Sunday, April 17, 2005

Topic of the Week - 'Culture of Life' (Again)

Once again, I am going to put the issue of the 'Culture of Life' on the table for discussion this week. After minimal 'comments' and postings on the blog in the last week on this topic, and with the 'Culture of Life' being one of two of the most heated and controversial issues in social politics in polarizing this country, this issue needs to be addressed and discussed in order to find some common ground.

So everyone, give us your view so others can get more insight and understanding on your stance on the "Culture of Life' issue. . Here are the five elements respective of the 'Culture of Life' ...and questions associated with each to stimulate discussion:

1. Abortion - Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, what is your view and why? How does this fit into your values & beliefs with respect to the 'Culture of Life?' What do you personally think we should do about this issue specific to public policy within our political structure and system?

2. The Death Penalty - same questions.

3. Euthanasia - same questions.

4. Justification (or not) of War - same questions.

5. Stem Cell Research - same questions.

Lets hear from all sides - Click below on 'Comments' and then click on 'Post a Comment' and write your comments in the window box and then publish.


At 10:26 PM, Blogger AADAMS said...

So few comments because of the enormity of the questions. All important, essential questions but the kinds that are so deep-rooted and intrinsic to a person's worldview - it's intimidating to start, to summarize, to say enough.

The term ""Culture of Life" is intended to tacitly imply its opposite -- a Culture of Death. If you're not pro-life (no - hey! I'm pro-death!) then you are a morally flawed person, etc. etc. etc. yak. The rhetoric is frightening. What I find most ummm, "entertaining" (but of couse downright disturbing too) are the folks who consider themsleves to be pro-life while supporting the death penalty. This has got to be one of the gravest of errors: allowing a child to be born into an unfit home, while very likely not supporting the social services that could improve a lower socioeconomic sitiuation for that person, and then, when that child grows up damaged and volatile, commits a heinous crime - voila, he or she is tucked into an electric chair.

In addition, and to state the obvious: war is mass murder. How many people died in 9/11? How many innocent civilians have we killed in Iraq? How many US soliders? Can we define terrorism, exactly? Does a "Culture of Life" only matter - only mean anything - within our own borders?

Stem cell research: the genie is out of the bottle. Potentially scary consequences yes, but all the more reason to come together and discuss the benefits, ETHICS, and approach to this new biotechnology in a rational way. Trying to keep the door closed on it is both futile and short-sighted. One might think that a "Culture of Life" would support whatever means involved in keeping the living alive.

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous JR said...


There is just a chance that you might be interested in some published academic research which tends to show that "culture of life" is an overgeneralized concept -- even though it is used by both the Left and the Right. If so, see:

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karl Rove is the worst thing that has ever happened to American politics. He is the Joeseph Goebbels—the “poison dwarf” of American politics—the Minister of Propaganda of the Republican Party. Let’s look at some of the ways the conservatives use words as propaganda. “Right to life ”—it is much more effective than anti-abortion. Who isn’t a believer in life? They use this term in conjunction with the term “traditional family values” and their extremist right wing Christian morality crusade. In this policy they want to force women to have unwanted children (as if we need more unwanted children in this world), but they give that woman no support system to help her. There is no health care for prenatal care before the child is born, resulting in more premature births and a higher death rate among newborns than any other industrialized nation, and this with abortion legal. Imagine how high that death rate will rise once they force their will on the American women. And of course there is a continuation of this lack of support after birth, and babies who are born premature have many extra health problems especially respiratory problems, because they have underdeveloped lungs. But even healthy babies require a great deal more medical care then any other population group aside from the elderly. This administration has cut funding for Headstart programs, which is essentially kindergarten for the poor children, and has proven to be an extremely successful program to help underprivileged children start out on even footing with their middle and upper class counterparts. They have cut funding to welfare and require more work hours outside the home for single mothers, while at the same time cutting funding for child care services and providing virtually no job training programs for these women. So they have to take menial labor jobs that usually pay minimum wage and pay for heath care and childcare. Obviously this is an undoable proposition, and leads to children who are not treated for illnesses and again the death rate rises among poor children. They have cut funding for school lunches to poor children, resulting in malnourishment and again more illness. They have cut funding to after school programs leading to more cost for childcare, or the children are left on the streets unattended leading to higher crime rates. So they believe in forcing the woman to have an unwanted baby, but then totally abandon her and the child afterwards. It’s as if they feel she should be punished for her evil sexual ways. There is a saying that a child is raised by a village, what does it say about a village that abandons as policy its children? This certainly isn’t a traditional family value, and Jesus would certainly want us to help the children—even the poor children, so there goes the Christian morality thing,

The “No Child Left Behind Act” is a continuation of these policies and a continuation of the double speak of the Republican Party. This act sets an extremely high bar that schools must achieve, and that bar raises every year for five years. If the school fails to meet that standard for five years there are two options they have. One is that the state will take it over, and the other is that it is privatized and made into what they call a charter school. Lets examine this policy and its ramifications. One main problem is that every child is counted in the equation no matter how retarded or what learning disabilities they may have. For example, I have a friend who teaches special education in middle school and she has 13 students whose IQs range from 10 - 55. Some of her students wear diapers because they don’t know how to go to the bathroom by themselves. She teaches these students basic life skills, like how to eat with a fork without hurting themselves. These students will never be able to pass a math or English exam. Most of them can’t read or write and never will. This is just one of three of these classes in a middle school of a bout 350 students. Because of these students alone it is highly unlikely that this school can ever pass the standard set by this act no matter what the other students do on their exams. Another problem is that this has taken teaching away from the educators and put it in the hands of bureaucrats (I thought Republicans were for less government). The students are now taught as a large part of their curriculum how to take standardized test, and are not taught reading, writing math, history, social studies etc. to the same extent as before. This act also adds a large financial burden to schools and the administration has not fully funded the program at the same time that financially strapped states drain larger and larger sums from these schools. And many of these school districts in cities and rural communities were very under funded before the current state reductions and this new mandate. In fact the schools in poor districts don’t have enough teachers because they can’t afford them so class sizes are skyrocketing. A teacher who has thirty-five 13 year-old students is not teaching she is performing crowd control, and a handful of needy students will take all of his/her time leaving the other students without any help. Many of these schools have old crumbling buildings that are in desperate need of remodeling, and because of the ever-increasing numbers of students they are overcrowded and need to be expanded or just rebuilt. Many of these schools don’t have enough books for their students, so they have to share the books they do have, which means homework can’t be sent home with the students if it requires them reading the text book they don’t have. And a lot of the books they do have are outdated and, or in disrepair. And you can forget computers. These schools don’t have money for books you can count on it there aren’t any computers. We are in the information age that is driven by computer technology and we are leaving behind large segments of our young population in training. How do you think that positions us in the world against other industrialized countries that are training their children? Because of all of the financial woes the best and brightest teachers leave the field in disgust or are attracted to wealthy communities because they have quality schools and pay a decent wage.

The “No Child Left Behind Act” is an attempt by the conservatives to privatize our public school system. If we, as the most wealthy nation in the world, refuse to fund our public schools now why would anyone believe we would be willing to pay for private schools? And of course, the answer is we won’t. So once they have finished the destruction of our public school system, and have created this private system driven by profit margins whom do you think is going to pay for it? It certainly won’t be these same fools that have killed the public school system on purpose. Which means that anyone who can’t afford to pay for private schools will be left out or the cost is going to skyrocket. Once again it’s the poor that are left out of the equation and the middle class that will be squeezed by this administration. If we were truly talking about values and morals, the discussion wouldn’t end when the fetus left the womb.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger commonwealth said...

Comments already posted are concise and I agree wholeheartedly.

The right-to-lifers have fetish-like fixation on the beginning and end of life but nothing in between. They will get rabid over a cluster of fertilized cells but do not worry about childhood poverty and malnutrition. They fought for years to keep the shell that was Terrri in stasis never mind that the person she was had long been gone.

When you use statistics or broad categories like LIFE, individuals and the true meaning of life are lost. That is the key to any demagoguery. If we hear, for example, that 100,000 Iraqi may have died in Bush’s war we may be saddened but unless we are given the details of one family’s tragedy we cannot begin to relate on a personal human level to what has happened. This is what the whole Culture of Life meme is about. LIFE is something everyone supports. We all wanted to be included in the group--the culture-- that is for it, but we are not given the details.

Abortion—who is possibly FOR it—but women go through the painful procedure just the same. Individual reasons necessitate it. Only an extremist would hold to their position if the life of a wife/parent/mother were at risk because of a pregnancy gone wrong. When the individual case is considered being against abortion becomes difficult. We cannot lose sight of the needs of individual women and therefore laws that are humane and supportive.

The death penalty seems an easily righteous position unless you are presented with the facts of an individual case, a juvenile, for example, who was wrongly convicted and executed. The death penalty satisfies only our need for revenge. It does not deter, it does not do an eye for an eye unless you perpetrate the same injuries on the offender as he did on his victim, and it does not leave punishment to God where it should belong for the deeply religious.

Euthanasia is such an interesting concept. I agree taking a life is wrong but giving up a life? If you believe this is a decision that should be put in the hands of God without interference by man than you should shun all end-of-life medicines and treatments. Terri Shiavo should have been let go years ago. A feeding tube was an intervention by man in defiance of God.

War. A war to defend one’s home and safety is justifiable; a war of aggression is not. We are engaged in an illegal war in Iraq and we are not even close to acknowledging its human costs. We do not report the loss of Iraqi life. We do not even report the loss and damage to our own troops. Twenty thousand soldiers have returned with injuries that will keep them from a whole and wholesome life. How can that be a Culture of Life?

Stem Cell.. To clone a human would be to take what is truly unique—the individual personality or soul—and demean it by trying to do a copy. I am against any attempt to do so. I do not, however, have a fetish about LIFE as many on the Religious Right do. I am, however, adamant about the uniqueness of each individual life. A cluster of cells has the ability to become a unique life just as each egg that was in my body had a similar potential, but just as nature discarded my unused eggs each month, I believe that until a cluster of cells becomes a distinctive individual capable of existing independent of a womb it represents a building block only. Nature, or God if you will, is wasteful. Excess seeds or embryos is the norm since the road to survival is fraught with many disasters. If we chose to pick up these excess seeds and nurture them in some special way we are not committing an offense. In the case of stem cell research we are using castoffs to restore the health of other individuals, as a medicine, if you will. Nature has provided the plants for almost all of our medicines. We just had to learn their secrets. We took the plants and dried, brewed or distilled them in our monasteries and then laboratories. Stems cells are more complex and require the most advanced lab techniques we possess, but they are in essence, still a gift of nature—or of God.

At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason, the left thinks we on the right are zealots when it comes to the culture of life. We are not.

We only believe that ending innocent lives, and I emphasize innocent lives, is wrong. And we consider a life to begin at conception - is there anything wrong with that?

You believe abortion is justified, we do not. You believe Euthanasia is benevolent, we do not. And you believe that stem cell research on human embryo's is innovative, and we believe it is supporting a form of abortion. War? Of course we don't think killing is OK but if it saves thousands of lives in preventing further attacks on our country, than we support it. The death penalty? I have problems with it myself but many on the right and left believe ending a life of someone guilty of attrocious murders is right.

Our beliefs are straightforward and consistent.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger commonwealth said...

You say you think killing is ok if it "saves thousands of lives to prevent further attacks on this country", but Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, it it was incapable of attacking the US, Iraqis did not do 9-11, they were in no way connected to it, and America has killed up to 100,000 Iraqi men, women, and children and are continuing to do so along with our own troops dead and injured.
Do you think Jesus considers President Bush a "straightforward and consistent" man of love and peace? Is this your definition of a culture of life, to kill innocent people who MIGHT have, COULD have, but gee, golly, golly, DID NOT pose a threat, but what the hey let's just destroy their lives and country because they are Muslim?
Does your Culture of Life extend to anyone of another faith or just to your fellow Christians?

At 7:52 AM, Blogger PWB said...

The front page headline in the NY Times this morning is relative to this week's Topic of the Week on the "Culture of Life." See below:

Pope May Color Debate in U.S. Over 'Life' Issues Like Abortion

Published: April 21, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 20 - The election of an unstintingly conservative pope could inject a powerful new force into the intense conflicts in American politics over abortion and other social issues, which put many Catholic elected officials at odds with their church.

Pope Benedict XVI ascends to power at a tumultuous time for his church in American politics: Catholic voters, long overwhelmingly Democratic, have become a critical swing vote. Republicans have become increasingly successful at winning the support of more traditional Catholics by appealing to what President Bush calls the "culture of life" issues, including abortion, euthanasia and research on embryonic stem cells. Mr. Bush carried 56 percent of the white Catholic vote in 2004, up from 51 percent in 2000 - a formidable part of his conservative coalition.

At the same time, some American bishops have become more assertive in urging their congregations to vote in accord with Catholic teachings on those issues - and in moving to chastise Catholic officials who disagree, in a few cases by threatening to deny them Communion. The bishops acted with the support and encouragement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope, who at the time headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This standoff has pitted church leaders against some of the leading Democrats in the country, and came to a boil last year around the presidential candidacy of Senator John Kerry. He is a Catholic who supports abortion rights, and argued that he could not impose "my article of faith" on others who did not share it.

Analysts on the right and the left say it is impossible to predict a papacy, and on Wednesday Benedict XVI was clearly seeking a softer, more inclusive tone than some had expected. But they say he shows all the indications of wanting to preserve a bright line around orthodoxy, around what is an acceptable position for a Catholic and what is not.

"I hate to pre-judge, but based on the record I would say Ratzinger is a very serious Catholic and he's going to say things like, 'Beware of falsehood in advertising,' " said Michael Novak, an expert on the Vatican at the American Enterprise Institute. "If you say you're a Catholic, be a Catholic."

Senator Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate and a conservative Catholic, said: "If you're an active Catholic in America, you know the name Cardinal Ratzinger. He's known as very much in line with the doctrine of the church and a strong enforcer of that doctrine."

But, Mr. Santorum added, "the question is how much emphasis will he put on it" as pope, noting that such matters are often left to local bishops.

Many Catholic Democrats are still angry over the treatment by some bishops of Mr. Kerry and some other prominent Democrats last year. A generation of Democrats still traces its political approach to religion back to John F. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic president of the United States, who declared during the 1960 campaign, "I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me."

But John Green, a specialist in religion and politics at the University of Akron, noted that the social and values-related issues that roil American politics today were simply not on the agenda in 1960.

Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor of New York, says that in the current climate, Catholic Democrats cannot shrink from a debate over values, even if it means debating their bishops.

"You say to the bishops, look, I respect you, I want to stay in the club, I try to live by your rules, but let's not be selective." He noted that church teaching also includes opposition to the death penalty and the war in Iraq, as well as a strong agenda of social justice for the poor, and he asserts that Catholic Republicans ought to be judged by those standards.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and prominent Catholic, agreed: "American bishops always have been involved in politics and been very selective. If you are a Republican who is for the death penalty, that is O.K., but if you are a Democrat for choice, that is not O.K."

Conservatives counter that such Democrats cannot have it both ways: claiming to be good Catholics and being staunch supporters of abortion rights. They say the "life" issues - led by abortion - occupy a central place in church teaching.

Professor Green said the new pope was unlikely to disappoint those conservative American Catholics. "The new pope is very much likely to continue the policies of the late pope," he said. "This developing alliance of religious traditionalists will continue, with the blessing of the Catholic hierarchy. Also, I think we'll see the Catholic hierarchy continue to be very visible and active on political issues, with the 'life' issues and the marriage issue front and center."

Some Catholic liberals say such an aggressive approach risks a backlash. Many Catholic voters, they say, dislike the idea of having their clerics weigh in too heavily on how they should vote, particularly since polls indicate that many American Catholics disagree with church teaching on a range of issues, including birth control and the legality of abortion.

For now, though, liberal Catholics say they are hoping for the best.

"I will give him the benefit of the doubt," said Terry McAuliffe, a Catholic who is the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was a sharp critic of the treatment of Mr. Kerry last year. "He was the enforcer before. He's not the enforcer now. Now he has to be the unifier around the world, and it's a different role."

But the Rev. Richard McBrien, a liberal theologian at Notre Dame, said in an interview conducted by e-mail that he wondered how much the new pope understood the more liberal strain of American Catholicism represented by leaders like Mr. Kerry or Mr. Cuomo. "I doubt if he understands it as well as he should, but then, whom does he speak with who might enlighten him, without giving a conservative spin to the explanation?" Father McBrien asked.

David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting for this article.

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you truly understand biblical scripture, you would realize that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world regardless if others do not believe in him. Those who do not believe are not less valued but by not believing and following Jesus Christ, salvation is out of reach.

The Bible says "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with you mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10).

I hope this explains our beliefs, Commonwealth.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger commonwealth said...

I asked you a question about the Culture of Life and the Iraq War that has left thousands of innocent women and children dead. You answered that those who have not found Jesus Christ will not be saved. Apparently the Culture of Life is a Christians Only Club. If a non-Christian child dies it is not your concern because they are not saved anyway.
If I am incorrect in this then your answer to my question was meaningless. You are unable to justify the Culture of Life with the war in Iraq.
Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island,was a minister and a devout follower of Jesus Christ. He read the Bible many times through. He found no evidence of God’s covenant with anyone except the Tribes of Israel. I often wonder at those who are sure they are among the saved. Do they have a signed contract with the Lord or only the promise of salvation given by their minister? Williams decided as a mere human, even as a minister, he could not truly know the mind of God. He decided that kindness and respect for all of God’s children whatever their religion, might be the best way to lead his life. He was not willing to risk guessing for whom “salvation is out of reach.” He feared it could even be himself. He, like you, confessed with his mouth and his heart his belief, but felt how he treated his fellow man would ultimately be the deciding factor in how he was judged by God. He was American’s first promoter of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger PWB said...

Another relative article in the NY Times Op-Ed by David Brooks with respect to the "Culture of Life" issue. See below.

Roe's Birth, and Death

Published: April 21, 2005

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that's always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn't have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.

Instead, Blackmun and his concurring colleagues invented a right to abortion, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation.

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.

Unable to lobby for their pro-life or pro-choice views in normal ways, abortion activists focused their attention on judicial nominations. Dozens of groups on the right and left have been created to destroy nominees who might oppose their side of the fight. But abortion is never the explicit subject of these confirmation battles. Instead, the groups try to find some other pretext to destroy their foes.

Each nomination battle is more vicious than the last as the methodologies of personal destruction are perfected. You get a tit-for-tat escalation as each side points to the other's outrages to justify its own methods.

At first the Senate Judiciary Committee was chiefly infected by this way of doing business, but now the entire body - in fact, the entire capital - has caught the abortion fight fever.

Every few years another civilizing custom is breached. Over the past four years Democrats have resorted to the filibuster again and again to prevent votes on judicial nominees they oppose. Up until now, minorities have generally not used the filibuster to defeat nominees that have majority support. They have allowed nominees to have an up or down vote. But this tradition has been washed away.

In response, Republicans now threaten to change the Senate rules and end the filibuster on judicial nominees. That they have a right to do this is certain. That doing this would destroy the culture of the Senate and damage the cause of limited government is also certain.

The Senate operates by precedent, trust and unanimous consent. Changing the rules by raw majority power would rip the fabric of Senate life. Once the filibuster was barred from judicial nomination fights, it would be barred entirely. Every time the majority felt passionately about an issue, it would rewrite the rules to make its legislation easier to pass. Before long, the Senate would be just like the House. The culture of deliberation would be voided. Minority rights would be unprotected.

Those who believe in smaller government would suffer most. Minority rights have been used frequently to stop expansions of federal power, but if those minority rights were weakened, the federal role would grow and grow - especially when Democrats regained the majority.

Majority parties have often contemplated changing the filibuster rules, but they have always turned back because the costs are so high. But, fired by passions over abortion, Republican leaders have subordinated every other consideration to the need to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrats, meanwhile, threaten to shut down the Senate.

I know of many senators who love their institution, and long for a compromise that will forestall this nuclear exchange. But they feel trapped. If they turn back now, their abortion activists will destroy them.

The fact is, the entire country is trapped. Harry Blackmun and his colleagues suppressed that democratic abortion debate the nation needs to have. The poisons have been building ever since. You can complain about the incivility of politics, but you can't stop the escalation of conflict in the middle. You have to kill it at the root. Unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, politics will never get better.


At 6:12 AM, Blogger commonwealth said...

Here is a posting from Digby I found on Brook's column:(Digbysblog,

I think he's right. In fact, all those right wingers who agitated for the impeachment (and worse) of Earl Warren in the 1960's were not actually upset about Brown vs board of education or Griswald vs Connecticut or any of the other decisions that we thought had set the wingnuts aflame during the era. It was because they were anticipating that the Supreme Court was going to find a right to abortion in 1973.

Here's how The Eagle Forum so cleverly covers their tracks:

The Warren Court (1953-1969) fueled the Culture War into an inferno and then placed the federal judiciary squarely in the white-hot center of the conflagration. "Impeach Earl Warren" signs exploded like rockets across the nation as Americans began to realize what was happening. But the courts and the Constitution have remained at the center of our culture conflict, and much of the Warren Court's legacy remains in tact.

Clearly, they refuse to admit that until Roe vs Wade in 1973 the right had no issues with the courts. Indeed, everyone got along just great. They bore no ill will for the court that found "separate but equal" to be unconstitutional. Oh no, it wasn't until poor Harry Blackmun found that a woman had a right to the privacy of her own body that the right decided that the "robed elitists" had usurped their democratic rights. All that impeachment talk before then was just good clean fun.

Thus, the culture war is all about abortion and not, as some have erroneously assumed, a half century of struggle over fundamental issues of social justice, tolerance, individual rights and modernity in general. This whole thing is a simple disagreement between upstanding conservatives saving cute little babies from black robed elitists and lazy liberals refusing to admit that equal rights under the law is a matter for legislative negotiation with Rick Santorum.

That Brooks, he's a keen social observer and historical analyst. He figured this out, I'm sure, over a Bud light and a plate of popcorn shrimp down at Coco's.

digby 11:26 AM


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