Reformation Day thoughts

Today is Reformation Day. In 5 years, there presumably will be a huge shindig for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses.

Some people take this very seriously, as do I (it’s hard to understand America without it), but some are invested in it so much as to take it very, very seriously.

In the “very seriously” camp is Russell Saltzman, “dean of the Great Plains Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church, an online homilist for the Christian Leadership Center at the University of Mary, and author of The Pastor’s Page and Other Small Essays.” How he took it seriously is the subject of a recent essay:

The post in question was called “Why Can’t Lutherans Take Catholic Communion?” which would seem to be self-explanatory. Nevertheless, Reverend Saltzman explains how he, a Lutheran, came to receive Holy Communion in a Catholic church. (Hint: It required an archbishop.) He goes on to lament that, while Catholics are free in most cases to receive the sacrament in Lutheran churches, Lutherans are still barred from receiving in Catholic churches.

I read the same Saltzman essay Strange Herring (who’s in the “very, very seriously” camp) read, and had some of the same reactions. But since I am not now, nor have I ever been, a card-carrying member of the Lutheran party, I did not take time to do the take-down Strange Herring presented, from which the preceding block quote is taken.

I particularly like his quote of “Mary,” who commented on Saltzman’s essay:

Lutherans are welcome to take Communion on the same terms as everyone else. Make your profession of faith at the Easter Vigil and be received.

If you think your differences from us are too big for that, they are too big for you to receive.

The eventuality of Saltzman’s way of thinking – that no serious differences remain between Lutheran belief and Roman Catholic belief – if one takes schism as seriously as the Church always did until the centrifugal force of sola scriptura required turning it into a virtue, is what the late Richard John Neuhaus did 22 years ago: return to Rome.

My take on the Reformation is “Why, oh why, didn’t Luther & Co. return to the Church from which Rome is in schism?”

Things that cheer me up

It’s no secret that in many ways I’m less than sanguine about the direction of the country and the world. As a guy who by long habit (I’ll not make a virtue of the habit) sees the glass half empty, it probably behooves me to mention things that cheer me up. Although I open with an explicitly religious one, they’re not all religious by any means. One of them may even have anti-religious undertones. And not even one is political; where’s the good news in that wasteland?

  1. Romans 8:38-39.
  2. People voting with their feet.
  3. Beauty.
  4. Steven Pinker.
  5. Front Porch Republic.
  6. Craftsmanship.
  7. Read More »

Keep your Rosaries off my Hanging Chads

Michigan statute (MCL §168.931(1)(e)) is an extraordinary criminal law:

A priest, pastor, curate, or other officer of a religious society shall not for the purpose of influencing a voter at an election, impose or threaten to impose upon the voter a penalty of excommunication, dismissal, or expulsion, or command or advise the voter, under pain of religious disapproval.

Violation is a misdemeanor. Really. This is not The Onion.

Dr. Levon Yuille, pastor of The Bible Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan, National Director of the National Black Pro-Life Congress and former Chairman of the Michigan Black Republican Council of Southern Michigan has sued, seeking an injunction, claiming that the law violates his free speech, free exercise and equal protection rights (and, of course, asking for reasonable civil rights act attorney fees). From his complaint:


13. Pastor Yuille believes that the Church is the body of Christ.
14. Pastor Yuille believes that when a person acts contrary to God’s Word, the person
risks separating himself or herself from the body of Christ.
15. Pastor Yuille believes that excommunication occurs when a person separates himself or herself from the body of Christ.
16. Pursuant to his sincerely held religious beliefs, Pastor Yuille believes, professes,  and advises that abortion and gay marriage are gravely immoral and contrary to God’s Word. Pastor Yuille expresses his beliefs publicly and privately, including when he is speaking to potential voters, including potential voters who are members of his church.
17. Pursuant to his sincerely held religious beliefs, Pastor Yuille believes, professes, and advises that it is a grave sin for a politician to support abortion and gay marriage. Pastor Yuille expresses his beliefs publicly and privately, including when he is speaking to potential voters, including potential voters who are members of his church.
18. Pursuant to his sincerely held religious beliefs, Pastor Yuille believes, professes, and advises that it is a grave sin for a Christian to knowingly vote for a politician that publicly supports abortion and gay marriage. Pastor Yuille expresses his beliefs publicly and privately, including when he is speaking to potential voters, including potential voters who are members of his church.
19. Pastor Yuille believes, professes, and advises that it is a grave sin for a Christian to vote for a candidate such as President Barack Obama, who publicly supports abortion and gay marriage. Pastor Yuille expresses his beliefs publicly and privately, including when he is speaking to potential voters, including potential voters who are members of his church.
20. Pastor Yuille believes, professes, and advises that when a Christian knowingly votes for a politician who publicly supports abortion and gay marriage, the voter becomes a partner in the sin and his or her soul is in danger of eternal damnation. As a result, the voter is separating himself or herself from the body of Christ. Pastor Yuille expresses his beliefs publicly and privately, including when he is speaking to potential voters, including potential voters who are members of his church.
21. As a result of the upcoming presidential election scheduled for November 6, 2012, Pastor Yuille is compelled by his sincerely held religious beliefs to influence voters to vote consistent with their Christian faith and to advise and inform them that to do otherwise is contrary to God’s Word, it is a sin, it is looked upon with religious disapproval, and it could endanger their soul and separate them from the body of Christ.
22. Pursuant to his sincerely held religious beliefs, Pastor Yuille advises voters, including those voters who are members of his church, that to vote for a candidate that publicly supports abortion and gay marriage, such as President Barack Obama, is to act contrary to God’s Word, it is a grave sin, it is looked upon with religious disapproval, and it could endanger their soul and separate them from the body of Christ.
23. As a result of his sincerely held religious beliefs and his desire to express those beliefs publicly, Pastor Yuille is a pastor, who, for the purpose of influencing a voter at an election, including those voters who are members of his church, advises the voter, under pain of religious disapproval and the potential for suffering separation from the body of Christ, to vote consistent with God’s Word.

Michigan’s Attorney General pooh-poohs the suit on the basis that the law isn’t enforced.

Here endeth the reading of the day. (H/T Howard Friedman at Religion Clause blog)

There’s a reason why the law isn’t enforced, of course. A more brazen violation of any “separation of Church and State” could hardly be imagined than the state criminalizing the expression of religious convictions that intersect politics, such as homiletically warning people of the spiritual consequences of, oh, becoming “a partner in sin.” That Michigan’s Attorney General could find 20 pages worth of stuff to say in resisting the suit testifies that Michigan has a world-class bloviator in the A.G.’s office (although he, unlike the Obama administration, is actually doing his job by defending, as best he can, a law he disagrees with).

I don’t know what Dr. Yuille preaches for, nor do I know how broad and balanced is the list of things he preaches against. I’ve got “seamless garment” leanings, and it’s my current expectation that I’ll vote neither for (1) the regal imposter who’s never met an abortion he didn’t like. doesn’t remember what marriage is, thinks free birth control is more important than religious freedom and personally maintains a list of people who can be assassinated as enemies of the state, nor for (2) the empty suit who thinks there’s nothing wrong with the world that can’t be fixed by American invading or bombing some sovereign state.

But monitoring or punishing religious admonitions is no role of the government, even if those admonitions have very pointed political implications. The first amendment was addressed to Congress, and has been extended to Michigan by the 14th Amendent (or so the incorporationist story goes).

The first amendment has no application whatever to what any church, “priest, pastor, curate, or other officer of a religious society” may do. As my constitutional law professor, the late Patrick Baude put it, “If the Pope of Rome, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and the Rev. Billy Graham got together and engineered the assassination of the President because of some common religious conviction, they would not thereby violate the Constitution.”

So I both wish and predict that Dr. Yuille should win, and that his attorneys for the American Freedom Law Center should be awarded the modest attorney fees (no lodestar multiplier, please) earned from successfully laying down the royal flush the Michigan legislature dealt them – nearly sixty years ago, when anti-Catholicism was perhaps even more brazen than it is now.

Liam Neeson defends Richard Mourdock

[R]ather than stumbling their way through science or theology, perhaps pro-life candidates should simply refer to a scene in the 1995 film, “Rob Roy.”

Jessica Lange’s character reveals to her husband, played by Liam Neeson, that she has become pregnant after being raped by his enemy. “I could not kill it, husband,” she says, almost apologetically.

Responds Mr. Neeson, “It’s not the child that needs killing.”

In just a few words, Mr. Neeson’s character from 18th century Scotland eloquently argues for the child’s innocence. Such an answer is still bound to displease pro-choice voters, but it might at least clarify the argument.

(James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal)

Gotcha!

First, let me acknowledge that Richard Mourdock’s detour into theodicy added nothing to his answer on abortion for pregnancy resulting from rape. He could simply have said that all life is inestimably valuable  regardless of the circumstances of conception.

That said, I fail to find anything monstrous in his gratuitous comment: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” (Emphasis in his voice)

What’s the alternative? Taking the rape and the detour into God’s will as givens, was God caught napping when he should have been dispensing Plan B or Ella? Would one of the baying dogs be willing to break away from the howling pack and help me here?

A generally pro-life conservative candidate cannot win on this question: “What is your position about the legality of abortion when a pregnancy results from rape?” Here are his or her alternatives, paraphrased by the left blogosphereStop if you’re easily offended.

  1. “I don’t think abortion should be legal even in cases of rape because I’m a soulless misogynist bastard religious fanatic sonofabitch who has no sympathy for women in tragic circumstances.”
  2. “I don’t think abortion should be illegal in cases of rape because I am a soulless misogynist bastard religious fanatic sonofabitch who considers compulsory motherhood the just penalty for sluts who actually have sex on purpose, and a rape victim may not be a slut, though most women are these days.”

Questions about abortion are legitimate, and a candidate for U.S. Senate ought to have a better-rehearsed answer ready. I don’t blame the press for asking, but I do wish they’d question the Friends of Feticide just as closely on their support for things like partial birth abortion and public financing of abortion.

This kerfuffle has made me likelier – much likelier this day of the 15 minute Mourdock hate – to vote for Mourdock, about whom my feelings are otherwise rather mixed.

Thank you for letting me vent about one of few campaign incidents that has riled me this pathetic year.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.