Dedicated to the Culture of Life

Rick Santorum had to leave the campaign trail this weekend as his three-year-old daughter Bella was hospitalized with pneumonia. Her condition was serious, but now seems to be improving. Santorum was up with her most of one night; he said she was really struggling. What makes this even more poignant is that Bella has Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder that usually takes a child’s life in the first year. Her prognosis is not good; only rarely does one with this condition last until the teenage years.

What this whole episode underscores is the Santorums’ dedication to the culture of life. Most parents nowadays, when informed of a birth defect, opt for abortion. The Santorums refused to do so—not just this once, but twice. Back in the mid-1990s, they had another birth trauma. Their unborn child at that time also had a birth defect. The doctor said, rather bluntly, that the child would die. Santorum and his wife, Karen, didn’t follow the advice of many to abort the child. Their pro-life convictions dictated otherwise. Santorum writes in his book It Takes a Family,

I must tell you that our reaction, after the shock and grief, was not to avoid the pain, the cost, or the struggle; it was not to get rid of the “problem,” and it was not to put the baby out of his misery like something that was less than human. Karen and I couldn’t rationalize how we could treat this little human life at twenty weeks’ gestation in the womb any different than one twenty weeks old after birth. At either age, he is helpless, unaware, and thoroughly dependent on us, his parents, to protect him, care for him, and love him unconditionally. So instead of giving our child a death sentence we gave him a name: Gabriel Michael, after the two great archangels.

Santorum then tells how it affected his family and him personally:

No, we had no choice but to fight to save our son’s life. We did all we could, including intrauterine surgery, but our son was born prematurely, and after two hours in our arms, he died. Gabriel died as a cherished member of our family—forever—having known only love in his brief time on earth. Life changes us all, but often nothing like death. At that moment, eternity became reality. After Gabriel, being a husband and father was different, being a legislator was different. I was different.

I honor that kind of commitment. It’s a commitment based on the Biblical principle that each person is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated as a valuable member of a family and a society. Later in his book, Santorum clearly identifies the seared conscience this society has developed over the years:

The social critic Christopher Lasch was right when he said, “Every day we tell ourselves lies so that we can live.” Americans get up every day in a country that permits, fosters, and on some levels even encourages the killing of the same number of children every year as there are people in Maine. And yet the vast majority of us do nothing. We tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do; or that it is sad, but necessary; or that the country is better off without those unwanted children; or that having an abortion is wrong, but you can’t impose your values on someone else. Many Americans simply don’t think about it at all, because they aren’t getting hurt. As another saying goes: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Santorum and his family are exhibiting for the entire nation what a Christian family ought to be. We need more of those models. We need people like Rick Santorum in positions of leadership for the sake of the moral foundation of our society.

Constitutional Liberty

Rick Santorum has a concept of freedom that is closer to the Founding Fathers’ definition than anyone else running for president. It’s also a concept that is in line with Biblical presuppositions. In his book It Takes a Family, he lays it out clearly [I urge you to read this rather lengthy quote carefully]:

The freedom talked about at our Constitutional Convention did not mean the village elders’ self-centered, No-Fault Freedom. It wasn’t a freedom that celebrated the individual above society. It wasn’t a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted. It wasn’t the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be. It wasn’t even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don’t yet know. The Constitutional Convention’s freedom, America’s traditional freedom—or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty—was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self. For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity. Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one’s duties—duties to God, to family, and to neighbors.

Santorum then explains that he’s not negating rights that belong to individuals, just that these rights were never intended solely for one’s individual welfare, but the general welfare, or the common good. His greatest concern is that the No-Fault Freedom of what he calls “the village elders” will become dominant, if it hasn’t already:

The multiculturalist village elders deny there is such a thing as “common,” and the relativist elders deny there is such a thing as an absolute “good.” As a result, families trying to live and to raise children as decent citizens suffer. When, in the name of “freedom,” public virtue is sunk so low that families must swim against a toxic tide to raise children to be decent and public-spirited adults, something has gone terribly wrong with our understanding of freedom.

Society, he argues, is not just “an unconnected group of individuals, each pursuing his own idiosyncratic vision of his self-centered good.” That perspective is “an image of society as a pile of sand, each grain unconnected to all the others.” Jesus said something about a house built on sand—it will sink and fracture.

If only voters would look past outward displays of bombast and petty arguments and focus instead on substance. If they did, they would appreciate Santorum a lot more.

My Quandary

I’ve traveled a circuitous route to get to the place where I am today in deciding whom to support in the Republican primary. I began with an interest in Bachmann, but soon concluded she didn’t have the experience for the job. I then turned to Perry for a brief while, hoping he would be the political “savior,” but that soured for me pretty quickly, particularly after a few debates. Herman Cain came on my personal radar after I was his table companion at a Republican event. I liked his attempt to get us to a fair tax. When he imploded over what I still think may have been false accusations, I toyed for a while with the idea that Gingrich could be the man. But then I took a fresh look at Santorum and came away impressed with his foundational understanding of principles of government and society based on a Christian worldview. That’s where I am today, and next Tuesday, I will cast my vote for him in Florida’s Republican primary.

Some may ask why I cannot go for Ron Paul, since he mirrors my constant calls for a return to constitutionalism. The reasons are many, but they boil down to two: his doctrinaire libertarianism and his foreign policy. Paul would have no problem with a state allowing abortion and same-sex marriage; I want an amendment to the Constitution protecting innocent human life and one clearly defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Those are God’s standards for society, and I argue they should be national in scope. On foreign policy, he really doesn’t grasp the threat of Islamic radicalism. I don’t believe we would be safe on his watch.

That leaves the two frontrunners, Romney and Gingrich. What’s my beef with them? Let me be as specific as I can for each one.

Romney

  • A new book, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics, written by a fellow Mormon, tells how Romney followed the advice of a pollster who said he could never win elective office in Massachusetts as a pro-life candidate. So he abruptly switched to pro-choice in his run for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. Both in that race and in the later gubernatorial race, he did his best to go to the left of his Democrat opponent. There is a viral video making the rounds of Romney pledging to uphold Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right to choose.” Another video shows him saying that a minor seeking an abortion without her parents’ consent can go to the courts to get permission. It’s not that he has made a conversion to pro-life; in fact, he started out that way and changed to pro-choice for purely political reasons. Now he’s pro-life again, and I believe the reason is once again political.
  • When the Massachusetts Supreme Court simply declared it was irrational not to allow same-sex marriage and told the legislature it needed to rectify the situation, Romney didn’t even wait to see what the legislature would do but took the lead in personally granting 189 marriage certificates to same-sex couples. He didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t mandated. So now when he says he’s opposed to same-sex marriage, why should we trust him?
  • He still has the albatross of Romneycare hanging on him. Only Santorum has had the courage to take him head-on on this issue. His plan was a precursor for Obamacare. It has the identical individual mandate. It rests on the same philosophy. As I’ve said before, how can he credibly attack Obamacare when he refuses to acknowledge the wrongness of his own plan? And just in the past few days, comments from one of his advisers indicate he really doesn’t expect to repeal the entire Obamacare monstrosity after all, no matter what he has promised on the campaign trail. Can he really be trusted to keep his word?

Gingrich

  • While he can talk a good talk, I have serious doubts that he is willing to walk his talk. Why? The many reports about how he carried out his speakership in the 1990s—from those who were with him in Congress—gives one pause. Testimony from reputable legislators such as Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Santorum himself paint a picture of a man with an outsized ego who was more than willing to break the pledges in the Contract with America for political gain.
  • He lost the confidence of his fellow Republicans in the House, and thereby lost his speakership. He resigned from the post [and from Congress itself] when he realized he wouldn’t be reelected their leader.
  • Like Romney, Gingrich supported the individual mandate in healthcare, advocated policies to fight man-made global warming [when its existence is doubtful], and toyed with cap-and-trade legislation. And, like Romney, he supported the TARP bailout.
  • His tactics in attacking Romney have come from the Left, using the same arguments Obama will undoubtedly use about greed, “vulture” capitalism, and now even accusing Romney of being anti-immigration. These smack of political opportunism and deliberate misrepresentation. Of course, Romney is not innocent on this point either.
  • His moral failings are an open book. Yes, I believe in redemption. I hope he has experienced it. But it becomes difficult to defend a man and promote him for the highest office in the land when he has that kind of background.
  • He is a superb speaker, but also one who may doom himself one day with his unrestrained commentary. As Santorum noted, do we want a nominee who may embarrass himself and the entire party with his loose tongue?

This is my quandary: what to do if Santorum cannot win—and his chances are slim at this point. I will have no option but to vote for whoever wins this race because Obama is far worse than either Romney or Gingrich, and his party stands for ideas repugnant to a Biblical worldview.

Some Republicans are hoping for a stalemated primary season where no one receives the majority needed to clinch the nomination. That would mean the convention would later make the choice. While this would be a potential problem for party unity and might project to the electorate an image of a party in disarray, it could be worth it in the end. If a brokered convention can provide a nominee with a minimum of baggage and an ability to communicate the conservative message effectively, we will all be better off. It worked in 1880 when James Garfield got the nod and won the general election. Could it work again?

Santorum: Natural Law & Marriage

Let’s continue the analysis of Rick Santorum’s book It Takes a Family. One of the key points he emphasizes is the concept of natural law, which he calls “the operating instructions for human beings.” We will only be happy, he says, when we fall in line with the way things are supposed to be, as established by God. Liberals, though, think of “nature” as too confining. They don’t like to be bound by anything that they believe inhibits their freedom. Santorum notes, “At first, the liberal vision may sound attractive—because freedom is attractive. The only problem is that it is a false vision, because nature is nature, and the freedom to choose against the natural law is not really freedom at all.”

While this may sound like a high-end philosophical debate, it actually has specific cultural and policy ramifications. He looks first at cohabitation before marriage, which promises freedom, but instead leads to greater anguish via higher divorce rates and more emotional problems for the children. He then gets very politically incorrect:

Despite all the evidence, as a society today we will go to almost any length to avoid telling ourselves, and others, the truth: marriage is better than living together. Too few of us dare say living together without the benefit of marriage is wrong. We are afraid to make any such “value judgment.” But that is exactly what we need to do. We parents owe it to our children to be honest, to give them a vision of the highest good. Failure to affirm a moral vision to our children is a form of abandonment by parents and by society.

He then shifts to the related topic of same-sex marriage, which he terms “radical social engineering.” When same-sex marriage is permitted, it means the government no longer cares about the family structure. Everything devolves into “caregivers” for children rather than a mom and dad, as the natural law would have it. And the consequences will be dire:

Moreover, once the government commits to same-sex marriage as a civil right, it will use the power of the state to enforce this new vision of marriage. Public schools will teach it, of course. But the logic of same-sex marriage will lead inevitably to even more government intrusion on the freedom of people and faith communities who continue to define marriage as the union of husbands and wives. …

If we apply the logic of a civil right to same-sex marriage, people who believe children need mothers and fathers will be treated in the public square like racists, and churches that persist in teaching the traditional norm will risk the loss of their tax-exempt status. In other words, such churches will be treated as outlaws.

Once this wall has been breached, and the law declares same-sex marriage to be a right, future generations will see it as the new moral standard. Institutions like the university where I teach will be under pressure to change or be denied the same status as other universities. Student loans will be withheld to anyone wanting to attend. Enrollment will fall; its degree programs will be considered invalid; it will probably close its doors. This is, in truth, a war against Christianity.

I want someone in the Oval Office who grasps the enormity of this potential danger. Rick Santorum is someone who sees the problem clearly.

South Carolina’s Results–Some Thoughts

It’s now two days since the South Carolina primary. The commentators have commentated, and I’ve listened to and read a number of them as I attempt to come to my own conclusions regarding the outcome. Here are my various thoughts, in no particular prearranged order.

I heard only one of the speeches that evening—Newt Gingrich’s. He was appropriately humble and visionary. He showed magnanimity toward the other contenders. If all I knew about him was that one speech, I would be an avid supporter. But the questions remain. Even if I give him all the benefit of the doubt, and accept his moral turnaround as genuine, there’s still other baggage [there’s that word again that refuses to leave peacefully].

Fox senior analyst Brit Hume darkly warned that a Gingrich nomination would be unacceptable to many of his former congressional colleagues. He predicted a silent revolt—some openly avoiding appearing with him during the campaign—fearful they might lose their reelection bids if they get too close. I don’t know how accurate that prediction is, but it does arrest one’s budding enthusiasm.

And as Santorum noted during the final SC debate, do we really want to nominate someone whose next utterance may cause a firestorm? Can Newt be trusted to rein in his rhetoric when necessary? Right now, it’s working for him as he takes the media to task for its hypocrisy. Will that approach work in the general election if he is the nominee, or will it sink the Republican ship? I, for one, love to see a politician calling out the media for what it is: a shill for Obama’s reelection. But would Newt find the proper balance between critique and casting a hopeful vision for the future of the country? He did so on Saturday. That’s a start.

I have to admit I hope SC is the beginning of the end for the Romney candidacy. While I think he’s a decent person, I don’t believe he has what it takes to tackle the Democrat smear machine. He can’t even hold his own against friendlier opponents. His drastic drop in SC in such a short period of time doesn’t bode well for his staying power. When you add those concerns to the ones I’ve had all along, there’s no way I could exert any energy on behalf of nominee Romney.

I didn’t see Santorum’s speech, but the commentators I read generally said it was one of his best, if not the best, of the campaign season. They said it had genuine substance. He seems to have gained greater respect over time. Most see him as a principled conservative and not a political opportunist who sways in the policy winds. The issue now, of course, is whether he can replicate his Iowa win anywhere else. Or is Gingrich now on such a roll that he will sweep all before him? I continue to believe that would be a shame. Santorum, to me, is the most honorable of the potential nominees, and deserves better from the Republican electorate.

The contenders are now in Florida. I’m already planning to go to one event where Santorum will be present, and perhaps others may appear there as well. It’s only about a mile from my house, so it will be quite convenient. While I know Santorum’s chances are not great at this point, I believe one must vote according to conscience. Unless there is a revolution in my thinking over the next week, I will happily cast my vote for him on January 31.

When all is said and done [as the cliché goes], I must trust God to take the republic under His wings and do what He can with the material He has to work with. One thing I firmly believe: a second term for Barack Obama will result in a further decline in the moral and social capital of the nation. Regime change is essential.

Marriage & Family: They Really Do Matter

Back to Rick Santorum’s book It Takes a Family.

Chapter four, entitled “Families and the Common Good,” is probably the foundational chapter for the entire book. Up to this point, Santorum was describing the general divergence of the liberal and conservative visions. Now, with laserlike focus, he establishes healthy families as the key to the success of the entire society. And by “success,” he doesn’t mean just economic success. That will be part of it, as another section of the book relates, but he’s talking about genuine happiness and security, especially for children. Here’s how he explains it:

Marriage matters because children matter. Without marriage, children suffer. There is simply no better investment parents can make in their children’s future than a healthy marriage. For my wife Karen and me, marriage is a sacred vocation. We give ourselves to each other: mind, body, and soul. Nothing in this world is more important to me than the happiness and well-being of my wife and children. It is my most important job. All of my strength comes from my love for them and God’s love for me. When children live with parents who love each other, sacrifice for each other, and are committed to each other, they are given a real head start on life.

He then gets into some statistics that reveal the following:

  • Children, ages one to four, born to unmarried parents are at greater risk of dying from an injury
  • Children living in single-parent homes are twice as likely to suffer physical, emotional, or educational neglect
  • The rate of child abuse rises in a single-parent home, is lower in a home where there are two parents who are not married, but much lower in a home where the parents are married
  • Children in single-parent households have poorer grades, poorer attendance records, and higher dropout rates

Santorum concludes,

The social science evidence, four thousand years of human history, and common sense have long settled the question. In a decent society, every child should have the best shot at growing up to be a healthy and successful adult. That opportunity is found in healthy, married, mom-and-dad families. The traditional family is not about some “special interest.” It’s about the rights of parents and children, and ultimately it’s about the common good.

Government policy works against marriage. If a couple has a child out of wedlock and then is considering marriage, they learn they can’t get the same help from social workers that they would if they stay unmarried. He also points the accusing finger at churches who have given up hope on salvaging the institution of marriage, particularly in the inner cities. Many don’t even try to help anymore.

At the end of the chapter, Santorum returns to the problem of the liberal visionaries, but also takes aim at conservatives as well:

We’ve wasted decades and countless lives under the direction of the village elders trying to build bureaucracies to aid the poor and marginal in our society, while ignoring the central importance of the traditional family. We must stop pretending that the health of the mom-and-dad family isn’t really important. Conservatives always knew this was a mistake, but, to be quite candid, failed to offer an alternative vision; now, thanks to the social science evidence, we all know that this was a mistake. We need to spend the coming decades working to build up traditional families. What is it that stands against us in this effort? The village elders and their well-funded special interests—and they will not go away quietly.

For Rick Santorum, the centrality of the family is not merely a political prop to win higher office. This comes from his own experience. If he should have the opportunity to attain that higher office, those of us who believe as he does about this can be secure that the nation is in good hands.

Choose a Standard-Bearer Who Has Integrity . . . Please

So much happened in the campaigns yesterday that I’m postponing more commentary on Santorum’s book for one day. Part of what happened, of course, deals with Santorum. Iowa had to reverse itself on who won the caucuses. It seems that Santorum is the winner by 35 votes. There remains confusion about some uncounted precincts, but apparently they won’t be included. This means Romney is not on the roll he and the media had proclaimed he was.

All you ever heard was that Romney, after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, was the inevitable nominee. This changes that scenario. Some may say that it’s only 35 votes, so it’s no big deal that Santorum won. Well, Romney’s “win” was a mere eight votes. Which is better? What’s fascinating is that the Romney people decided to call Iowa a tie. That’s not the rhetoric they used when they thought they had a victory there. Santorum isn’t having any of that—he has declared victory, a fact finally acknowledged by Romney later in the day and announced at the CNN debate last night. So it’s recognized as official.

What will this do for Santorum in South Carolina? That remains to be seen. But another factor in his favor that may raise his vote total is his performance at the debate. He was strong; much better than the last time. In fact, commentators on the National Review and Townhall websites gave the win to Santorum in the debate, which is the first time they’ve ever done that. Now, will that double bit of good news, along with some high-profile evangelical endorsements [the 150 leaders who met in Houston last weekend; Gary Bauer; James Dobson] help his cause? The latest polls show him lagging. The voting is Saturday, so there’s not much time to make up the ground. Yet, all in all, yesterday was a great day for Santorum.

It wasn’t so great for Perry and Gingrich, though. Perry held a news conference and dropped his bid for the White House. He finally bowed to reality. The unfortunate part of his departure for me, however, was his endorsement of Gingrich. As a sincere Christian, I hoped Perry would put his weight behind Santorum. But a poll of his supporters shows that they are about evenly divided as to whom they will support—22% Romney, 20% Gingrich and Santorum, so I’m not sure Perry’s endorsement meant a lot.

That was probably the only good news for Gingrich yesterday. His past has come back to haunt him again. His ex-wife taped an interview with ABC’s Nightline that highlighted his hypocrisy and venality in their relationship. How much can one believe from an ex-wife who was embittered by the way a marriage ended? I’m not sure, but it throws the limelight on Gingrich’s character once more. She says he approached her with the grand idea of an “open” marriage, in which he would be free to have a mistress on the side. She says she rejected that outrageous request.

The debate opened with CNN moderator John King asking Gingrich about it. Gingrich responded by lecturing King about the propriety of having such questions be part of a presidential debate. He was so indignant in his response that he got the crowd on his side, leading to a standing ovation. He then denied the account his ex-wife gave. While one part of me rejoices to see the mainstream media taken to the cleaners like that—and Gingrich is especially good at doing it—I would not have been part of the standing ovation if I had been there. Why?

I just don’t trust Gingrich’s integrity. I’ve stated before that I believe in forgiveness of sins if there is a genuine repentance before God. Gingrich says he has done that, but as I watch him, I get the uneasy feeling that he’s not being strictly truthful about it. I don’t want to disbelieve him, but there’s just so much in his background—what everyone refers to as his “baggage”—that’s it’s difficult to put it all behind.

I also look ahead to the general election. It would be hard for me to be enthused about a Gingrich candidacy when I have so many nagging, unanswered questions about the man. And you can be sure Obama’s people will take out extremely long knives, many of which will slice deeply. No matter how skilled a debater Gingrich might be, his ability to rally the nation to his side is a long shot.

As a Christian, I want to vote for someone who has undoubted integrity. Even if I might have some disagreements with the candidate on specific means for carrying out his agenda, I at least want to be confident that his heart is for God and for serving the people. At this point, the only one who inspires that kind of confidence in me is Rick Santorum. I seek to vote for someone, not just against Obama.

What will Saturday hold? South Carolina, you gave us John McCain last time. When he won that primary, it was the turning point of the campaign. How did that work out? It’s time to rectify that mistake. Instead of going for another moderate [Romney] or someone who raises more questions about his past and what he will do in the future [Gingrich], how about elevating one who is solid and steady, someone who will carry the banner with honor? I hope the Republican voters in South Carolina will give Santorum the chance to be that standard-bearer.