It is always encouraging when there is action in government or culture that shows that religious liberty is not dead in the USA. Alliance Defending Freedom reports that another private business has obtained relief in the courts from the oppressive employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Give thanks to God for committed legal teams and for judges with integrity.
A friend sent me a link to a frightening video that I view with the same blend of skepticism and concern I try to apply to all apocalyptic warnings. There were elements of the presentation that I need to verify from other sources. I don’t just swallow things whole.
However, a single statistic did capture my attention and my concern. It is a statistic I have seen elsewhere. I used to see it reported about the population of Europe, and now I see it reported about the population of the USA.
US Fertility Rate = 1.6.
This is a number to make any thinking person get busy thinking a lot more.
The reason this number gives me pause is another statistic. The birth rate required for a culture to sustain itself is 2.11. The consequence of a birth rate less than 2.11 is the death of a culture. I won’t try to predict what follows the death of the culture we know, but as far as I can tell, the culture I once thought was the USA is truly dying. If the birth rate continues at the rate of 1.6 then there will come a time when the USA that led an alliance to set a whole world free of tyranny in World War II will be a dim memory, if it is remembered at all.
I was captivated by this number. US Fertility Rate = 1.6. During the election campaign of 2012, a dominant theme was the so-called “war on women.” The primary issue in that so-called war was a newly discovered universal human right to contraception, abortion and sterilization. The one thing everyone came to know about the new healthcare law, scornfully labeled Obamacare, is that it requires every employer to provide preventive health services for women that include contraception, abortion and sterilization at no charge to the patients. A lot of time was spent during the campaign maligning anyone who suggested that contraception is not health care or a preventive health service. Any candidate who proposed that people pay for their own contraception would have been hooted off the stage.
This campaign only highlighted the fact that in the USA, abortion and contraception have become almost interchangeable issues, and nobody seems to correlate this emphasis with the decline in the birth rate that means the culture cannot sustain itself. I’m no statistician, but those who are say that to date, no culture has ever rebounded from a birth rate of 1.6, although the rate from which it is supposedly mathematically impossible to recover is a bit lower.
What happens if the birth rate of the US remains at 1.6? What happens if it becomes even lower?
What bothers me is that people seem to be very concerned that somebody will interfere with contraception and abortion, and nobody seems to be concerned that this country will not be recognizable in a couple of generations if this birth rate continues. It appears to me that nobody cares that the culture of the USA will soon be only a memory, and that the people who will likely fill the gap really won’t care at all to preserve that memory.
If you have read this far and have asked yourself, “What does this have to do with being Christian?” my answer is this: about 70% of people in the US self-identify as Christians, and they are part of the statistic on the fertility rate. Self-identified Christians make up more than half of the US population, and it appears that Christians are just as interested in preventing or terminating pregnancy as the rest of the population. The national issues that have grown out of the passage of the Affordable Care Act make it clear that many Christians see no conflict with their faith in the emphasis on contraception, abortion and sterilization. The conversation about these issues, however, never seems to include any reference to the fact that before this act was even passed, our national fertility rate was low enough that the end of the culture that passed the act was already inevitable. Viewed that way, one wonders what is the reason for all the excitement. The people who worry about the doom of the culture are completely out-numbered by those who believe that prevention and termination of pregnancy are essential to the national well-being. Those who want pregnancy under control will absolutely get their wish according to the statistics. If Christians do nothing different from whatever they are doing now, American Christians are already a dying breed.
I must ask why abortion and contraception are so important to our government and our national leaders. I must ask why the female leaders in our nation not only support but also energetically advocate abortion and contraception. I must ask why so many Christians support an agenda to prevent or terminate pregnancy. Why?
I will write more on this subject later, but for now I simply ask this question: What becomes of our country if there is no next generation? What becomes of Christianity in the US if there is no next generation of Christians?
- Hobby Lobby Will Defy ACA Requirement for Free Contraception (crooksandliars.com)
- U.S. birth rate plummets to its lowest level since 1920 (dailyitem.com)
- Religious Convictions Vs. The ‘Morning After Pill’ (libertycrier.com)
The history of the USA is rich in stories of people who fled countries where their faith made them targets. In some cases they were in danger because their neighbors persecuted and scorned them while a complicit government cruised with hands off. In other places, the government persecuted them directly. Many of these refugees have suffered horrors American citizens can only barely imagine. American citizens welcome people fleeing persecution and give thanks that in this country, we have a Constitutional amendment that protects us from such things.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which became part of the Constitution in 1791, reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
It sounds quite straightforward. Congress may not make any law that prohibits the free exercise of religion.
Common sense has resulted in an understanding that if somebody’s religion called for child sacrifice, the nation would respond with outrage and certainly would prohibit a religion from engaging in that practice. It is interesting to me that this is a common example used to show that as a nation, our understanding of religious freedom balks at burning a child on an altar, precisely because the practice of abortion, and the related practices of contraception and sterilization, have become the elements of a prohibition of the free exercise of religion in this country. The Affordable Healthcare Act, conversationally known as Obamacare, has introduced something into our system of law that raises a bright red flag for anyone who pays attention to the history and daily news of religious persecution around the world.
This legislation requires every employer in the US to provide health insurance coverage for services the law classifies as “preventive” health services. The required services include contraception, abortion and sterilization at no cost to the employee. That is, the employee may not be required to pay the premium, and the employee may not be required to pay deductibles or copays for these services. For the employee, these services must be free. Further, the regulations built on this legislation allow a conscience exemption only for worship institutions whose religious theology prohibits engaging in or providing such services. Institutions such as hospitals, universities, counseling centers, and so forth are not exempted, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers. On February 10, 2012, President Obama announced what he called an “accommodation” in response to complaints by Catholic employers, a response that simply shifted the cost of providing such so-called “preventive” health services to the insurance company itself. Yet when the final rule was published on February 15, it appeared to be an unmodified publication of the initial rule. The Catholic Bishops and numerous other individuals and groups protested to no avail that this ruling was a breach of First Amendment protections.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this particular confrontational issue, it represents only the tip of the iceberg. Every Christian, and every person who lives by the principle that obedience to God trumps obedience to the State, must be concerned by this development. It is hard to imagine any prior administration daring to trample First Amendment rights this way. Catholic teaching for two thousand years has forbidden engaging in contraception, abortion or sterilization, and the government had to know this when the original rule was published. Yet the rule was published, the argument was argued, and in the end, unless some future court ruling changes things, the rule stands. The forcefulness of the government’s rejection of the issue of religious expression is startling, given our history. It may lie in the equally startling semantic corollary to this conversation. The advocates for this rule speak of pregnancy as a disease that must be prevented. Such a view of pregnancy is shocking by itself, but that view is required in order for the mind to accept the notion that contraception, abortion and sterilization are preventive health services, necessary, even essential to women’s health. In fact, the language being used has ramped up the concern about women’s health to such a level that many speakers talk about a universal human right to free contraception, abortion and sterilization.
The concise version of the story of the Affordable Healthcare Act and its mandate on employers to provide all women’s preventive health services at no cost to the employee is this: the State has a legitimate interest in assuring that women do not get pregnant by accident, and if an unplanned pregnancy should occur, it must be easy and cost-free to end that pregnancy. Notice how none of the verbiage uses the word “baby” or the word “child.” Yet the State is motivating women to practice contraception, abortion and sterilization without regard to the scientific truth that these procedures do, in fact, involve sacrificing a child on the altar of somebody’s convenience. In fact, the pressure exerted and the scorn poured out upon people of faith who object to this rule as a violation of their right to live their faith convictions makes it quite clear that the State’s convenience is at least as much at issue here as the convenience of women who don’t want babies.
The antagonists in this conflict are 1) the State (the United States of America personified by the President of the United States of America and the Congress of the United States of America), and 2) people who hold religious convictions prohibiting them from practicing or supporting the practices of contraception, abortion and sterilization. The State has by its actions asserted that to assert that God’s law has a higher claim to obedience than the law of the United States of America is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
It is not farfetched to say that the State wants to be a god for whom citizens sacrifice children.
Historically, when the State requires any citizen to disobey God in order to obey the State, it signals the beginning of real persecution. The path from this moment of truth to some more gruesome evidence of persecution may be fairly lengthy, or it may be so short that we get there tomorrow. In many countries, the path for the State is smooth and unfettered, because many countries have no legal protection in place for Christians. In the US, there should at least be a fairly massive outcry against imprisoning or torturing Christians, but many more subtle and devious methods of persecution exist, and many are already in place in our culture.
This post is about an explosive and obvious moment when our country stood on a precipice and actually appeared to fall over the cliff. Perhaps rescue from this particular assault will appear from somewhere. Perhaps not. Christians cannot count on a drift away from the precipice. When someone with power exerts that power and subdues a powerful opponent, the high is like the first injection of heroin. The memory of that moment always calls out for repetition.
Christians must be faithful in word and deed. We must speak out and stand up for the right to free expression of our faith. In the USA we have that privilege today. We must not let it dissolve before our eyes in a semantic cesspool.
- Is Life No Longer an Inalienable Right? (livingontilt.wordpress.com)
- The HHS Mandate: Is it a Religious Liberty Issue? (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Governmental Attacks on Religious Freedom (richwendling.wordpress.com)
- What Chen Gaungcheng and the Catholic Bishops Have in Common (livingontilt.wordpress.com)
The Declaration of Independence stated that the signers believed God had granted to every person a right to life. Everything that happened after that in the colonies that became the United States of America claimed its roots in that Declaration. When the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America brought the new nation into being, the principles espoused in the Declaration were fleshed out in a form of government that respected citizens and specifically protected the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. After the passage of 236 years, it now appears that the right to life is being discarded. There have been several years of hints that this right was devalued, but until now, we have not had a president and an administrative team that fleshed out a blatant disregard for the value of human life, along with complete disregard for the value of human liberty.
Christians believe that life is God’s best gift to us. When Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, she showed a blatant disregard for life, too. God had said that on the day she ate of that fruit, she would die, but she forgot all about it in a rush to satisfy the desires her Self foisted upon her. Self is always focused on getting what it wants. That is why she was so eager to believe the serpent when he said, “You will not die.” As a third-grader, I had a similar experience of being lured by a friend into behavior my mother had forbidden, carefully naming the specific consequences of any disobedience. Just like Eve, I wanted to believe that my friend had privately obtained permission from my mother instead of believing that if my mother wanted to give me that permission, she would give it in person. Just like Eve, I wanted what I wanted so much that I believed a lie. Death was not the consequence of my misbehavior, but even if it had been threatened, I believe that Eve and I are kindred Selves who can selectively forget about what annoys us. I know very, very well what it was like for Eve to reject life and choose death. Our national leadership is, wittingly or unwittingly, doing the same thing.
If we had doubts before, they should now be cleared away as we contemplate something that would have been unthinkable till now. The Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was treated like an unwanted child by the staff at the United States embassy in China.(I use this imagery advisedly. You will see how it fits the situation.) It is hard to imagine, let alone accept as factual news, the scornful and dismissive treatment received by Chen Guangcheng, who speaks out for the right to life and liberty. Chen has exposed the brutal means by which China enforces its cruel one-child policy, reporting on forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and other enforcement practices which most of us would consider both cruel and unusual, yet the United States Department of State did not welcome this man when he fled house arrest that included frequent beatings of him and his wife. They used every means at their disposal to get rid of him. Why?
If you recall the way our president refused to respect the rights of Catholics to decline to purchase for themselves or others insurance coverage for contraception, abortion and sterilization, then you will have a basis for understanding why our president and his administration want to avoid any association with Chen. Unfortunately for all people whose principles include a fervent commitment to protect life and liberty, regardless of whether the commitment grows out of religious or humanist belief systems, our president and his administration have a larger agenda that was heretofore unknown to me. I have not seen it publicized in the mainstream media. I have not even heard it discussed on conservative talk shows. I found it at www.lifesitenews.com.
The Chen affair, however, only threatens an amicable and highly profitable relationship between the U.S. and China, and presents no “upside” for the American bottom line.
Worse for Chen is his uncomfortable and embarrassing opposition to China’s population control agenda, a policy supported by the Obama administration and in particular the State Department, which is spending tens of billions of dollars on such programs worldwide. Although the administration gives lip-service against coercive abortion and sterilization, it is simultaneously helping to finance the Chinese population control machine with tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which helps to administer China’s brutal one-child policy.
Our president and his State Department are helping to pay for the Chinese population control machine. The taxes you pay and the taxes I pay and the taxes the Catholic Bishops pay and the taxes paid by all citizens are being used to pay to enforce the Chinese one-child policy. Many years ago when the policy was first reported, I remember reading that people who chose to have another child might discover that the government would not allow the child to go to school, or would not provide healthcare for the child. The story was that if the parents were able to pay for whatever services the child needed, everything was fine. Apparently, either that report was incorrect, or the government has simply increased the pressure of enforcement. Today, the one-child policy is enforced by dragging pregnant women away from their families and forcibly aborting their babies, even if the baby is only days from a full-term delivery. Our taxes are paying for this atrocity. Today, men and women are being forcibly sterilized if the government loses patience with their determination to have more than one child. Today, in China there are signs on the walls of buildings that order women to take contraceptive drugs because it is good for the State. Taxes collected from United States citizens are paying for these outrages. Taxes collected from Christians who believe in the right to life and the right to liberty are paying for these policies.
You need to know that in 2002, George Bush withdrew US funding for UNFPA precisely because of this problem. And on March 12, 2009, the new president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, reinstated that funding to the tune of $50 million. On that occasion, he used the same terminology he and his administration used in regard to their determination to force the Catholic Bishops and Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for free contraception, abortion and sterilization: women’s health.
The snarky demon in my heart wants to make some really snide remarks about health services that rip full-term babies from the wombs of weeping mothers and drown them in buckets. I try instead to hear Christ himself tell me to love the people that do these things, to pray for them, to be a blessing to them. I am having a very hard battle with my sarcastic tongue. Still, the calm and balanced analytical part of my mind reminds me that name-calling and insults can turn a tentative opinion into a deep-rooted commitment much faster than any amount of education and persuasion. I pray not to descend to that level.
Rather, I ask my readers and all citizens to think about what it means to define women’s health services around methods of preventing or ending pregnancy. I further ask why we as a nation would ever want to fund murder and torture under the guise of family planning. Above all, I ask if we can reconcile our stated belief that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable and self-evident with a willingness to suppress expression of religious faith and to participate in a population control policy articulated and enforced by acts of extreme brutality. These are questions every citizen must ask.
Citizens who also claim the name of Christ must ask a few more questions.
· How do I learn to love someone who regards pregnancy as a medical complication which must be prevented or forcibly ended?
· If our government continues to fund population control through the UN and to demand that medical means for population control be administered in the USA through health insurance citizens are required to buy, what do faithful Christian citizens do and say about it?
· How do I sustain hope in God and faith that his sovereignty works in all things for good when I see our government and other governments participate in such policies?
· Do I believe that the right to life and liberty are given to humans by God? Or not?
I have a lot of fears for the future, despite my faith that God is sovereign. History teaches me that evil rulers often thrive much longer than the oppressed believe possible. Yet history also teaches me that faithful believers do not give up their faith because God’s judgment on evil is delayed. I pray for you and for me, that we may live our faith and testify to our hope in the love of God who works all things for good and never abandons us, till the end of time. I pray for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and all who have signed on to the agenda that says pregnancy is a disease. May they come to know and value God’s gift of life and his gift of the right to life. If all my prayers are answered, then at least one horror will be reversed.
How was Hitler able to persuade the Jews to march docilely off to their own deaths? He lied to them.
How does any government achieve goals that require people to cooperate in their own destruction? The government lies to them.
This blog is devoted to discussing the way we as Christians live in a secular humanist culture. We will talk about faith practices that help us mature in the faith, and we will talk about issues that arise when our faith becomes visible to other people and powers in our culture.
Today’s question is: How will Barack Obama succeed in fooling Christians into agreeing that it is okay to suppress religious expression? The answer is: lie to us.
We need to be very clear that the issue is not about women’s health or contraception or fairness to poor women. The issue is whether our constitution permits the federal government to require people of any faith to do things which their faith regards as sin. The question applies equally to Hindus or Muslims or Baha’i. At the moment, the focus of this discussion is the teaching of the Catholic Church and the interpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Most of the media and many Democrat leaders have attempted to change the subject of the conflict away from freedom of religious expression. They have tried to make everyone focus on whether it is a woman’s right to receive contraception services at no charge to herself, and whether such services have become a right because they are integral to her good health. This issue is a political agenda item, not a fundamental right belonging to a human being by virtue of that human being’s existence. The right to express faith freely without hindrance by government is a God-given right, a right due to the very nature of being human, a right protected by the First Amendment.
We must not be diverted from the real issue, because unless we face the real issue, our own faith convictions are at risk. Last week we saw how collaboration between government and media can lie to us by diverting our attention from the real issue to something else. The government lie is that the big argument is about whether a woman ought to have to pay for her contraception. The truth is that the big argument is whether the federal government has a right to force anyone to act against the principles of any faith.
As a person of faith, you must consider two things in regard to this situation. First, are you willing to speak up and be counted among those who believe that an exemption for conscience is demanded by the First Amendment? Second, when the government demands something of you that conflicts with your faith, will you hold firm to your own faith? Be sure that if the federal government does not shun a battle with the Catholic Church, no religion is exempt. The Catholic Church has both a large membership and prodigious resources with which to fight for its position. Few denominations could begin to rally either the numbers of people or the money that the Catholic Church can pour into the battle.
Every person of every faith needs to stand with the Catholic Church in this matter. When you do that, you are not addressing the issue of free contraception for all women. You are demanding compliance with the First Amendment protection of religious freedom. Every person of faith ought to treasure and assert that protection. Christians in ancient Rome would have loved to have such protection. They were compelled to fight wild animals and savage warriors with their bare hands, because there was no protection for their right to serve God and refuse to worship the emperor. Think not that the US government is different. The principle that threw Christians to the lions in the Roman Empire was this: Must a human being obey every demand of government, even if it requires disobedience to God? That conflict was not about contraception or abortion or free healthcare; it was about power. Today’s conflict that is being portrayed as centered on healthcare is not about healthcare at all; it is about power. Christians today of all stripes, as well as any other people who have any other faith would be well advised to recognize this truth. This battle is about every human’s right to serve God and to put God ahead of government. This is a war for your spirit, not your health.