Friday, November 13, 2015

An Extra Chromosome And A Cause For Hope

Modern medicine has found many ways to test for problems with unborn children. This is a good thing. It allows for prenatal diagnosis, treatment, and even surgery to address medical issues for babies in the womb. But it also has some diabolical consequences -- like the fact that about 90% of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted.

90%

If you happen to be among those who don't think that's a problem -- who don't think that's a sad and horrendous injustice -- I give you Karen Gaffney. Karen can speak for herself but, before you listen to what she has to say, let me give you a few facts about Ms. Gaffney:
  • Karen is 38 years old
  • Karen is president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation which is funded in part by honorariums she receives for her public speaking engagements (like the one below)
  • Karen has swum across Lake Tahoe, Boston Harbor, and 16 times across San Francisco Bay
  • Karen is a graduate of the University of Portland
  • Karen received and honorary doctorate in 2013
  • Karen advocates for people with Down Syndrome
  • Karen "rocks the extra chromosome"


I realize that Karen is unique because she represents a "high functioning" case of Down Syndrome and I am in no way attempting to represent her as the norm. And let me be clear that I don't tout Karen's success story and inspirational life as the reason to oppose abortion.

My point is simply that the pro-life cause has its foundation in the idea that all members of the human family are valuable, not because of what they do, but because of who they are -- human beings made in the image of God.

Karen is an exceptional human being and she would still be an exceptional human being if she didn't have Down Syndrome. She is proof that all human beings are valuable. Let's pray that her message reaches far and wide as an example of the value of every human life and that Karen's story becomes a cry that will awaken those who would have never given her the chance to prove it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Strong To Save

It's always been one of my favorite songs, and not just because it's the "Navy Hymn." The stanzas about about "every peril to the Corps," and "for those in peril in the air" especially hit home. The tone and heaviness of they hymn are poignant and powerful. But, until today, I had never known the story behind the song. Thanks to Eric Metaxas's Breakpoint column on Veteran's Day, 2015, that is no longer the case. Enjoy ...




Metaxas: On this Veterans Day, I want to tell you the back story to one of the great hymns—one that resonates particularly for many of our veterans. It’s one of the most famous hymns in Christendom: “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” It’s often called “the Navy hymn” because it’s sung at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. But how many of us know the story behind this moving hymn?

The hymn’s author was an Anglican churchman named William Whiting, who was born in England in 1825. As a child, Whiting dodged in and out of the waves as they crashed along England’s shoreline. But years later, on a journey by sea, Whiting learned the true and terrifying power of those waves. A powerful storm blew in, so violent that the crew lost control of the vessel. During these desperate hours, as the waves roared over the decks, Whiting’s faith in God helped him to stay calm. When the storm subsided, the ship, badly damaged, limped back to port. The experience had a galvanizing effect on Whiting. As one hymn historian put it, “Whiting was changed by this experience. He respected the power of the ocean nearly as much as he respected the God who made it and controls it.”

The memory of this voyage allowed Whiting to provide comfort to one of the boys he taught at a training school in Winchester. One day, a young man confided that he was about to embark on a journey to America—a voyage fraught with danger at that time. The boy was filled with dread at the thought of the ordeal to come. A sympathetic Whiting described his own frightening experience, and he and the other boys prayed for the terrified student. And then Whiting told him, “Before you depart, I will give you something to anchor your faith.” Whiting, an experienced poet, put pen to paper, writing a poem reminding the boys of God’s power even over the mighty oceans. It begins:
"Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep, its own appointed limits keep.
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea!"
Scholars believe Whiting was inspired in part by Psalm 107, which describes God’s deliverance from a great storm on the sea: In verses 28 and 29, we read: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble [and] he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” This thought is of course echoed in the New Testament, when Jesus and his disciples are caught in a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee; Jesus “rebuked the wind and calmed the sea.” (Mark 4:39)

In 1861, Whiting’s poem was set to music by the Rev. John Dykes. The hymn became enormously popular; British, French, and American sailors all adopted it. Winston Churchill loved it, and the hymn was performed at the funerals of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.

Over the years, those who love the hymn and the men and women it honors have written additional stanzas—verses that ask for God’s protection over Marines, Seabees, submariners, flyers, the Coast Guard and Navy SEALS. They ask God to remember the needs of wounded warriors, asking: “By power of thy breath restore, the ill and those with wounds of war.” Touchingly, one newer stanza asks God’s protection for the families of those who serve, asking, “Oh Father, hear us when we pray, for those we love so far away.”

Veterans Day is a reminder that we should be praying regularly for those who put themselves in harm’s way for our sake, for their families, and for those who suffer the after effects of combat. And as we sing the Navy hymn, as many of us will on Sundays around Veterans’ Day, its words should also recall to our minds the fact that none of us will escape the storms and tempests of life. Its verses offer comfort and help us “anchor our faith,” as William Whiting put it, when the winds and waves of our own lives threaten to capsize us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

On Pointy Hats And Politics

Last month the head of the worldwide Catholic Church visited America riding on a very public image as a champion of the poor and downtrodden whose calls for various forms of "social justice" have put him at odds with the conservative wing of his church, even as his refusal to capitulate on abortion has angered his more liberal members. That's all fine and dandy.

But one would hope that the man whose office and reputation very much make him the face of Christianity worldwide would also be willing to take a stand for the seemingly uncontroversial idea that members of the human family should not be abused or imprisoned simply because what they believe happens to disagree with the political class that happens to run their country.

One would hope.

Unfortunately, Pope Francis made a side trip to Cuba while he was here and:
... the Castros were ready for him. The dictatorship arrested between 250 and 300 dissidents, or potential dissidents, who might have caused a disturbance. They arrested them violently, too. Berta Soler, for example, was dragged away by the hair and neck when she tried to attend the papal Mass. Soler is the leader of the Ladies in White, a group of faithful Catholics who campaign for the release of political prisoners. Later, Pope Francis said he was not aware of any arrests. That was a little odd, since state security tackled a man, Zaqueo Baez, right in front of him and dragged him away violently. Baez is a dissident. The pope did not meet with any of them, though he had a happy meeting with Fidel Castro.

As one democracy group on the island put it, "The pope did not utter a phrase of solidarity with the victims of repression." [Where John Paul II had mentioned "freedom" and "justice" dozens of times during his visit] ... Francis did not say "freedom" or "justice" at all.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, another democracy leader, noted that, "The pope discussed 'the glory of God in heaven' but said 'nothing about the hell for us on Earth.'"*
By definition, there are many ways in which the poor and downtrodden cannot care for themselves. Even in an open and free society history has shown that a government's ability to do so is limited, corrupting, wasteful, and inept. So, if there is any hope to actually be effective in the mission the pope claims to pursue, it resides in the church. When the leader of a huge portion of that church is more enamored with playing politics with tyrannical thugs like the Castros than with proclaiming the fate of the Castro's political victims, a huge opportunity to achieve his stated goals gets flushed right out into the open sewer that is the Cuban regime's "vision" for society.

I am not a Catholic. I disagree with several of the Catholic Church's teachings. But forget the whole Catholic/Protestant thing. In fact, forget the whole Christianity thing. As a human being who is seen as a de facto leader to much of the free world, the fact that the pope intentionally ignored the dissidents and political prisoners of the brutal, barbarian Castro regime is disgusting.

The pope should be ashamed of himself.


____________________

* National Review, October 19, 2015, p. 10-11.