Thursday, July 19, 2007

Missouri’s Stem Cell Debate: Truce or Unconditional Surrender?

Former Missouri Senator John Danforth co-chaired the pro-cloning group Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures last year. They were the front organization of Jim and Virginia Stowers who bankrolled over 80% of the $30 million propaganda machine. Mr. Danforth wrote a rather surprising op-ed piece that appeared in Tuesday’s St. Louis Post Dispatch in which he called for a truce in Missouri’s trench wars. You can read it here.

Here is my response, sent today to the Post-Dispatch.

Mr. Danforth’s call for a truce should be rejected by Missouri’s pro-family leaders for several reasons.

First, while I appreciate the tenor of his op-ed piece and his seeming understanding of our position, he does not truly comprehend the pro-life ethic. His proposal requires pro-life Missourians to allow what we believe to be immoral research to proceed. We are to comfort ourselves in that we wouldn’t be paying for it. Yet, our objection is not that we are paying for immoral research. We object that our state legally protects immoral research. Who pays for the destruction of embryonic human life is quite secondary to our anguish that embryonic human life is being destroyed. The “truce” sounds more like bribery. If we turn away and be silent, we won’t have to pay for it. But this we cannot do. Wherever human life is threatened, debased or destroyed, pro-life Missourians will accept no truce.

Second, protecting life is a legitimate government interest. Mr. Danforth’s “truce” is built upon a precept that whether or not embryonic life is human is a matter of religion. It is not. This is a scientific question and science has resoundly and unequivocally thundered that somatic cell nuclear transfer creates a living, human embryo. The cloned embryo must have some category. If it is not human, what is it? Animal? Plant? Mineral? And if the embryonic life is not human, why did the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which Mr. Danforth co-chaired last year, write into the language of Amendment 2 an explicit prohibition of implantation into a woman’s uterus? Could it be they knew this embryo would continue more advanced human development? This matter is not just for religious persons as Mr. Danforth contends. This issue is for all Missourians who care about protecting the dignity of all humans, even at their tiniest, microscopic stage of development.

Third, the “truce” indicates vulnerability. It is akin to the Nazis offering the Allies a truce just before D-Day. Where was Mr. Danforth’s conciliatory “truce” last year? Amendment 2 was just barely approved by Missourians, even after Mr. Danforth’s coalition spent the largest amount of money in Missouri campaign history. Missouri’s pro-life organizations, with their modest budgets, simply needed more time. Since Amendment 2 has been approved, more Missourians now understand the dangers of human cloning and are poised to change the error of our ways. We continue to better understand that the hope for the cures of the diseases afflicting our family members and friends lies in adult stem cell research, not embryonic stem cell research. Missourians are now ready to stop cloning before it starts.

Mr. Danforth’s tone is a welcomed change from last year. But on this issue of research that destroys human embryos, no truce will ever be accepted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lives of the Signers

America’s birth month is rapidly passing from the scene and I have not adequately addressed issues I had intended to address at the beginning of this month. Primarily, I thought I would highlight some books from my library that have been helpful in formulating my understanding of patriotism, the Christian heritage of our Founding Era, and exposing me to some incredible people and epics of a bygone age.

Chief among the “must-read” books relating to our War for Independence is a book now called Lives of the Signers. It was originally written by B.J. Lossing in 1848 and titled “Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence: The Declaration Historically Considered; And a Sketch of the Leading Events Connected with the Adoption of the Articles of Confederation, and of the Federal Constitution.” Those of you accustomed to reading older books are well acquainted with such verbose titles. Title truncating is one of the few points of modern book marketing of which I am grateful.

This book gives a brief introduction of the men who “for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” mutually pledged “to each other [their] Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor.”

Many Americans have a vague recollection of some of them. Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania would be the most prominent of the signers in the collective memory of Americans; John Adams of Massachusetts—future 2nd President and perhaps the greatest champion of the document; his cousin, Samuel Adams—organizer of Boston’s Sons of Liberty and often called the Father of the American Revolution because of his zeal. Thomas Jefferson, who actually wrote the document, would be almost universally recognized. John Hancock’s large signature has become an American catchphrase. As he signed with gigantic letters, he reportedly said, “There! His Majesty can now read my name without his spectacles!”

But few Americans have ever heard the names of Caesar Rodney, Charles Carroll, Carter Braxton, Arthur Middleton or any of the other signers, some of whom would pay dearly and suffer greatly before the War ended.

Lives of the Signers is a wonderful book to help Americans have “profound veneration for the men who were the prominent actors on that remarkable scene in the drama of the world’s history.” It gives only brief snapshots of the lives of these men, leaving us wanting to know more. But its brief exposure makes a great primer for someone wanting a cursory exposure to the history of American Independence.

Consider the life of signer Thomas Lynch, Jr, of South Carolina. He was a 30 year old young man afflicted by a serious disease. His physicians advised him to return to Europe, so about the time John Paul Jones was telling the British commander of the Serapis “I have not yet begun to fight!” (September, 1779), Lynch was sailing toward the West Indies with his precious wife. However, the ship, like so many of the day, became lost at sea. Lossing tells us, “Like a brilliant meteor, he beamed with splendor for a short period, and suddenly vanished forever.”

Signer Richard Stockton of New Jersey declined his election as Chief Justice of the State so he could more actively aid in the Revolutionary cause. When his family was in peril of capture, he returned home where he was betrayed by a Tory loyalist. He was beaten and deprived of adequate food and shelter by the British. “The hardships he endured shattered his constitution, and when he found himself almost a beggar, through the vandalism of the British in destroying his estate, and by the depreciation of the continental paper currency, he was seized with a despondency from which he never recovered.”

Concerning New Jersey signer John Hart, Lossing writes: “The signers of the Declaration everywhere were marked for vengeance, and when the enemy made their conquering descent upon New Jersey, Mr. Hart’s estate was among the first to feel the effects of the desolating inroad. The blight fell, not only upon his fortune, but upon his person, and he didn’t love to se the sunlight of Peace and Independence gladden the face of his country. He died in the year 1780 (the gloomiest period of the War of Independence), full of years and deserved honors.”

Lives of the Signers removes the mystique and romance from the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There was much more pain than pageantry from that event. And suffering would follow the celebration. American freedom did not come through oratory; it was achieved because people sacrificed their “lives…fortunes…and sacred honor.”

The book reminds us that great movements require great men; men who were willing to pay a price for their convictions in order for those convictions to be cherished and prevail. And that message is as relevant today as it was when they signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blogging is harder than you think. I prefer posts with well reasoned statements, seasoned with research. I haven’t posted in a very long time, partly because I’m biting my tongue on certain issues and partly because I just haven’t booked the time. But lest I lose the faithful readers I have accrued over the past year and a half, I feel compelled to offer some bit of sagacious verbage.

Two things stir in my heart today.

First, the Hindu prayer opening today’s Senate session by some chap from Nevada was given. Seems like Harry Reid is behind this and he [Reid] made a couple of goofy statements about the situation. The prayee was talking to some force inside the earth. Dumb me. I thought that’s where lava was located. This has had one of those heavy effects on me. I believe America abandoned God a long time ago, but this event was a sad reminder. It's kind of like when someone you dearly love dies and their birthday rolls around. You know they're gone, but that day is a grim reminder of the pain.

Anyway, three folks tried to interrupt the praying Hindu by praying out loud. Supposedly, they were Christians and I have mixed feelings about what they did. On one hand, it seems to reflect poorly on our faith; but on the other, it shows Christians aren’t spineless cowards who sit idly by while our country is shoved further from God.

And speaking of spineless, there are a couple of things to say about this week’s MBC Executive Board meeting. But since I’m still boiling and since those points require more time for blogging, they shall remain (for the moment) unstated.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Independence Now, Independence Forever!

"[This day] will be the most memorable epic in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty…with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."

--John Adams to Abigail Adams on July 4, 1776

With fireworks tents popping up all over your local county, it is clear Americans understand the pomp of July 4. After 231 years, we still revel in the celebration of our independence. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we imported $206.3 million in fireworks from China last year. John Adams didn’t say anything about hotdogs and potato salad, and most church belfries are rusted over or non-existent, but we’re following the advice of America’s great patriot with one glaring exception.

What was it he said? “…solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty”? We can’t even make sure the United States Senate is devoted to giving Him thanks (can you say “Ommmmmmmmm”?).

But Adams is right. July 4 marks a national holy day that is a commemoration of our Day of Deliverance. Victory over Great Britain was a gift from God. American Christians need not take our cues from our secular culture. Long before we ever ice down the watermelon or heat up the grill, let us bow our knees and thank Providence for His munificent dealings and kind disposition towards the United States of America. We have never been more undeserving of His continued blessings than we are now. May our voices not be silent on July 4. Let us praise God, the Author of Liberty.