph and the unworthy will get a richly-deserved comeuppance.

I am not suggesting that everyone associated with the religious right thinks this way. They don’t.  But culture war logic ensures that conservative critics of this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ will be consigned to the outer darkness.

Liberals, for their part, don’t know enough about Ayn Rand or Christian Reconstructionism to discern the elephant in the room.  Besides, it’s too easy to lampoon politicians like Ted Cruz if you’re working with a liberal audience.  You can make jokes about Liberty University students compulsory attendance at the Cruz announcement speech in twenty quick seconds flat.  Liberty students wearing Rand Paul T-shifts is a great five-second sight gag.  So why do the hard work of answering hard questions that no one is asking?

Mainstream analysis, desperate to sustain the illusion of objectivity, eschews in-depth analysis of anything.  Cruz kicked off his campaign at Liberty University in an attempt to court religious conservatives.  End of story.  The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ rarely gets a mention on CNN or CBS.  It sounds mean-spirited and it smacks of liberal bias.  We don’t want to lose more conservative viewers to FOX.

But our silence comes with a price.  Ted Cruz holds this marriage of convenience together by pretending that neither Jesus nor Ayn Rand were serious.

They were; and they are.

Homosexuality, Abortion, and Political Ideology

By Charles Kiker

July, 2013

Before the 2012 presidential election I was asked by a fellow minister, “How can a Christian vote for someone who is pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage?” I sought to answer his question, which was asked on Facebook, in private correspondence. With the current ado over the abortion issue in Texas and other red states, I think it is time to make my private answer public. I have edited my previous answer, but here is the gist of it.

An easy answer would have been to to say that some Christians take into consideration more than one or two issues in making their political choice(s). That would be true, but it would be too easy and it would be sidestepping the specificity of the question.

So I’m going to tackle it head on, from my own perspective. I will not claim it is the Christian perspective, but the perspective of one who who seeks to follow in the Way of Jesus.  (more…)

Expanding the Dead-End Debate over Abortion

By Alan Bean

When debates devolve into entrenched camps lobbing insults and talking points we need independent insight.  Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, thinks for himself and is transparent about his presuppositions.  He writes as a feminist, but disagrees with many feminists.  He is a harsh critic of the liberal mainstream.  He wants to bring radical ideas to the moderate middle when he thinks they are the best ideas.

The abortion debate is stalled, largely because fundraisers on both sides of the culture war divide make a great deal of money banging the drum for pro-life or pro-choice dogma.  Abortion has become a tool for rallying the troops, and that makes clear-headed thinking on the subject almost impossible.

Jensen strikes a delicate-but-necessary balance between sexual freedom and sexual sanity.  He is concerned about the unborn and women who become pregnant in the midst of painful circumstances.  His essential argument is that adherents of both positions on the abortion issue need to listen to the valid concerns of the other side.  I agree.

Expanding the Dead-End Debate over Abortion

By Robert Jensen

The abortion debate in Texas—and throughout the country—has dead-ended: pro-life v. pro-choice, saving the unborn child v. protecting the rights of the mother, responsibility v. freedom. Every encounter leaves each side more dug in. (more…)

How NOT to build a progressive coalition in Texas

By Alan Bean

Scott Henson thinks direct action is rarely a strategic tactic, but every once in a while it works.  Scott acknowledges that the tactic was highly successful during the civil rights movement but argues that the authorities quickly learned to avoid brutal and public acts of oppression.   Demonstrations may be therapeutic for those involved, he says, but they rarely accomplish strategic ends.

Occupy Wall Street is offered as Exhibit A.

I am temperamentally inclined to endorse Scott’s position.  Demonstrations have always made me uncomfortable.  When I participate it is usually because, as in Jena, the folks on the receiving end of injustice sometimes take strength from public displays of shared resolve.  The Occupy Wall Street folks brought needed attention to the growing wealth disparity in our country and its baleful influence on the political process, but when I talked to them I got the uneasy feeling that they were engaged in a form of therapeutic ritual with little strategic content.

Liberals must understand that, in states like Texas, we hold a minority position on almost every issue.  I don’t feel good about the fact that, if the GOP abortion law is passed, only women in the Golden Triangle between Dallas, Austin and Houston would have access to safe abortions.  But most folks in Texas are solidly pro-life and a lot of progressives, myself included, aren’t going to the wall for abortion rights.  I accept the logic of Roe v. Wade, but am too morally conflicted by the issue to get fired up about it.

I was proud of Wendy Davis’s bold filibuster.  But I wish we could get African Americans, Latinos and progressive whites in states like Texas to join hands on issues like hunger, mass incarceration, public education and immigration reform.  Abortion may be a defining issue for white liberal women, but you can’t build a broad-based coalition on pro-choice politics–not in the great state of Texas.  I would drive to Austin to protest mass incarceration, border militarization, and cuts to poverty programs and public education; but if abortion is the issue, I’m staying home and so will the vast majority of African Americans and Latinos.

The gerrymandering of electoral issues in Texas has been used to defeat outspoken progressives like Wendy Davis, but the redrawing of political maps is really about making white political hegemony endure as long as possible before it is washed away by the shifting demographic tides.  (See Wade Goodwyn’s excellent analysis of Texas politics.) Democrats will start winning elections in Texas long before the party is popular with the white electorate.  Smart progressives will understand this and start building a coalition that engages the passions of black and brown Texans.

Southern Republicans will adjust their position on immigration and public education when they need a respectable harvest of minority votes to win.  That day will come, but its a long way off.  It may be hard to win the presidency without minority support, but Southern elections at the national and state levels can still be won with white votes.  Leading with abortion is a bad way to win moderate white support and a sure-fire recipe for alienating Latinos and African Americans.

If it’s all about winning elections, it ain’t moral

Davis filibuster took place in an near empty Senate floor. The bill she was fighting would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers.By Alan Bean

Regardless of your political persuasion, these are the best of times and the worst of times.  The Supreme Court cuts the heart out of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and then nixes the oddly-styled Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.   Meanwhile, in Texas, Senator Wendy Davis and a gallery crammed with abortion-rights activists kept the Republican majority from passing a law that would have shut down the majority of abortion clinics in the Lone Star State.

Liberals are celebrating in Texas, but Rick Perry has already announced that he call another special legislative session with the specific purpose of undoing what was done last night.

Although the majority decision in the DOMA case turned on arcane legal arguments, the Supreme Court is yielding to a massive shift in public opinion on the gay marriage issue.  Upholding DOMA is a nonstarter in today’s America, so the justices were forced to cobble together a legal justification for a pragmatic decision.

The same cannot be said for the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.  Gay rights has recently gained in popularity in virtually every demographic group–including white evangelicals.   Opposition to the Voting Rights Act is limited to the conservative white voters who control political reality in much of the American South and a fairly large slice of the Midwest.  Support for the Voting Rights Act is rock solid among African American and Latino voters.

Southern states may be insulted by the suggestion that their legislatures continue to discriminate against minority voters, but there can be little doubt that they do.  It is ironic, for instance, that Wendy Davis would have been unable to filibuster the Republicans’ abortion bill in the Texas Senate if proposed electoral maps that deleted thousands of minority voters from her district had not been declared unconstitutional.  Moments after the Supreme Court demolished the significant parts of the Voting Rights Act, Texas Republicans moved to revive a voter ID bill that was patently intended to eliminate as many minority voters as possible.  Election laws that create long lines in minority precincts but not in conservative white precincts can now move forward without opposition.

If reaction to the Voting Rights Act decision split along largely racial lines; the abortion debate breaks across the no-mans-land created by the culture war.  Personally, I am too conflicted on the abortion issue to support Texas Republicans or to hoot and holler for choice in the Senate gallery.  I am reluctantly pro-choice.  There are profound moral issues involved in the abortion debate.  When a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy it is almost always with a heavy heart.  This is appropriate.   Pro-life politics work really well precisely because many progressive people of faith are morally conflicted on the issue.  We understand and feel the arguments on both sides of the debate.

But conservatives cannot protect the unborn without creating major health problems for poor women who, denied access to safe abortions will turn to back alley butchers.  It should also be noted that conservative states like Texas refuse to adequately fund public education and have far more uninsured poor families than the balance of the country.  If Texas Republicans were genuinely concerned about the unborn they would give more thought to the post-birth plight of poor children.

Abortion has become a prized political issue because it allows politicians who oppose gay rights and voting rights to regain the high moral ground.  “We may be doing everything in our power to neutralize minority voters and discriminate against gay Americans,” the logic goes, “but at least we’re fighting to save the unborn.”

But it’s a lie.  They aren’t trying to save the unborn; they’re trying to win elections.  Banging the pro-life drum and minimizing the impact of minority voters are two equally effective strategies for maintaining political control.   If the abortion issue became a political detriment, most conservative politicians would abandon it in a heart beat.  I’m not saying the stalwarts on the front lines of the prolife fight aren’t sincere (they are) but the same cannot be said for their political supporters.

Two fresh takes on the abortion debate

By Alan Bean

The abortion debate has polarized America.  We are in the midst of a seismic shift on the gay rights front, but the battle lines on Roe v. Wade have hardly shifted.  Most Americans are uncomfortable with the moral implications of abortion; most Americans feel that abortion should remain legal, and politicians on both sides of the ideological chasm have learned to exploit the issue for political gain.  On the Red Letter Christians website, Kristin Day paints this unhappy picture: (more…)

Abortion and white evangelicals

By Alan Bean

An article in the Guardian, a British paper, discusses the challenges the rising tide of Latino voters in the United States poses for the Republican Party.  Gary Younge argues that the ill-famed “Southern Strategy” made sense when white Americans comprised 85% of the electorate, but has become problematic in an age when the majority of babies born in the United States are non-white.  These babies are almost two decades from voting age, however, so 74% of voters are still white.  According to today’s Washington Post poll, Mitt Romney holds a commanding twenty-three-point lead among white voters.

This is the major dilemma for the Republican Party: racially loaded messages may appeal to many white voters, but they lose you minority votes.   You can win white votes by railing against the entitlement-addicted 47% and the crime-prone “illegals” who cross the border in search of welfare, but not without giving Latinos and African-Americans a bad name.  White racial resentment remains the greatest single force in American politics.  The economy tops everyone’s list as an election season concern, but these issues are viewed through a racial lens.  Black voters cannot be persuaded that Obama wrecked the American economy; white voters can.

Three-quarters of white evangelicals vote Republican.  If you ask them why, they certainly won’t tell you they feel more comfortable voting for a white man.  They may say that Obama is a free-spending socialist and we need a president who believes in American capitalism.  But most, I suspect, will say it’s all about abortion.  Republicans want to stop the Holocaust and Democrats don’t–simple as that. (more…)