The President, C.S. Lewis and Contraception
This is something of a shameless repost and link to Hot Air’s latest post on the contraception controversy: http://hotair.com/archives/2012/02/08/report-obama-doubles-down-on-new-contraception-rule-at-democratic-retreat. The original post, published more than a year ago, was a reflection on the progressive relativism of our Harvard-educated president and stem cell experimentation. Contraception, as C.S. Lewis noted in his excellent little treatise, The Abolition of Man, is more dramatic in its results than the destruction of embryos in that it denies existence altogether to a generation. In short, the election of a president which thankfully showed the eradiction of slavery’s consequences ushered in a dangerous new type of slavery, namely of future generations to the current whether that be through denial of their existence or by amoral use of their bodies for the “good” of mankind.
The President’s campaign theme was simple but effective because it found a receptive ear in the general populace. The campaign placards simply said “Change” or sometimes “Change we can believe in.” He suggested one such change in the course of his victory speech. It was subtle and important. He described our nation’s timeless creed as “Yes we can.” A creed can be timeless only if varying political opinions, mores or traditions cannot change it, meaning no matter how much things change around and in us our belief in what the creed says never changes. I suppose the president’s formulation cannot change. It is so general. It’s like saying: “We can change” or “Yes we are” or “Yes we will.” What we are left with is an amoral call to action, just like the omni-present, value-free, urge to embrace “change.” As if changing anything we can change is the tonic for America’s perceived ills. But this is not our timeless creed.
To set the record straight, our creed is not some general, emotive, affirmation; it is a statement conceived in principle and purchased with blood. It is the Declaration of Independence. This act of independence, expressed through a document dated July 4, 1776, cannot be changed or amended; it is truly timeless. The Declaration is the historical event which created our country. And to deny it is like a child denying it has parents. Our true creed is as different from the new creed as patriotic cries from airy feeling, sacrifice from good intentions, medicine from placebos. Let the inspiring Dr. King remind us of the core tenet of our Declaration: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963.
On the night of November 5, 2008 with all the world his stage, President Obama could have recited those heroic words of Dr. King. He could have inspired many with our true American creed. Indeed, our belief that all men are created equal is why people from all over the world want to come to our country. They want to believe in our creed even before becoming Americans, even before setting one foot here. They become Americans by their very desire for the freedoms we enjoy. They see America as the land of freedom and opportunity because of the principle of equality. They believe that everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, has a fair chance to be happy. Those Declaratory words that surged through our Revolutionary parents and moved their minds and limbs to throw off the stiff yoke of England reach through time and beyond our shores to the farthest deserts and mountain reaches of earth.
Why didn’t the president follow the path of Dr. King? What is consistent between Dr. King and the Declaration is an acknowledgement of the natural law. This is the intellectual bond, or shall we say heritage that was passed from our Declaration to Frederick Douglass all the way to Dr. King, Supreme Court Justice Thomas and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. King, an outspoken proponent for the pro-life cause. Where does the president stand in this heritage? Outside of it. From the articulation of his campaign positions and goals and the adoption of a new American creed, it is clear that an understanding of the natural law is not the intellectual heritage of our new president. Rather, his heritage is one of pragmatic moralism, or more simply, relativism in pursuit of power. How else do we explain the urbane dismissal of the aborted born alive infant with the oh-so generous promise of a lonely comfort room but no comforting arms, no human touch for the defenseless, gasping human? The former Illinois state senator’s position was the product of intellect in service of the quest for power. (Welcome to the gentle barbarism of the progressive elite.) How else do we explain an agreement to sit down as if with equals those who would proclaim the deaths of millions of innocent Jewish lives as their national imperative? The answer is accomodation for the sake of power and position. And the past associations between our president and various sophisticated ruffians are but another reflection of this feature of his intellectual heritage – these individuals promised access to political power and backing in corrupt Chicago. Such a heritage is not surprising. It lives and feeds on minds in our leading educational institutions, where teaching begins with a winking nod about searching for the truth and graduates with lettered disdain for the very concept of truth.
Which leads us to the tragic irony of our president. His election certainly is welcome and wondrous for it proclaims the end of effects of slavery. Yet his moral relativism leads us one step closer to an even more sinister form of slavery, one which results in the abolition of mankind. His vigorous embrace of embyronic stem cell research is no more and no less than the enslavement of one distinct human life unto his or her destruction for the benefit of another.
I am borrowing the phrase “abolition of man” from the brief and genius work by C.S. Lewis written in 1943 titled the same. The insight of Prof. Lewis was that man’s power over nature inevitably becomes some men’s power over other men. The starkest example of that is the technology of contraception which simply denies existence to a generation, or, through more precise techniques, selects whom in a generation should survive and whom should not. The timing of that book seems to be no accident. Shortly after World War II, it became clear that German scientists had energetically carried out their belief that some people were best used as experiments for the benefit of more deserving members of society. The categorization of “deficient” humans and the ghastly details of the experiments so meticulously recorded by that cruel regime are enough to shock even the 21st century mind.
Yet it turns out that these scientists were merely before their time and had not the technological advances to show the world in a more refined way the real benefit their philosophy could bring to the world. Their time has come. As the junior senator from Illinois, the president was a co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, the effect of which would allow “excess” embryos from fertility treatments to be used in research. And let’s revisit the then-senator’s statement regarding an earlier piece of legislation he promoted in 2006: “Embryonic stem cells can be obtained from a number of sources, including in vitro fertilization. At this very moment, there are over 400,000 embryos being stored in over 400 facilities throughout the United States. The majority of these are reserved for infertile couples. However, many of these embryos will go unused, destined for permanent storage in a freezer or disposal. We should expand and accelerate research using these embryos, just as we should continue to explore the viability of adult stem cell use and cord blood use.” Sen. Barack Obama, Statement of Support for Stem Cell Research, Monday, July 17, 2006. The president supports the use of excess human life for the benefit of others.
Some philosophers or moralists will argue that this excess life is not a “person.” That is a semantic fog fit for the weak mind. Our scientific understanding of what happens at conception and through nourishment of the zygote shines through and dispels any fog, namely, that a unique, individual boy or girl comes about with all the distinguishing features of eye color, hair color, shape of nose, shape of ears, shape of feet, sound of laugh, sound of cough, sound of the future “I love you mama” . . . sound of life, ready to come to full blossom only through nourishment in the womb.
Yes we can . . . ? Let’s try: Yes we can – cure Alzeihmers through repeated experimentation with embryos. Or, why not hypothesize the following: Assume that our erstwhile scientists really believe that the most potent form of stem cells are in the late-term fetus. Now, since the aborted born alive are so much living waste, why not put that excess to use? Reformulated the creed is: Yes we can – cure Alzheimers through repeated experimentation with aborted born alive humans. There is no material distinction between the first and the second proposition. None at all. In fact, given the president’s focus on being efficient with “excess” human life, the second is almost required. Instead of a comfort room, we would mandate that a hospital administer death-causing agents so the born alive can be used in the research wing of that same hospital. And since medical poison might affect the cell tissues of the infant, what this will come down to is suffocation by a comfort pillow. Now that’s real change. Though not change we want to believe in.
The allure of the president’s new American creed is that it resonates with every American’s natural optimism. We are the “can-do” nation. Nations admire “American know-how.” So of course we like to hear and want to believe that we can overcome obstacles, we can together make real change for the good. But no one wants change at the expense of our true American creed: We believe that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All have equal dignity. No man is deserving of slavery. And no man should be the tool of another.