Terri Schiavo–Enduring Questions, Part Two

The feminist movement championed the motto, “The personal is the political.” This is certainly true in the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, whose personal reality–having her life terminated by a judicial decree–has become one of the nation’s hottest political issues. The issues swirling about this debate are both urgent and enduring. How society answers these questions will frame, not only this nation’s approach to matters of life and death, but the moral character of this civilization. Yesterday, we considered the questions, “What does this mean for the culture?” and “What does this mean for the future?” Today, we turn to consider even more enduring questions brought to light by Terri Schiavo’s case.

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Terri Schiavo–Enduring Questions, Part One

Even as Terri Schiavo edges closer and closer to death, the questions posed by this tragedy represent long-term challenges for this culture and its moral conscience.

These questions will not go away, even as the headlines and media attention inevitably subside. Issues of life and death confront us all, and the court-mandated death of Terri Schiavo will, I believe, go down as a landmark on America’s moral landscape. Her death will either lead to a recovery of moral sanity or a further slide into a moral abyss. Several vexing questions frame where this culture is headed.

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Terri Schiavo–The Bell Tolls for Humanity

America has been transfixed by a constant flow of media attention to the issues swirling about the case of Terri Schiavo. Meanwhile, Terri is starving to death in a Pinellas Park, Florida hospice–her imminent death demanded by her husband and enforced by the courts. This tragedy has become far more than a media phenomenon–it is an alarming barometer of America’s moral conscience and view of human life.

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No Neutrality–Gilbert Meilaender on Bioethics

Gilbert Meilaender is one of the most intelligent and influential bioethicists of our age, and it is reassuring to know that he is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Meilaender holds the Richard and Phyllis Duesenberg Chair in Theological Ethics at Valparaiso University, and his numerous writings in philosophy and bioethics are must-reads for intelligent Christians.

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George F. Kennan–Architect of Containment

George F. Kennan, who died last week at age 101, was not a household name to most Americans. As a matter of fact, he may be almost completely unknown to most American evangelicals, most of whom were born long after Kennan had made his major impact on American foreign policy. Nevertheless, Kennan’s thought–and the approach to foreign policy that flowed from his arguments–framed American policy during most of the Cold War. His death provides an opportunity to review the impact of his ideas and the worldview he expressed.

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Natan Sharansky Makes the Case for Democracy

President George W. Bush is recommending a book these days, and the President’s new literary interest has caught the attention of the world press. President Bush is recommending Natan Sharansky’s new book, The Case for Democracy, and he has made frequent references to Sharansky and his book, telling audiences that Sharansky’s argument represents “how I feel” and how he thinks.

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Mary for Protestants? A New Look at an Old Question

Should Mary be venerated by Protestants? That question frames the March 21, 2005 cover story for TIME magazine. David Van Biema has written an expansive and insightful report on contemporary developments among Protestants–developments that may influence some evangelicals.

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An Activist Jurist Strikes Again–Gay Marriage in California

Well, it’s happened again. On Monday, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that withholding marriage licenses from same-sex couples violates California’s constitution. His decision, which is on stay pending appeal, threatens to put the nation’s most populous state next in line for court-mandated same-sex marriage.

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Modernity’s Assault on Truth

Throughout its history, Western culture has grappled with truth in a variety of ways. In its modern phase, Western culture sought to dominate truth, to wrest authority from the church and bring truth under its mechanistic and rationalized control, just as the engines of technology had gained control over the forces of nature. In its present phase, Western culture has moved to reject the very notion of truth and to embrace relativism, nihilism, and radical subjectivism.

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The Supreme Court Strikes Again–‘Evolving Standards’

The dust continues to settle after the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 1 ruling that the execution of persons who committed capital crimes while under the age of 18 is unconstitutional. In one sense, the decision came as no great surprise, given the activist nature of a majority of Justices currently sitting on the Court. Nevertheless, the actual text of the majority opinion in this case is more problematic than the decision itself, and sets a series of dangerous precedents for future activism by the nation’s High Court.

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Euthanasia for Newborns–Killing in the Netherlands

Advocates for euthanasia routinely chide opponents that “slippery slope” arguments are fallacious and irrelevant. A decision to allow euthanasia in some cases, they say, does not in fact open the door for the killing of yet others. Tragically, however, the “slippery slope” argument is neither fallacious nor irrelevant, as recent developments in the Netherlands have made graphically clear. Once doctors are allowed to choose death over life, the resulting Culture of Death will inevitably discount human life in other contexts as well.

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Truth’s Assault on Modernity

It is impossible to deny that in the last few decades, modernity has unleashed an attack on the notion of truth. This assault modernity has unleashed on truth has certainly taken its toll–not that modernity has weakened truth, for the truth stands inviolate. Rather, the toll taken by modernity’s assault is measured in the increased secularity of the culture and the churches, in the compromised witness of many Christians, in the accommodated messages preached in many pulpits, and in the deadly confusion of the age.

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Compromise and Confusion in the Churches

The church today finds itself assaulted without–and even within–by a culture and worldview of untruth, anti-truth, and postmodern irrationality. In fact, researchers increasingly report that a majority of evangelicals themselves reject the notion of absolute or objective truth. The seductive lure of postmodern relativism has pervaded many evangelical pulpits and countless evangelical pews, often couched as humility, sensitivity, or sophistication. The culture has us in its grip, and many feel no discomfort.

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Are All Humans Persons? A New Assault on Human Dignity

America has been involved in an intense and culture-shaking debate over abortion that has now lasted into its fourth decade. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court did not settle the issue at all. Far from it. That landmark exercise in judicial activism has led to the death of millions of unborn babies and left a scar across the nation’s soul that will not heal until America regains its moral sense and defends the unborn.

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The Anglican Debate Sharpens–Lessons for the Whole Church

“Any lasting solution will require people somewhere along the line to say, ‘Yes, we were wrong’.” Those words were spoken by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams just after the Primates of the Anglican Communion (leaders of the national churches connected to the Anglican tradition) had asked the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council for at least three years.

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No-Fault Divorce–The End of Marriage?

By now, any observer with a modicum of moral insight is aware that marriage is an institution in crisis. Nevertheless, one of the most significant factors contributing to this crisis is often overlooked, and that one factor has led to the breakup of more marriages than any other–no-fault divorce.

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Does Liberalism Have a Future?

Martin Peretz is worried that liberalism has no future in America. Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic, Peretz writes of his concern in a major article published in the 90th anniversary issue of his magazine. “Not Much Left,” is a cry from the heart, offered by Peretz to what remains of a liberal movement in America. Peretz begins by arguing that, in the 1960s, it was conservatism that was devoid of ideas and facing a dismal political future. In the words of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, conservatism was “bookless” and intellectually bankrupt. Now, Peretz argues it is liberalism “that is now bookless and dying.” Peretz has good reason for alarm. He–and the magazine for which he writes–represent a form of liberalism that is now largely without constituency in the Democratic Party and the political left. Peretz longs for the day when the progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt and the liberalism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ruled the left and served as a fertile greenhouse for the incubation of potent political ideas.

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Truth-Telling is Stranger Than It Used to Be, Part Three

Postmodernism represents the unique challenge facing Christianity in this generation. Walter Truett Anderson cleverly described the postmodern reality in his clever book, Reality Isn’t What it Used to Be. This is the central claim of postmodernism–reality is not what it used to be, and never will be again. Humanity now come of age, we will make our own truth, define our own reality, and seek our own self-esteem.

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Truth-Telling is Stranger Than It Used to Be, Part Two

The rise of postmodernism presents Christians with the undeniable reality that many people simply do not accept the idea that truth is absolute, or even that written texts have a fixed meaning. All claims to truth–especially claims to universally valid truth–are met with suspicion, or worse. This presents the Christian with a changed climate for truth-telling–and a genuine intellectual challenge.

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