Sunday, 29 November 2015 03:42

Kengor Writes . . .

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Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).

God Gets His Healthcare Bill

The most frustrating thing I've dealt with in professional life was eight years of outrageous, baseless charges against President George W. Bush on matters of faith. Even when Bush was simply asked about his faith, and responded with utterly benign statements, like saying he couldn't imagine surviving the presidency "without faith in the Lord," or noting he prayed before committing troops, echoing every president from Washington to Lincoln to Wilson to Carter to Clinton, he was viciously assaulted.

"We are dealing with a messianic militarist!" thundered Ralph Nader.

"He should not be praying," intoned Lawrence O'Donnell to the MSNBC faithful.

Repeatedly, I was called to respond to this nonsense. My retort was agonizingly simple: I merely ran through example after example of American Founders, presidents -- Democrats and Republicans -- saying either precisely what Bush said or something far more extreme, like Woodrow Wilson claiming God called upon him to found the League of Nations, or FDR mounting a battleship leading troops in a rendition of "Onward Christian Soldiers."

What I said rarely mattered. Every Bush mention of God was a signal, somehow, that this Bible-quoting "simpleton" was trying to transform America into a "theocracy."

Alas, there was another tactic I used: I quoted current Democrats on the campaign trail, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, invoking the Almighty. I knew that if these politicians reached the White House, they'd say the same as Bush, or much more -- with no backlash from the secular media. Quite the contrary, liberals would roll out the red carpet, enthusiastically welcoming faith into the public square.

All of that is prelude to my point here today:

The Religious Left, from "social justice" Catholic nuns and Protestant ministers to the Democratic Speaker of the House and president of the United States, have been incessantly claiming God's advocacy of their healthcare reform. That's no surprise, just as it's no surprise that the press is not only not outraged but silently supportive. There's nary a whimper, let alone howls, of "separation of church and state"!

Consider a few examples, most telling in light of passage of the healthcare bill:

Last August, President Obama addressed a virtual gathering of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. He told them he was "going to need your help" in passing healthcare. Obama penitently invoked a period of "40 Days," a trial of deliverance from conservative tormentors, from temptation by evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, "We are God's partner in matters of life and death."

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for -- among other things -- abortion funding as part of an eternally widening "social justice" agenda. The Religious Institute, which represents 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in "healthcare" reform, adamantly rejecting amendments that prohibited funding. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already "unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized" abortions.

Here we see the Religious Left's continued perversion of "social justice." Behold: social justice abortions.

Early last week, a group of 59 nuns sent Congress a letter urging passage of the healthcare bill. This came in direct defiance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which insisted the bill "must be opposed" because of its refusal to explicitly ban abortion funding. What the bishops said didn't matter, one nun told Fox's Neil Cavuto -- supporting the bill is what "Jesus would do."

The liberal media cheered on the nuns, gleefully exaggerating the sisters' influence. In a breathtaking display, the Los Angeles Times beamed, "Nuns' support for healthcare bill shows [Catholic] Church split." Quoting the nuns, the Times reported that the letter represented not more than 50 nuns but over 50,000. Like Jesus with the loaves, the militantly secular/liberal Times had displayed miraculous powers of multiplication.

Finally, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, invoked the Solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph on behalf of the healthcare bill. She urged American Catholics to "pray to St. Joseph the Worker." Such overtures are hardly new for Pelosi, who routinely exhorts Democratic disciples to vote the liberal/progressive agenda as an "act of worship."

All of that is prelude, of course, to what happened the evening of March 21, 2010, A.D., with a rare vote not merely on a Sunday -- God's day -- but the final Sunday in Lent, the week before Palm Sunday that initiates the Lord's Passion. To President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and the Religious Left faithful, Jesus, presumably, has gotten his healthcare package.

Amid that process, secular liberals got religion, as their political soulmates spearheaded this "change" in the name of Jesus Christ. It's a quite radical departure from eight years of scourging George W. Bush every time he confessed he prayed. At long last, there is room for Jesus in the inn, so long as the Savior "supports" a certain agenda. Who says conversions don't happen?

Buchenwald and the Totalitarian Century

This spring 2010 marks some sordid anniversaries: 65 years since the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps that facilitated the slaughter of six million Jews and four million various others deemed "misfits" and "undesirables" by Hitler and his henchmen.

The ugly footage of corpses left behind is a visual reminder of the in-your-face insanity and inhumanity of Nazi fascism. Yet, less obvious is how seamlessly that form of totalitarianism was supplanted by another, one that haunted the scene even longer. For much of Europe in the spring of 1945, an Iron Curtain quickly descended across the continent, as Central and Eastern Europe was again gobbled up, this time by vicious Soviets who replaced vicious Nazis.

That changing of the guard took place at the level of the soldiers, the secret police, the local officials, and, yes, even the concentration camps themselves.

Consider: When Hitler's goons fled the concentration camps at the site of Allied guns in the spring of 1945, it was left to the Allies -- the United States, the United Kingdom, and the USSR -- to grapple with what they suddenly confronted. Once the survivors were freed and carefully transported, what would the Allies do with the camps?

For nations like America and Britain, steeped in Judeo-Christian notions of fairness and justice, the options for the camps ranged from the legal, meaning document them as evidence of Nazi war crimes for the Nuremberg trials, to the theological: exorcise them.

For the USSR, however, the next step was a no-brainer: use the camps. Indeed, fling the doors open and get 'em back in business. The Communists were not about to waste a perfectly functional, German-built concentration camp. If the Soviet system knew how to do one thing, it was to collectivize and redistribute squalor and death.

In truth, that unique Soviet solution ought not to be a surprise, as totalitarians like Vladimir Lenin had not only constructed similar facilities but had used the phrase "concentration camp" two decades before Hitler appropriated the term. Lenin's replacement, Joe Stalin, had annihilated tens of millions in such camps well before Hitler ramped up.

Thus, in the spring of 1945, the Russians saw an opening at the Nazi camps, tailor-fit to Communist ideology.

A crass case in point was Buchenwald, one of the more infamous Nazi camps, where hundreds of thousands had been incarcerated and upwards of 50,000 perished, some in the most sadistic fashion, from Jews who were gassed to priests who were crucified upside down. Americans liberated Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.

Not long thereafter, Buchenwald (located near Weimar, Germany) ended up in the Soviet zone of occupation. Knowing how to run a concentration camp, the Russians were eager to crank the wheels -- especially on Germans now at their feet rather than at their throat. For Stalin, Beria, Molotov, and a disturbingly high number of malicious colonels and lieutenants and common soldiers, it was payback time. Payback would be done according to Lenin's definition of morality: there is no morality, except that which furthers Soviet interests.

A witness to this poisonous worldview was a 22-year-old American citizen named John Noble, who lived in the Weimar area and got caught in the crossfire. He observed Red Army soldiers ransacking his neighborhood, rounding up innocents, and imbibing in special displays of depravity toward women: "In the house next to ours," Noble told Laurence Rees in Rees' outstanding book, World War II Behind Closed Doors,

Soviet troops went in and pulled the women out on the street, had mattresses that they pulled out, and raped the women. The men had to watch, and then they were shot. Right at the end of our street a woman was tied to a wagon wheel and was terribly misused.

The poor souls who survived this torment were shipped to various German-turned-Soviet hellholes for long-term incarceration. Noble was tossed into Buchenwald, which was conveniently renamed Soviet Special Camp No. 2.

The story of Buchenwald under Nazi management is bad enough; it was reproduced from Auschwitz to Dachau. But the 20th century is rich in unforgettable lessons. Among them, the world would do well to remember that Buchenwald was liberated only temporarily in 1945. Its demons did not rest, ready to leap into a new set of vessels. Stalinism provided them by the tank load.

Buchenwald and its ilk are cold, gray markers of the menace of totalitarianism. It is a headstone standing astride the 20th century like a giant grim reaper, robbing the world of 50 million lives in World War II and 100 million more under Communist regimes -- unprecedented carnage. It's an old story, a familiar evil, one born of an ancient source that every generation must be prepared to meet and defeat.

Speaking Truth to History: A Perfect Game

I'm not one to bother with the latest alleged blockbuster buzzing from the salons of Hollywood high culture. Over the course of two valuable hours, I can only take so many car chases, explosions, and run-of-the-mill depravity. Alas, I had a welcome respite from all of that last weekend when I joined a crowd of about 700 at Grove City College's Crawford Auditorium for a special screening of the newly released "The Perfect Game," made possible by Jim Van Eerden, a wonderful, talented man who graduated from Grove City College over two decades ago and who is the film's executive producer.

I will not attempt to don the hat of critic, assessing various esoteric elements of the work as "film." There were, however, some things that really stood out as I watched this moving story -- things in keeping with my normal hat as an observer of faith, politics, and history.

The movie is based on the true story of nine boys from Monterrey, Mexico, who made it all the way to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1957, where they won the legendary Little League World Series, and by no less than a perfect game tossed by pitcher Angel Macias. They were led by the inspiring tandem of a coach named Cesar Faz and a priest named Padre Estaban.

I saw a movie that should appeal to both sides of the political fence and, spiritually speaking, to an even wider audience.

Of course, this isn't a political movie. The message is one of faith and hope, a general principle that applies to every member of the human race. Nonetheless, here's a movie that liberals and conservatives alike can applaud. It embodies the American dream, pursued by poor Mexican kids, who struggle to make it out of their village, over the border, and across America, from Corpus Christi to Kentucky to I-80. They persevere on hard work and prayer. They endure the ugliness of the segregated South. They are underdogs, discriminated against, as are the African-Americans they encounter, not to mention the female sportswriter who follows them.

From a faith perspective, the movie is warmly ecumenical. The boys are first shepherded by their devoted priest, who blesses everything from Holy Communion to baseball gloves. When the priest returns to the parish mid-way through the boys' successful run, the team is fostered by another fatherly spiritual mentor: an African-American Baptist preacher, who encourages the boys and offers selfless service, as does his lovable wife. Intercessors range from Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Book of Psalms.

The movie's unafraid, unapologetic commitment to faith is splendid. It is commitment, frankly, that risks the wrath of the apostles of American secular culture. This will be the film's highest hurdle in achieving popular acclaim. Hey, so be it.

Yet, what most impressed me was the film's faithfulness to truth and history.

How many times have you watched a movie intended to inspire, that deals with a certain era, and find no mention of faith? You sense, given your knowledge of the way things used to be, that a church, a minister, a devout parent, a Sunday school teacher had to have been involved somewhere. You do a little research, only to find it was indeed a matter of faith that propelled the hero to greatness. And yet, tragically, the post-modern mavens expunged this "faith angle" from the script. It was just too "religious."

Instead, then, the final product is, in reality, a deceptive perversion of truth -- and not worthy of inspiration. The creators airbrushed the Creator who, in point of fact, made the entire drama possible to begin with. That's another kind of game: a quite imperfect one, a form of cinematic and historical fraud, produced by a dominant culture that violates trust.

Mercifully, that isn't what happened with "The Perfect Game." Here was a crew -- from writers to producers -- that spoke the truth. Truth was valued and honored. Whatever else you might say about the movie, from technical merits to some pretentious, impressive-sounding mumbo-jumbo, that's an artistic achievement as special as a perfect game. *

"To be prepared for war, is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." --George Washington

Read 3834 times Last modified on Sunday, 29 November 2015 09:42
Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

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