Random Thoughts

Isn’t it odd that Catholic pacifists, given a choice of two candidates who both say they will prosecute the war on terror to the full, would intervene on behalf of the candidate with a consistent anti-life record?
by Jay Dunlap | Source:
A recent report on the changing media tells us “television may save cell phones.” The standard cell phone may soon be a portable mini-TV. First, who among us knew cell phones were in need of being saved? Second, isn’t this just what we need — another way to stay plugged in anywhere at any time, so we don’t need to connect to the real people around us? How much media saturation is enough?

Just as cell phones will become TVs, so too video camcorders are being developed that send cell-phone transmissions of live video. What for decades has required a hugely expensive satellite truck will soon be available to any and all. Just as “bloggers” have encroached on traditional media — and exposed them, as in the recent Dan Rather scandal — so too we will soon have the video equivalent of the “Drudge Report.” Beware, major news media. Further democratization of the news is on the way.

Polls of “likely voters” show President Bush leading Senator Kerry by an average of about 3 percentage points. But with heavy voter registration drives, the campaigns — especially Democrats — seem to be counting on unlikely voters. One man was even arrested for registering voters in exchange for crack cocaine. Seems to me polling this year is a more challenging science than in year’s past.

The Catholic pacifist group Pax Christi argues that we need not support President Bush because abortion, embryonic stem cell research and related issues are not the only “life” issues on the ballot. Isn’t it odd that Catholic pacifists, given a choice of two candidates who both say they will prosecute the war on terror to the full, would intervene on behalf of the candidate with a consistent anti-life record? They apparently hope that Kerry will be less war-like despite his rhetoric. It seems to me that’s like saying, “It is so important that we not defend ourselves against terrorists that we also must not defend the unborn.”

I recently called a Catholic radio program to chat with a Pax Christi priest who was arguing that no true follower of Christ can embrace violence as a justifiable means, ever. I used to think like he does until I took a college course on “War, Peace & Revolution” taught by a pacifist Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder. I thought he would ground me in the scriptural basis for pacifism, but because he was teaching at Notre Dame, a Catholic university, Professor Yoder said he saw it as his responsibility to teach the Just War theory. He did, and I became convinced of it.

Pacifists like to point out that Christians never took up arms until the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313. They don’t usually note that up until that time, you had to profess Rome’s official pagan religion in order to be a soldier — in other words it was legally impossible to be a Christian soldier. They also don’t focus on a fact that Saint Augustine wrestled with admirably in first developing the Just War Theory: once Christians were citizens and could take on positions of civil leadership, they had to join in the responsibility for protecting society. And what a responsibility it was as Barbarian tribes soon began descending upon the Roman Empire.

Does the New Testament call us to pacifism? Certainly the Old Testament didn’t. Note that God severely punished the Israelites because they did not utterly rout and kill entire pagan societies, such as the Amalekites. God wanted them and their abhorrent pagan practices completely wiped from the face of the earth. Did God then suddenly turn pacifist? When Christ speaks to Roman soldiers, he does not tell them to lay down their arms; he tells them not to bully or extort money from the people they are to protect. It’s also hard to read The Book of Revelation and conclude that God is a pacifist. Clearly he wants us to live with one another in peace; but, given our fallen human nature, it seems God achieves his will at times through the most trying means: famine, pestilence, plagues and even war.

The New York Times leads the way in reporting that a huge stockpile of explosives was not secured in Iraq despite the fact the US was notified about it. But NBC News tells us its reporting crew was embedded with the unit sent to secure the stockpile April 10, 2003, as soon as the war was won — and the explosives were already gone. Seems the Times and the other media jumping on the story are mostly interested in exploding the Bush campaign — but now it appears their ammunition is missing.

This has been a truly heated election season. People I know and love dearly fall on either side of the divide. It seems to me we have a kind of Catholic family feud. I respect those who believe a Kerry Administration would adhere more closely to Catholic social teaching even while I disagree with them adamantly and try to persuade them otherwise. The most frustrating part of it, I find, is being dismissed as a “one-issue voter” because of my abortion stance. The key social issues are several in this election: abortion; the sanctity of marriage; life-destroying research involving embryonic stem cells, cloning and other immoral means; euthanasia; and the appointment of judges who will respect what the Constitution says, not add novel interpretations that constitute new law — as has been the tragic case with Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and other awful rulings.

Terry Schiavo and her parents would not be running out of options for saving her life but for the arrogance of judges like the Florida Supreme Court, who say that actions taken by popularly elected legislators and a popularly elected governor violate “separation of powers” by contravening a court ruling. If anything justifies being a “one-issue voter” it’s the need to stop judicial activists.

Media commentator Jay Dunlap writes from South Bend, Indiana. He is a contributor to the National Catholic Register, This Rock and other Catholic periodicals.

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