Author archives: Rob Schwarzwalder

C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 19, 2015

David Theroux, founder and president of The Independent Institute and the C.S. Lewis Society of California, recently gave a very thoughtful lecture titled C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism.” David’s perceptive analysis of Lewis’s critique of “government as God” is well worth viewing.  The Left continually tells us it knows what’s best and “cares” for us.  Lewis’s riposte to this pretentious excuse for metastasizing state power is compelling: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”  Take some time to watch David Theroux exposit this key insight and be reminded once again of the wisdom not only of C.S. Lewis but of America’s Founders: We have a limited government precisely because “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The Pope on Family, Marriage and Life

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 16, 2015

As an Evangelical in the classic Reformation tradition, I’m not unaware of the theological distinctions between Catholicism and historic Protestantism. But all defenders of what we at Family Research Council call the “faith, family and freedom” agenda can take heart from these wise and brave words by Pope Francis, given just a few hours ago in a packed arena in Manila. To those who believe the Pope and the church he leads are shifting on these key issues, his remarks are a striking reproof. To those of us unmoved by what he calls “the culture of the ephemeral,” the Pope’s allegiance to the sanctity of life and the unchanging nature of marriage are a breath of fresh air:

Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family. It’s not born of the dream that we have from God and prayer – it comes from outside and that’s why I call it a colonization. Let us not lose the freedom to take forward the mission God has given us, the mission of the family. And just as our peoples were able to say in the past ‘No’ to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and strong to say “No” to any attempted ideological colonization that could destroy the family … The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life … Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death.”

Architecture, Values and the March for Life

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 8, 2015

It is difficult to look at scenes of great universities and historic colleges and not be moved by the architecture portrayed. Traditionally, institutions of higher learning have wanted to display their seriousness of purpose and devotion to great thought and leading-edge research in the buildings they have constructed. Thus, some of the most beautiful public spaces in our country, and indeed the world, are found on American college grounds.

Architecture is important. As Winston Churchill said to the House of Commons during the peak of World War II, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” So consider what contemporary architecture says about today’s halls of knowledge. Edifices crafted out of shiny glass and sharp edges, boxes in which people are warehoused instead of buildings that invite contemplation or ennoble creativity.

What does this say about our culture’s view of human dignity in our time? Of the pursuit of knowledge and the purpose of research?

There’s nothing wrong with utility, but utility without beauty is a form of reductionism: Man as machine whose chief end is output rather than man as image-bearer of God whose chief end is to glorify Him through noble pursuits. The architecture of one’s time displays that time’s values. And the values of our time are deeply troubling.

As is widely recognized, much of modern academic life either is actively and unapologetically anti-Christian or at least so “tolerant” it welcomes the debased and debasing. Yet thankfully, these approaches to truth have not penetrated the hearts and minds of many brave academics and their students.

For example, later this month thousands of college students will mark the grim 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. They will meet to remember the 57 million Americans destroyed in their mothers’ wombs due to the reduction of human value to one of preference, convenience and radical personal and sexual autonomy. Family Research Council will be joining many of them as, together, we participate in the March for Life on the National Mall here in Washington, D.C. on January 22.

If you can’t join us on the date, watch our 10th annual “ProLifeCon” online. ProLifeCon is “the premier conference for the online pro-life community. With new pro-life majorities in both the House and Senate, legislative momentum at the state level, and Americans increasingly identifying with the pro-life movement” FRC believes 2015 will be a year for hope. Listen to pro-life leaders like FRC president Tony Perkins, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life and many others as they discuss the year ahead and what the pro-life community can do to advance the human dignity agenda in the new year.

At FRC, we celebrate the eternal truth that in His grace, God has made all men and women, from conception until natural death, “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8). The architecture of our building – stately but warm, an edifice designed to remind all who see it of human dignity and personal warmth - is a daily reminder of it.

News Flash: Pornography Hurts Marriage

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 22, 2014

Our friends at the Porn Harms Coalition (of which FRC is a member) have drawn attention to a study that quantifies what every common-sensical person in the world knows intuitively: Viewing pornography discourages and damages marriage. The German Institute for the Study of Labor (apparently the Germans understand that marriage affects labor productivity, as FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute has argued for years) hired researchers at Pennsylvania’s West Chester University and Britain’s Timberlake Consultants to study whether “increasing ease of accessing pornography is an important factor underlying the decline in marriage formation and stability.”

Well, the German-sponsored study found it did: “Substitutes for marital sexual gratification may impact the decision to marry. Proliferation of the Internet has made pornography an increasingly low-cost substitute … We show that increased Internet usage is negatively associated with marriage formation. Pornography consumption specifically has an even stronger effect.”

Pornography as a “low-cost substitute” for marriage? So, are women merely sexual tools for readily-aroused young men? What a comment on how many young men in our time view women! Yet advocates of complete sexual autonomy (over-the-counter contraception for all, for example) refuse to acknowledge this corrosive fact.

We welcome this contribution to the scholarly literature showing that pornography adversely affects getting and staying married. To simplify things, though, ask any pastor, priest or rabbi who’s ever counseled a woman with a boyfriend or husband addicted to pornography. That conversation will prove more unforgettable than even the most riveting study ever can.

For those struggling with addiction to pornography or who want to help those who are, Porn Harms offers great resources. And, remember, Jesus Christ is the greatest resource of all.

An Active President: Obama on the March As the GOP Preps to Run Congress

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 18, 2014

Since last month’s election, the President has been a busy fellow. He’s traveled to China, heralded what he called a “turning point” in American military affairs, “signed a Presidential Memorandum that prohibits future oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay” and land areas near it and announced a new director for the White House Council for Strong Cities, Strong Communities, to boot.

FRC takes no formal position on these issues, or on those that follow (with one exception). Rather, they are listed to make the point that Mr. Obama is not going suddenly to become an inactive Chief Executive. He has an agenda the bulk of which is opposed by conservatives. Regardless, if conservatives think he will simply fold his hands and let the new Republican majorities in House and Senate do as they will, they kid themselves.

Following is a rundown of other significant post-November 4, 2014 actions by Mr. Obama; the last, on international religious liberty, is not explicitly presidential but relates to a key presidential appointment at the Department of State.

Environment: In addition to his largely unnoticed decision regarding Bristol Bay, “Obama’s most recent move is committing the U.S. to a $3 billion contribution to an international fund that seeks to help developing countries address climate change, which he will announce this weekend. It’s the president’s second major climate action in a week, following Wednesday’s announcement of a bilateral climate agreement with China. Under the agreement, the U.S. will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, while China will begin reducing its own emissions by 2030.”

Cuba: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the son of Cuban immigrants, gave an eloquent and impassioned critique of the President’s announcement on normalizing relations with Cuba last evening; read his Wall Street Journal op-ed on the Obama decision, as well. The Washington Post also made a potent argument in an op-ed titled, “Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout” (yes, that Washington Post; even a stopped clock is right twice a day): “The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely. Mr. Obama may claim that he has dismantled a 50-year-old failed policy; what he has really done is give a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life.”

Immigration: With respect to his Executive Order on immigration, my personal take is not on the content of the orders but instead their basis in the U.S. Constitution: “Mr. Obama hasn’t gotten what he wants, so he is acting like a monarch unconstrained by legality. This is not constitutional, republican governance. It is something else altogether – something that should evoke in everyone who values his Constitution-based liberty apprehension about what might come next.”

Internet: “Net neutrality” demands a bit more explaining. Mr. Obama has asked “the Federal Communications Commission to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility,” writes Michael Hendrix in National Review. “All Internet traffic would be treated equally, no matter the size or pace of demand. Net neutrality is a relatively young concept based on the much older notion of ‘common carriage,’ which required providers of basic infrastructure to offer common service to all.”

Yet as Nancy Scola notes in the Washington Post, At the center of the debate is a service known as IANA, or the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Operating almost entirely out of the public eye, IANA keeps tabs on the numerical directory that makes sure the global Internet runs smoothly.” And, Scola continues, though “Republicans in Congress managed to slip a provision into the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by the Senate this (past) weekend that would prevent the Obama administration from giving up part of its oversight of how the Internet runs. Observers say, though, that there’s little chance that the GOP’s legislative language will actually slow the process at all.

Religious Liberty: FRC does take a position on international religious liberty: We’re absolutely, unequivocally for it. Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein to be the State Department’s new U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. In his comments at his Senate confirmation hearing in September, the Rabbi said, “Religious freedom faces daunting and alarming challenges worldwide,” Saperstein said at his confirmation hearing in September. “If confirmed, I will do everything within my abilities and influence to engage every sector of the State Department and the rest of the U.S. government to integrate religious freedom into our nation’s statecraft and foreign policies.”

Amen. Christians should be praying for the Rabbi and his team as they work to advance religious liberty around the world. It’s in the interest of our country, not to mention one of the great moral imperatives of our time.

This President means no less business today than he did on January 20, 2009. That means that conservatives will have to think carefully about how we advance our priorities on issues involving faith, family and freedom in the coming two years leading up to the next presidential election. We have to consider our larger strategy as well as issue-specific tactics and also decide what our priorities are and aren’t.

Conservative leaders and activists are, of course, doing this. Let’s hope they coalesce around what issues are of highest importance and then move forward both boldly and wisely, aware that President Obama is a shrewd and determined political foe.

It’s not enough to be right. We also have to be smart.

 

Schwarzwalder previously was chief-of-staff for two Members of Congress and was a presidential appointee in the George W. Bush Administration.

On the Death of Eric Garner and Race

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 5, 2014

Christianity Today has assembled a thoughtful collection of observations by Evangelical leaders on the tragic death of Eric Garner. I encourage readers of the FRC blog to take a few moments and read through it. Probably no one will agree with everything each of the contributors has written, but surely we can all agree that the Body of Christ must more actively pursue racial reconciliation.

Paul the apostle teaches us that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Faithful Christians believe this, and at FRC we have long affirmed it; most Christians I know practice it. At my racially diverse suburban church, I’ve seen wonderful evidence of how people of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9) can serve the living King together with joy.

But the pain of the African-American community concerning the deaths of Eric Garner and, earlier, Michael Brown, is palpable. The wise words of Lifeway’s Ed Stetzer capture the point well: “I wasn’t in the grand jury room, and I don’t know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why. I think we should listen to them.”

Listen to FRC President Tony Perkins’ interview with Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland on the Bishop’s meetings and experience on the ground before and after the Ferguson Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, and check out the racial roundtable dialogs hosted by Pastor Darrin Patrick (of The Journey church in St. Louis) for some probing thoughts about the church, race and reconciliation.

Pro-Life: Right Policy, Good - and Imperative - Politics

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 2, 2014

In a post-election article in Politico, James Hohman describes what he terms “fault lines” as the 2016 Republican presidential field emerges. Among the issues he mentions are Common Core, NSA eavesdropping, immigration, Medicaid expansion and gay marriage. Noticeably absent: abortion.

Why? One reason is that advocates of protecting unborn children and their mothers from a predatory abortion industry are winning. According to the Guttmacher Institute (ironically, once the research arm of the country’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood), “In 2013 alone, 22 states enacted 70 antiabortion measures, including pre-viability abortion bans, unwarranted doctor and clinic regulations, limits on the provision of medication abortion and bans on insurance coverage of abortion. However, 2013 was not even the year with the greatest number of new state-level abortion restrictions, as 2011 saw 92 enacted; 43 abortion restrictions were enacted by states in 2012.” Guttmacher also notes that by mid-2014, “13 states (had) adopted 21 new restrictions that could limit access to abortion.”

The implications of these new laws and regulations are profound: As noted by Catholic Family Association president Austin Ruse, “How effective have some of these state legislative efforts been? A few years ago, Texas had 40 abortion clinics. Now, it has less than ten and counting.” Put another way, thousands of unborn children in the Lone Star state will be welcomed into life and their mothers defended against the abortion industry’s exploitation.

Although Barack Obama’s commitment to unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand is almost legendary (infamous, more accurately and sadly), the new Republican House and Senate can still pass pro-life bills that not only will set the stage for victories in a future pro-life Administration but which will remind the GOP rank-and-file that they can rely on those for whom they voted to keep their word. A promise to defend life is especially worth keeping in an era when cynicism about politics and politicians is too well-deserved.

A second reason is that the potential contenders for the GOP presidential nomination two years from now are smart politicians: In the Republican Party, abortion is as settled as a difficult issue ever can be, and those vying for the party’s top electoral slot realize they must commit to defending life or fail in their effort to win the nomination. Last month’s election verified this: Brad Tupi of Human Events observes that “Of those voters who said abortion should be illegal, 73 percent were Republicans and 25 percent were Democrats. These results conform to the stated platform positions of the two major parties.” Tupi rightly comments that “voter turnout was abysmal, about 36 percent. This is the lowest turnout since World War II.” However, it’s also noteworthy that those who turned-out last month compose the core of the GOP’s voters, the men and women who will also vote in the 2016 primaries and whose votes will determine the next Republican presidential ticket.

Overwhelmingly and nationwide, Republican office holders are pro-life. All but a handful of the Republican Members of Congress, both House and Senate, are advocates (actively or at least passively) of the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. And as Dave Andrusko writes in National Right to Life News, last month a “diverse field of Republicans (won) in state legislative races; almost all are pro-life.” That’s why, in a lengthy analysis piece, Politico reporter Paige Winfield Cunningham argues that “the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions … are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion.” Cunningham predicts “a wave of anti-abortion laws” in the states.

We at the Family Research Council will welcome that wave. For those of us committed to protecting lives within the womb and helping their mothers with their little ones, born and unborn, that wave will be more like a cleansing flood. Let it come.

The Constitution and Executive Orders

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 20, 2014

Family Research Council does not take a position on immigration reform. We’ve got enough on our plate, from protecting unborn children and their mothers from a predatory abortion industry and sustaining traditional marriage as the foundation of our culture to protecting religious liberty as the “first freedom” of our republic.

However, we take a strong position on the Constitution: We believe in it. We agree with the Founders that a written text contains objective meanings and that, to borrow a phrase from Jefferson, neither an activist judiciary nor an impatient president has a right to turn the Constitution into a “thing of wax.”

That’s why conservatives have every right to be concerned, even alarmed, by the President’s pending announcement of an Executive Order on U.S. immigration policy.

The Constitution invests the President with the authority to enact policies to ensure the faithful execution of laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the Executive (Section 3, Article II), and the “executive power” (or “vesting” power) granted the President (Article II, Section I) universally is recognized by constitutional scholars as involving only execution of federal laws, removing from the Executive Branch those officers who serve at the President’s discretion, and the formation and execution of foreign policy.

Then-Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v Sawyer (1952) offered a three-fold test for whether an Executive Order is valid:

  • When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate.”
  • When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite, measures on independent presidential responsibility.”
  • When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter … Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.”

The operative phrase in the above bullets is in the third paragraph: “measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress.” Clearly, as National Affairs’ Andrew Evans writes, “President Obama’s executive order is intended as a substitute for a law that Congress has not passed.

Finally, federal Courts have ruled that Executive Orders that surpass the express intent of Congress can only be executed in times of national emergency. Even then, according to the

U.S. Code, “When the President declares a national emergency, no powers or authorities made available by statute for use in the event of an emergency shall be exercised unless and until the President specifies the provisions of law under which he proposes that he, or other officers will act. Such specification may be made either in the declaration of a national emergency, or by one or more contemporaneous or subsequent Executive orders published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

In other words, even in the extreme event of a national emergency, the President has to justify by what authority he is declaring such emergency. And clearly, while both legal and illegal immigration policy involve a host of difficult issues, the Administration has not demonstrated, nor can it demonstrate, that any such emergency exists. If it did, why did the President – as he himself put it – wait a full year for Congress to act?

Legal scholar William J. Olson and Rutgers University historian Alan Woll have rightly noted that “Powers were separated not to make government more efficient but to restrain the natural bent of men, even presidents, to act as tyrants.” Mr. Obama hasn’t gotten what he wants, so he is acting like a monarch unconstrained by legality. This is not constitutional, republican governance. It is something else altogether – something that should evoke in everyone who values his Constitution-based liberty apprehension about what might come next.

News Flash: The Pope is Pro-Life

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 17, 2014

As a non-Catholic, I have followed with some interest the controversy concerning Pope Francis and his attitude toward abortion.  Although he has made clear pro-life statements all along (“Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world”), some voices on the Left seem to have become nearly giddy at the prospect of the Pope softening his church’s stance on the sanctity of life.

Let’s put the issue to rest: Following are excerpts of comments he made today to a group of Italian Catholic physicians in Rome.  Read them, and then ask yourself if there’s any way you can say this man is not pro-life:

… in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always “of quality”. There is no human life that is more sacred than another - every human life is sacred - just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another, only by virtue of resources, rights, great social and economic opportunities … When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: “But tell me, why the Church is opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?” No, no. It is not a religious problem. “Is it a philosophical problem?” No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. “But no, modern thought…” But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word “kill” means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this culture of waste, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, “No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will.” A sin against God the Creator!

A President Who Shrugs

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 6, 2014

I’ve written elsewhere of Barack Obama’s growing disinterest in being President of the United States. This observation has been made by many others, too.

But his boredom seems perhaps to have descended into contempt for politics generally. Here are some headlines regarding his response to Tuesday’s election that make this point. Of note is that these are stories in mainstream, certainly non-conservative publications like TIME, the New York Times and National Journal.

Republicans just won the election. President Obama doesn’t much care.”

Obama: Midterms? What midterms?

Obama Isn’t Listening to Voters He Claims to Hear

Obama, Chastened But Uncompromising”

Allies Right to Worry About Passive Obama”

His Party Is at a Low Point, and Obama Seems Passive”

Obama Resists Course Change After Election Rebuke”

President Obama is Not a Happy Warrior”

As an exasperated Dana Milbank wrote in today’s Washington Post, the President “seems numb to this latest ‘sheallacking’ of the Democrats:”

“I hear you,” President Obama said to the voters who gave Democrats an electoral drubbing in Tuesday’s midterm elections. But their message went in one presidential ear and out the other … It’s true that voters are disgusted with both parties, but they were particularly unhappy with Obama. In exit polls, 33 percent said their votes were to show disapproval of him.

Milbank says that although Mr. Obama “had called Democrats’ 2010 losses a ‘shellacking,’ he declined even to label Tuesday’s results.” Later in his piece, Milbank concludes that Mr. Obama’s “solution was to defer responsibility.”

No President has the luxury of petulance, disdain or disengagement. Christians should pray that, for the good of our country, Mr. Obama not only would make wise decisions and turn from wrong views and failed policies, but that he’d get his head in a game with stakes far, far too high to let languish.

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