Focus on the Family speech to the physicians conference
November 20, 1997
“Rekindling the torch of liberty”
I've been re-reading the account of the Sermon on
the Mount, in Matthew. Now, I've got to tell you, I know He says His yoke is
easy and His burden is light, but if you really read through this sermon with
any kind of understanding, you've got to ask yourself every now and again,
"Can we possibly live up to this?" I don't know. Because Christ, in
spite of all the talk you hear these days about, you know, everybody wants to
pretend that to be Christian is to be a compromiser,
and that that is the meaning of compassion and forgiveness.
I don't see how you get that out of the Sermon on the Mount. I don't see one little iota of compromise anywhere in there. Not even a scintilla of it, do I see. I mean, He just comes right out--and He speaks with great love, and with great tenderness, but great, great clarity of principle. And He doesn't give one inch of the truth. He said, "Let your light shine out before men." He said, "You do not light a lamp in order to put it under a bushel basket; you light it in order to put it on the lamppost, where it can shine throughout the whole house." Isn't that right?
But I ask you today, how many Christian folks in America do you think are putting the lamp up there on the lamppost, and letting it shine throughout this whole house? I have a feeling that it may be fewer than we think, because putting your lamp on lampposts in this country today can be dangerous. "If the light that is in you be darkness"--and I'll tell you, the light in this land is sure getting as dark as it can. And that darkness does not want lights on the lamppost. They see you putting a light on the lamppost, they're liable to string you up to that lamppost.
And we can see it going on in this country all the time: good people who stand up in order to decry the things that are wrong point the way toward the renewal of this nation's moral heart and spirit, and no matter how pure their flame, there are those striving every minute to snuff it out. And so we live in a land where, in spite of everything, in spite of all the deep faith, in spite of the many prayers, the battle is still swaying, like we don't know which way it's going to go.
But I do wonder whether we are committed--as committed as we ought to be--to actually taking the power of that faith and making use of it so save our land. I don't know. There are people who seem to think that's not part of our vocation. As a matter of fact, I can remember one--I don't think I'll mention his name, because I don't want to get into any sort of disputes and spats. But I remember back, I think it was last January, I was driving in and he was on the air. This was in the midst of the season when usually there are all kinds of things going on to promote the pro-life cause, because of the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. And this individual actually spent several days on his radio ministry preaching along the lines that Christians shouldn't get involved in politics, shouldn't be involved in public life, making the case that "well, the early Christians were living in pagan times, far worse or at least as bad as our own, and those were the times in which the Apostle Paul wrote, and basically said that everybody should just do their business, and respect authority, and so forth and so on."
And I think that that kind of argument is leading a lot of folks to stand back, to believe that it is somehow not the work of our Christian hearts to try to turn the power of faith into a healing power for this nation's ills.
But I wonder: can that be true? Part of the reason we think that way is because we don't know who we are. We do not know who we are.
Does it ever occur to anybody in this country to ask who is Caesar here?
Who is Caesar in America? Who chooses the ministers? Who decides who is going to make the laws? Who decides who will have the power to put folks on the bench, and decide in courts how those laws will be applied? Who has that ultimate authority in our land? Who is it who is God's anointed, in a temporal sense, to rule over this land that by His providence has been raised up in the history of the world? Who is it?
It's us! We, the people of the United States! And what on earth makes us think that, at the end of it all, He is going to judge us by just the standard of Lazarus, and not by the standard of David, and Solomon, and Saul? We will stand before the tribunal of God, and I think He's going to weigh in the balance many things. "I blessed you abundantly," He will say. "I don't know that there has ever been a nation in the history of the world more blessed than you folks were. In every crisis I was there, in My mercy, in spite of all your sins--raised you up in abundance and prosperity. So, what did you do with all that? I believe I sent My Son; He reminded you that of those to whom much is given, much will be required."
If we are indeed the Caesar, the Pharaoh, of this land, we're not doing well. Just compare yourself to Pharaoh in the Bible. You know the story of Pharaoh. He was the one that Moses went to, to get the people of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. Now, he was a tough customer; took a lot of convincing. You'll recall God had to send plague after plague against Pharaoh. One after another, after another, they came: the frogs and the blood and all kinds of terrible things that were sent down upon Egypt. And after every one of them, what does the scripture tell us? After every one of those plagues, it tells us he kind of trembled for a minute like he was going to do the right thing, and then, it says, "And God hardened Pharaoh's heart." Isn't that what it says? "And God hardened Pharaohs' heart."
Plague number one comes, "and God hardened Pharaoh's heart." And the blood, and the locusts, everything comes, "and God hardened Pharaoh's heart."
Hardened Pharaoh's heart so much, it must have been the hardest heart in the Bible.
Does anybody here remember what it was that finally broke Pharaoh's heart?
What was it, broke that hardest heart in the Bible? Smashed that adamantine heart, even Pharaoh's heart?
The death of his first-born son, right? One child dies, and his heart is broken. Now I want you to reflect on something. Pharaoh had his adamantine heart broken because one child--his first-born son--was killed. How many of our sons and daughters have been lost to us in the last twenty-five years that the doctrine of abortion has dominated in this country? One? Ten? Hundreds? You and I know: it's not hundreds of thousands, but tens of millions of our sons and daughters--DEAD! And still our heart is hardened.
Now, you saw what God did to Pharaoh. What do you think is the judgment in store for us?
We read the story of the young lady in New Jersey, who allegedly--I have to say that, right?--went out into a rest room at her prom, and there delivered herself of a young child, which she is said to have promptly slain. She then went out onto the dance floor and ordered up her favorite tunes and danced the night away. Now, you read about that in the paper, you hear about it on the news, and I am sure that many Americans profess to be shocked: "What a terrible person! What a hardening of the heart!" And yet, and yet, even those of us who say we care about these things--think about it. What do we claim, then, as the most important issues that face our country?
"Stock market's going up! Things must be doing pretty well."
"The world's at peace! We must be doing all right."
"The jobless rate is holding steady, going down. Inflation isn't too bad."
"Our leaders come, and they talk to us about how they are going to cut our taxes, and have more money spent on the bridges and the roads and the schools--and that's what really matters."
"And meanwhile, we can make a little more money at the job, and we can build a better home; we can get a better car, and things can be more prosperous for new generations."
Are we not like that young girl? Are we not going out onto the dance floor of life, ordering up our favorite tunes, while we dance on the grave of millions of innocent dead?
This cannot go on. This cannot go on. Because our God is a loving, compassionate, merciful God--but as we can see from the scriptures, He has His limits. And today I believe that as a nation we are right up next to the abyss. Indeed, I believe already we can see large portions of our people falling into it. And yet we still act as if this is not the most important challenge that we face.
I saw this the other day. And I don't want to get "political" or anything on you. But I've got to say, I watch what's going on in the country and I do wonder. There was an election recently. I'm going to talk about it, not because I'm for this or that candidate--it's over now, so we can't be influencing it or anything. But there's a lesson in it. There's a lesson in it.
Candidate was running for office. Somebody who had come in on a tax-cut platform. Now, I should preface this by saying that, if you know me then you know that I have never seen or met a tax-cut that I didn't like. I'm all in favor of tax cuts; I think they are great things. Let people have more of their own money, wonderful things will happen in the country. So if you are running on tax-cuts, I'll be all for you.
This person ran on a tax-cut platform in the state of New Jersey, and got elected. Now, this person who got elected on this tax-cut platform had let everybody know that she was pro-choice, as they call it (pro-abortion, pro-death, in the real parlance of things), but in the name of partisan this'es and thats, and big tent philosophies, and all kinds of other stuff, I think a lot of folks--including a lot of folks who are professedly moral conservatives, pro-life; care about family issues--mobilized and said, "We'll support this person."
And then, in addition, they mobilized and elected a legislature in the state of New Jersey that passed a partial-birth abortion ban. Now, I've got to tell you, I do not consider support for a partial-birth abortion ban to be any indication of real pro-life sentiment. It simply means that you are not willing to be a heinous, and disgusting, and repulsive extremist on this issue. But that is a step in the right direction.
So the legislature of New Jersey passes the partial-birth abortion ban. And this person who had been elected Governor of New Jersey--whose initials are Christine Todd Whitman--she then proceeds to veto, as Mr. Clinton did at the national level, this bill.
Now, in my opinion that is a very bad thing to do. And it is very bad in a precise sense. There aren't that many things we do in this life, where we know that what we have done is directly responsible for the deaths of human beings. As physicians, you know this burden every now and again. People in our public life, except they rise to the level of President or something, don't usually know it. But Christine Todd Whitman--she knows it. Because between the time she vetoed that ban and the time the re-election campaign took place in New Jersey, 540 children died under the partial-birth abortion "procedure." Hmm.
But this isn't the worst of it, though. This isn't the point of the story.
The point of the story is that when she came up for re-election, a whole group of folks--some of whom I know well, some of whom I think are true and sincere champions of the pro-life cause and the moral conservative cause--they heard an argument being made by folks that said, "Well, you know, her opponent is pro-abortion; she's pro-abortion; nothing to choose between them; and therefore it's okay to go in and support her--because she was for tax-cuts."
What is the matter with us? What is the matter with any of us? I don't care what label we wear; I don't care who we think we are. But either we are going to start to admit that the moral crisis of this country is the topmost challenge we face, the issue of life and death for this nation's future, or we won't. And if we are going to admit it, then under no excuse whatsoever can we ever countenance those who are willing--not only to embrace the culture of death--but to stand as its champions! There is no partisan excuse for that!
I don't know these people any more. They may be very nice people. But you are not going to tell me--and I will not accept the view, and I hope that decent-minded Americans won't accept the view--that we get to trade tax-cuts for innocent lives. I hope we won't accept the view that we're going to be so grateful to politicians for giving us access to our own money that we are willing to take it covered with the blood of innocent babies.
I don't want it at that price! It is unacceptable!
The very week that that election occurred in New
Jersey--and I don't think that this was a coincidence--there appeared an
article in the New York Times Magazine by a gentleman named Steven Pinker. It
purported to be a piece on why mothers kill their newborns. And when you read
it through, it turned out to be a piece on why it is really not possible to
justify legal sanctions against mothers who kill their newborns.
It turned out to be a piece in which we see the beginning of that ultimate stage of the doctrine of death that underlies abortion--the de-humanization not just of the life in the womb, but the life out of the womb, not to be referred to now as "infants," but as "neonates."
And when we kill them, we shall not call it "murder," we shall call it "neonaticide."
Somebody's going to have to explain to me, one of these days, why it is that we believe that it changes something when we apply a label to it from Latin or Greek. What is the Latin word for "infant"? "Fetus." Why does an infant cease to be a human being because you call it a "fetus"? Why does an infant just born, a newborn, cease to be a baby because you call it a "neonate"? And why is the act of taking its life no longer murder because you translate it into a dead language?
Dead language. Dead baby. Is this an equation? I don't think so.
But this is what this man was up to. And he didn't do it in jest; he didn't present it as, you know, a "modest proposal" that we are supposed to think is extreme. He even cited supposed evidence that killing newborns is a deep-seated instinct, and that practically the first idea any mother has is to do away with her young. Cited supposed examples from our "anthropological record" and "history" for this.
The reason I am dwelling on this article is because I don't think things like this should be taken lightly. The danger we are in, in our society now, is that some fellow like this writes a piece like this in a supposedly respectable journal of opinion, and that piece is read by some judge--say the judge in the Amy Grossberg case. And, push comes to shove, that judge wants to find some way to justify whatever perverse sentiments may be grasping at his gut when he has to make some key decision in that case, and he grabs this rationale out of the New York Times in order to show us how "difficult" it is to justify legal sanctions against mothers who kill their newborns.
And in the context of the article, Mr. Pinker not only talks about mothers who kill their newborns. He talked about folks who had written, back in the seventies, about what a great boon it would be to humanity if parents had a little while to make up their minds about their children. Maybe a week or two--make sure everything turned out all right. And during that "window," you would be able to snuff out the life of your "neonate" without any repercussions.
And now, it appears, we are going to have a debate about it! We are going to "discuss" whether parents have the right to kill their children, and at what stage it shall be tolerable. And this is not some other country, some other time. This is not some obscure unknown writing in some journal in the backwaters of our minds. This is a serious argument, in a supposedly serious elite, establishment newspaper, presenting to us what I am afraid is going to be the next awful stage of our degeneracy.
We are already not only at, we are hurtling over the brink. The yawning abyss comes up at us, in arguments dressed up as "scientific." But you know one of the most significant things that was said in this piece, and the one that most arrested my attention, was that the other shoe finally dropped, in this piece, as to what the whole pro-death culture really means for America.
I'd gotten a hint of it some months back, when a lady had written a piece--I think that was in the Washington Post--in which she had acknowledged that, in point of fact, the pro-life forces (she being a pro-abortion person) had a point, that we had to take seriously that mystery of life within the womb; that pro-abortion people would have to begin to acknowledge that that was indeed a life that had some claim to respect. And they were going to have to seriously answer this argument being made by the pro-life forces.
And her answer was very simple. She said, "What we'll have to make clear to them is that some life is worth more than other life." Very simple.
And now the other shoe has dropped. Because that's just an assertion, isn't it? Now along comes Mr. Pinker, and in the last couple of paragraphs of his piece he has an allusion to the rationale for taking the lives of these infants. He says: "The moral philosophers tell us. . . . " Now, this piece was not footnoted. I would have been really intrigued to see the footnotes here, to see what moral philosophers he was talking about. Because, given what he was about to say, it seemed to me that they must be the immoral philosophers, but he claimed that they were the moral philosophers. "The moral philosophers say that the right to life comes from certain morally-significant traits that we humans happen to possess."
Ponder that. Ponder that. Is this where we are now? Have we become the people who believe that our claim to rights--our claim, even, to the most fundamental right, to life itself--is based on "certain morally-significant traits that we humans HAPPEN to possess"?
Because if we now believe this, it means that we have abandoned all our greatness. We have abandoned all the truth that makes us what we are. We have abandoned all the premises that constitute the common ground of our national identity, and the just ground for our national hopes.
Because in the beginning of this nation's life, they didn't tell us that our rights come from "morally-significant traits" that some humans "happen to possess." They didn't say that at all.
I'm rather glad they didn't. As a matter of fact, I have to tell you that I am personally deeply indebted to them for not saying that. Since if they had, there could have been no cause to abolish slavery, there could have been no headway made to end racist discrimination. Why? Well, because in the 19th century my color made me morally insignificant. I did not have the morally-significant trait that was required for respect.
But you see where we are going, don't you? He makes the argument explicit that, of course, neonates do not possess these morally-significant traits.
You see, once we have come to the conclusion that our rights come from morally-significant traits, there are two questions. What are the traits? And who decides who has them?
Now, I am sure that the person who wrote this article is pretty sure that he is going to be Al Gore's appointee on the commission that decides our morally-significant traits. And I'm sure that it gives him great comfort to know that he'll be the one who makes it up. And probably, judging by the culture that he comes from, an appreciation for fine wines and a willingness to read the New York Times instead of go to church will probably be a morally-significant trait. And I'm quite sure that those who are childish enough, still, to entertain a belief in Almighty God and to fall down on their knees at the name of Jesus Christ--that's probably going to be considered a sign of incipient insanity, if not senility. Will we still be morally significant?
And all such ideology aside, how gray does your hair have to be before it becomes a sign that you have lost that morally-significant trait which is youth--the ability to truly enjoy the "quality of life?"
You see, when they come to us and they say we have the right to kill our children so that we can enjoy, without any degree of constraint, sexual license and indulgence, some people can pretend that that liberates. But I think finally, when they come to offer us the right to kill ourselves, and to kill our newborns, and to kill our grandparents, it's time we begin to wake up and understand: we are not being offered rights; we are being offered death and self-destruction in the guise of rights. And it's time that we understood that that will mean the destruction of our nation. There is no more important cause than to defeat these lies.
But how? How shall we defeat them? I could have a good time up here, I'm sure, going through the catalogue of all the things that you and I probably hold in common as dreadful shadows over our land. Some of the things that folks don't want to talk about, right now, including the tremendous assault on our moral decency that comes in the guise of "civil rights" for homosexuals. This is another one of those instances: first you say that our rights come from morally-significant traits, and then you try to define as a right that which must be considered the object of moral judgment and consideration. Does this make any sense? Why do we accept it? Someone comes forward and says "my sexual inclination--you can't discriminate against me on those grounds. It's just like race." Why do we accept this drivel? I do not understand it. Have we lost our minds?
This morning I got up. I was, as you can see, a black person. When I go to bed this evening, I will still be a black person. In between, you can make strenuous efforts to dissuade me of this fact, but it will not do any good.
In fact, they used to call us "people of the colored persuasion," but I've got to tell you, persuasion has nothing to do with it. I believe that it is, in fact, an injustice to treat as "morally-significant" conditions over which human beings have no moral responsibility. That's bigotry; that's prejudice.
But what's going to happen to this society when we start to treat as if they are such conditions, behavior and conduct that has traditionally--and that must, in civilized society--be considered the subject of moral judgment?
I keep hearing these arguments as if it is a scientific thing that we're talking about. We're going to establish it as a scientific and genetically-based fact that there are people who come into the world with some kind of gender confusion difficulties--you know, females in male bodies, and doing all these other strange things that they were talking about at the Beijing Women's Conference. I myself have not seen anything that suggests that they are making their case very well, in scientific terms. But let's, for a moment, for the sake of argument, pretend that they were. What difference does that make?
I think it has been known for a long time--as a matter of fact, for almost as long as human beings have had any kind of moral consciousness whatsoever--it has been understood, to put it in the old, simple terms, that we have an animal nature; that this animal nature is kind of built in; it comes with the equipment; and that it tends to push us in directions. I mean, they say that sexual inclinations this way and that are some kind of genetically-based and uncontrollable condition. Ask any red-blooded male what they generally feel like doing when a really good-looking woman walks past, and I think you get a little symptom of the animal nature.
Has it ever been the case that the existence of that animal nature--what St. Paul called "the law in our members"--served as an excuse for ignoring the law in our conscience, the law in our heart, the law writ there by the finger of God? It has never been the case that the existence of that nature exonerated us from moral responsibility.
This is the real revolution that is taking place. They are coming forward to tell us, not that we must accept homosexuality, but that we must accept the premise that sexual inclinations, sexual behavior, cannot be subject to moral judgment. And don't let anybody fool you: if you make that allowance for homosexuals, you have made it for all "sexuals," of any kind, whatsoever. What right does a homosexual have to come forward and say we must tolerate their sexual inclination, with an adulterer standing next to him, saying "tolerate my sexual inclination," and a pedophile, "you must tolerate my sexual inclination"--all of them based on the same animal nature, the same genetically-determined, biologically-based inclinations?
Does that biology exempt us, then, from the law of God? [No] If we accept the premise that it does, then we shall surely destroy any possibility of civilized life in this society. Think of the institutions that depend on the concept of moral responsibility, fidelity in marriage, the innocence of children.
And what is worse, think what happens if we take this view, which we are having of sexual passion, and start to think for a minute: why are we singling out sexual passion? Is sexual passion the only kind of passion that has a root in our animal nature, as it used to be called? I don't think so. I think at least since the fifties it has been pretty clear anger has such a root--the aggressiveness, the urge to kill people, has such a root. So if we are going to exonerate the sexual inclination, why not the anger inclination? Why not the jealousy inclination? Why not the resentment inclination? Let's go through the whole range of human passions and exonerate each one, because it is rooted in a nature that they claim is beyond our control.
Once we have done so, you will realize that what’s really going on here is not the liberation of some people to their sexual inclinations. It is the redefinition of our human condition in such a way that human freedom, and the human capacity for moral judgment and choice, is denied. And once we have denied our capacity for moral judgment, our capacity for moral responsibility, all talk of liberty and freedom and choice is nothing but a game played by those who have power to dupe those they intend to keep without it.
Is this what we shall allow our country to become--a shadow-play of freedom for the benefit of those who mean only to oppress? This is what we shall become, if we surrender to this slavery of lies to this tyranny of passion.
There is a way out, though. Our Founders showed it to us, right there at the beginning. It's a way back. But if we take it seriously, then those of you in this room today, and many more like you in America, you are far more important, far more critical to the future of this nation than perhaps you may believe.
There is only one thing that can get us back on the right track. We've got to go back to the beginning. We've got to put side-by-side with Mr. Pinker's lie that our rights come from certain morally-significant traits that we happen to possess--we must put next to that lie the shining truth on which this nation was founded. We must hold it up, clearly, sincerely, unequivocally. We must, at every juncture, present it once again as the truth to the American people, who are being tempted to forget it.
Our rights are not happenstance. They are not the consequence of some fortuitous concatenation of events. They come not either from our will, from our judgment, from our decisions, from our laws, from our constitutions, from our presidents, from our judges, from our justices--no human will, no human judgment whatsoever is the source of those rights. When this nation was founded, they pointed the way to truth, and we must find the way back again: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed--not by their happenstance, and not by their laws, and not by their conditions, and not by their constitutions--but by their Creator, God, with their rights, with their dignity, and with the grace to overcome those passions which stand in the way of the right exercise of those rights.
We are creatures of God! We are children of His hand. And because we are His creatures, and because we are the children of His hand, we can claim our liberty. We can recognize within ourselves that capacity for moral choice and moral responsibility which comes not from our strength, but by His grace.
And that is why we have to begin--with boldness--to declare to all the people of this land that truth which was so clearly seen by our Founders: without faith, there is no freedom; without God, there is no liberty. This is the truth.
God bless you.