Author archives: Robert Morrison

The Bells of Britain

by Robert Morrison

February 9, 2009

My wife and I took our teenage children to London ten years ago. We tried to get in to Westminster Abbey for Easter sunrise service, but England’s ancient church was filled to overflowing. So we darted in to the smaller, more accommodating St. Margaret’s Chapel next door. Following a powerful resurrection sermon, we stepped out to be greeted by the booming bells of the Abbey. We could not hear the vicar’s Easter greeting for the din. We could not hear one another’s voices as the pealing of the Abbey bells was so thunderous. With a motion of my head, our family trooped off, marching a mile away before we could speak and be heard.

Those bells are the voice of Britain’s past. In 1940, they were silenced by order of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. With the daily threat of German invasion, no church bells sounded in the island fortress for three years. Church bells ringing during the Battle of Britain would have signaled Hitler’s landing. Only with the defeat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps at El Alamein in November, 1942-where “the glint of victory” reflected off their soldiers’ helmets-did the church bells of Britain joyfully ring forth.

Britain’s Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali returned to that theme of church bells during his recent visit to Washington. The Pakistani-born prelate was asked whether Muslim muezzins should be permitted to call the faithful to prayer in British cities. “Certainly,” the Anglican leader said, “as soon as church bells ring out in Mecca.” Bishop Nazir-Ali came to sound an alarm-but for a different kind of invasion. He said Britain’s national existence is menaced by a cringing Establishment. Britain is a Christian culture supported by centuries of English law. Both of these elements are being undermined by a quiet surrender to the demands of political correctness and relentless Muslim pressure.

Should Britain expel the Muslims already there? Should Britain cut off future Muslim immigration? No, the Bishop replied. As Christians, Britons have a duty to welcome the alien, a duty to show him hospitality and not contempt.

The European Union is all for human rights,” he said, “but they are unwilling to say where human rights come from.” They come, he maintains, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. Jews and Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we are endowed with our fundamental human dignity. It is from this source, and not from the Koran, that we derive our laws.

To Bishop Nazir-Ali, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s acceptance of Muslim shari’ah law probably reflects the opinion of the Britain’s deracinated elites, the Establishment. Nazir-Ali said that many times, Muslim women who are coerced into so-called cousin marriages plead for help from the police. In their distress, they are handed over to Muslim police officers, who simply return them to the very families that threaten them with death. “All people in Britain must have access to British law,” Nazir-Ali firmly said.

London is now the center of international Muslim investment, fueled by petro-dollars. The power of that moneyed interest is driving many government decisions.

There is something else at work here. The secularists in Britain and Europe can give no reason why humans should have rights. They cannot say that one culture recognizes human dignity and another crushes it. Their cringing before Muslim threats only encourages more concession. Already, there are vast areas of British and European cities where the police fear to go.

In lands where Islam has predominated, the status of Christians and Jews has been clear for centuries. They are tolerated at best, but subordinated. They are called dhimmis. This Arabic word is often translated as “second-class citizen,” but it is hardly that. It is best understood as a caste system to which the dhimmis are consigned-and to which they are forced to consent. In this caste system, dhimmis are forever marked with the badges of servitude-legal and spiritual inferiority.

The very enlightened secularists of Britain, Europe and the U.S. still hold nominal power. Increasingly, however, they use that power to give way, to salaam, before the daily growing power of their demanding guests. While holding temporary sway, these cringing elitists can best be described as dhimmicrats-empowered only to be impotent.

Listening to Bishop Nazir-Ali-who has received death threats for his fearless Christian witness-you have to wonder why the rest of the Church of England clergy are not standing up and speaking out—or at least ringing their church bells.

Ronald Reagan’s Birthday

by Robert Morrison

February 6, 2009

This is Ronald Reagan’s birthday. The Gipper would have been ninety-eight. Last year, on the campaign trail, Barack Obama paid a tribute to the man they called the Great Communicator. He told liberal supporters he would be their Reagan. Backers of Hillary Clinton pounced. How could you say anything good about Reagan? But Obama held his ground. He said that Reagan was a transforming President. It was for that purpose that Obama was seeking the Presidency.

It’s hard to imagine today how bad things were when Ronald Reagan clobbered Jimmy Carter in 1980. The economy was a shipwreck. The “misery index,” that statistical combination of inflation plus unemployment, had been used by Jimmy Carter in 1976 as a stick to beat the hapless Jerry Ford. In 1976, it was 13.5, but by 1980, Carter’s misery index had jumped to 20.8. Young couples couldn’t buy a home. They were lucky if they could even get gas. Carter warned Americans to prepare for a future that would be colder, darker, poorer. It was a time of “malaise.”

Carter spent days at Camp David conferring with his Cabinet. Then, he descended from the mountaintop to fire the lot of them, retaining only his young, inexperienced White House staff. Even a key liberal congressman was exasperated: “He’s cut down all the tall trees and left the monkeys!”

Even worse was Carter’s record on foreign policy. Millions of people in the Third World lost their liberty and tens of thousands their lives under Jimmy Carter. Communist-backed guerillas rampaged in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. When Iranian jihadists invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Carter dithered for 444 days as fifty-two Americans were daily subjected to beatings and threats of murder. Even the liberal media described the situation as “America held hostage.”

Ronald Reagan swept into office in 1981 with confidence and courage. He coolly faced down Soviet threats and brushed off an assassin’s attack with a hearty joke: “Honey, I forgot to duck.” When Libyan jets threatened American planes in international waters, Navy brass asked the commander-in-chief how far they could pursue the hostiles. “All the way into their hangars,” Reagan said.

Reagan slashed taxes and re-built our hollowed-out military. Americans were once again proud of the uniform and the flag it served. It was “Morning in America” as Reagan trounced Fritz Mondale in 1984, carrying forty-nine states.

President Reagan took a strong stand in defense of unborn children. He showed malice toward none. Yet the oldest of our Presidents appealed eloquently for the lives of the youngest of Americans.

Ronald Reagan was never ashamed of his faith. He braved media scorn when he proclaimed 1983 “the Year of the Bible.” He told an Evangelical convention the Soviet Union was “an evil empire.” With Pope John Paul II, he helped the believers behind the Iron Curtain push back against godless Communism. Reagan went to West Berlin. There, he publicly challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” He lived to see that ugly scar through the heart of Europe removed.

When he died in 2004, after a decade-long bout with Alzheimer’s, even the liberal media was impressed by the American people’s outpouring of feeling. As George Will said of him: “Reagan became the great reassurer, the steadying captain of our clipper ship. He calmed the passengers — and the sea.”

Today, we honor his memory. We thank our Lord for such a leader.

Lutherans are for Life

by Robert Morrison

January 23, 2009

I knew the late Richard John Neuhaus when we both served on the national board of Lutherans for Life. As is widely known, Richard began his public ministry as a Lutheran pastor, serving in a mostly black congregation, St. John the Evangelist, in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn. From there, Richard Neuhaus became a national leader in the civil rights movement, even marching at Selma with Dr. King. It was as Father Neuhaus, a Catholic priest, that Richard coined the famous phrase “welcomed in life and protected in law” to describe our pro-life goals for unborn children. Richard-may God bless his memory—never wavered in his defense of life. He said we were enlisted in the pro-life movement when we were baptized. Amen!

I thought of him yesterday as I attended a worship service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick came all the way from the headquarters of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in St. Louis to deliver a powerful and moving sermon for life. It meant a great deal to us here in Washington as we face the dread prospect of all three branches of our U.S. Government united to promote the slaughter of the innocents. In fact, Immanuel’s young Pastor Esget used a Reformation-era woodcut of Herod’s soldiers wielding swords against the soft flesh of babies. It was the cover of the church bulletin.

Dr. Kieschnick is the president of the Missouri Synod, a 2.4 million-member church body with more than 6,000 congregations nationwide. His presence among us showed his determination to stand firm on God’s Word, “though devils all the world should fill…”

Interestingly, Immanuel also welcomed a pleasant young man from the Washington advocacy office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Andrew Genszler. ELCA has been the largest Lutheran denomination in this country, with more than 5 million members. Many of the good folks in ELCA-pastors and people-are strongly pro-life. But the denomination itself is pro-choice. Worse, ELCA co-owns a Chicago hospital called Christ. It was there that nurse Jill Stanek discovered little victims of live-birth abortions who had been placed in the broom closet in cold metal pans-there to gasp out their young lives in the darkness. Jill held these suffering children as they died, praying for them and singing to them. For her pains, Jill was fired by the administrators of this hospital. As we now know, a famous former Illinois state senator heard her testimony but would not agree with Jill that these dying newborns should be welcomed in life or protected in law.

Andrew Genszler certainly seemed sincere in saying that his large denomination would oppose the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) as “too extreme.” Such opposition, should it be expressed publicly and strongly, could be a great help. Genszler said ELCA is committed to “reducing abortions.” Our legislative team, however, thinks fatal FOCA is not the most immediate threat to life. They think an incremental strategy of federal funding for abortion and inclusion of abortion in the stimulus package, in national health care are the more real and present dangers.

I certainly hope ELCA will weigh in against these threats, too. During this grand Inaugural week, however, I recalled John F. Kennedy’s eloquent words: “Civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof.” I am glad my fellow Lutherans greeted the ELCA representative with civility. ELCA should prove its sincerity by stopping abortions at a Chicago hospital called Christ. We would all then bless them for this act of justice and mercy.

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Ronald Reagan: “Nothing Less than a Miracle”

by Robert Morrison

January 20, 2009

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January 20, 1981

Surveying a world that had grown increasingly violent and arbitrary, in which freedom everywhere was in retreat, in which America itself seemed to be held hostage, Ronald Reagan reaffirmed our commitment to constitutional government. The peaceful, orderly transition of that day, he said, was normal for Americans, but for others it was “nothing less than a miracle.” Under Jimmy Carter, Americans were told they had to prepare for a future that would be colder, darker, and poorer, an America in which their children would lead lesser lives. A malaise stalked the land. Media chin pullers and professional deep thinkers lectured the people that the Presidency was too big for any one man. Well, it was too big for their one man, but not for Ronald Reagan.

Perhaps Reagan remembered Churchill’s poem, broadcast to America when Britain braved the Nazi blitz: “Westward look, the land is bright!” For the first time in our history, the Inauguration was taking place on the West Front. Reagan the Californian wanted us to look out from the West Front of the Capitol to the history represented on the Nation’s Mall. As he looked over that scene, he paid tribute to the giants of our past—Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.” Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.”

Reagan spoke unabashedly about his faith in God. He expressed his gratitude for all the prayer meetings that were taking place throughout America to consecrate the day. Every Inauguration Day, he said, ought to be a day of prayer.

Within weeks, Reagan would need the prayers of all Americans in an urgent way. At age seventy, he nearly fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. “Honey,” he told his wife in a widely quoted quip, “I forgot to duck.” Few then knew how close Reagan came to dying just sixty days into his Presidency. After he recovered, he joined with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had narrowly escaped an IRA terrorist bomb, and with Pope John Paul II, who had himself been shot by a Soviet-backed assassin. Together these three outstanding leaders worked to lift the Iron Curtain and bring down the Berlin Wall. With faith and courage, they changed the world.

We can still do this. “Why shouldn’t we believe this? After all, we are Americans,” Reagan said that memorable day.

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—John F. Kennedy: “Ask not…”

by Robert Morrison

January 18, 2009

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January 20, 1961

Washington is a city of northern charm and southern efficiency,” said John F. Kennedy about the nation’s capital. The city’s southern efficiency had never been so much needed as the night before the charming northerner took the oath as President. The city had been blanketed with eight inches of snow the night before the Inauguration. The army, city employees and 1,700 Boy Scout volunteers moved stranded cars, shoveled paths, and swept snow off the Inaugural stands.

At noon on that frigid Friday, the temperatures stood at just twenty-two degrees. The brilliant mid-winter sun glinted off the snow, almost blinding the frail poet Robert Frost as he tried to read his tribute to America. Boston’s Cardinal Cushing offered a lengthy invocation—the first time a Roman Catholic prelate could pray for a new President of his own faith. During the Cardinal’s prayer, the lectern actually caught fire.

When John F. Kennedy rose to take the oath from Chief Justice Earl Warren, the white-haired jurist was administering the historic words to the youngest man ever elected the nation’s Chief Executive. Watching the vigorous Kennedy that day, hatless, coatless in the cold, his forefinger jabbing the air as clouds of breath steamed forward, few would dream that Warren would write the multi-volume report that tried to quell public doubts about Kennedy’s death by assassination in less than three years time.

This day, though, was all ruffles and flourishes. Kennedy the liberal Democrat was determined to show that he could be as strong in standing up to communist tyranny as the old warrior, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had been. To a listening world, he vowed: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Summoning Americans to a long twilight struggle, he challenged his people: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Americans were stirred and thrilled by his words. They nodded in agreement when he said: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” No one complained about Kennedy’s violating the separation of church and state. No one called him divisive. All Americans believed his words then. Have we stopped believing them?

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The Only Thing We Have to Fear…”

by Robert Morrison

January 17, 2009

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March 4, 1933

Not since Abraham Lincoln’s first Inauguration in the secession winter of 1860-61 had a President come to power in such a crisis atmosphere. President Herbert Hoover was thoroughly thrashed in the 1932 election. He won just six states (out of forty-eight) and a mere 59 Electoral Votes. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York, had racked up an invincible 472 Electoral Votes. Roosevelt’s mandate was deep and broad. His fellow Democrats had rolled over their opponents in elections for Congress, Governorships, state legislatures. There were even candidates for Recorder of Wills in Sleepy Eye County, Minnesota who were eager to grasp FDR’s coattails.

As the winter deepened, so did the economic crisis. President Hoover was increasingly desperate. Banks were failing daily. The government had to put armed guards on U.S. Mail Trucks. Then, just days before the Inauguration, the President-elect faced an assassination attempt while riding in an open car in Miami. FDR was unhurt, but he calmly ordered the Secret Service to take the mortally wounded Mayor of Chicago to a hospital.

When Roosevelt finally took the oath in Washington, all eyes in the nation were on him.

His rich baritone rang out: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” His words were like an electric charge running through the country.

Many of his policies were wrong. Many failed. Still, Roosevelt’s indomitable confidence, his commanding presence, his unquestionable courage are what made millions of Americans love and support him. They honor his memory to this day.

FDR’s confidence was not in himself alone. He concluded his inspiring address with these words: “We humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.”

Thus did the nation’s most liberal President conclude this First Inaugural Address. He alone would deliver three more Inaugurals.

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Lincoln’s Sacred Effort

by Robert Morrison

January 16, 2009

March 4, 1865

The Capitol dome now finished; it was topped by a 19-foot Statue of Freedom. Those young black men who first muscled that statue into storage were slaves in the District of Columbia. But by the time they hoisted her into position atop the Capitol, they were free. Four long and bloody years had accomplished this much, and so much more. Not all the President’s hearers had come to applaud. John Wilkes Booth can be seen in grainy photographs of the event.

President Lincoln, defying all expectations (including his own), had been powerfully re-elected the previous November. Four years after appealing to “the better angels of our nature” to avoid civil war, 620,000 young Americans had fallen in a war of brother against brother.

Suddenly, at noon on that overcast Inauguration Day, the sun broke thought the clouds. Seeing victory in sight, Lincoln sounded no note of triumph, gave no hint of self righteousness. The war came, he said, and it was a judgment of heaven upon north and south alike. God could have given the victory to either side, many times. But it was not His perfect will. It would be our task, the President said, “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” He continued: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

The seven hundred and one words of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address have been carved in stone in his memorial. Every American should read them every year. After the ceremony, Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist orator and editor, went to the President’s House. He wanted to shake Lincoln’s hand. He was the first black man invited to a Presidential Inaugural. Barred from entry by an officious policeman, Douglass simply climbed through an open window. Lincoln spotted him in the receiving line and called out to him: “There’s my friend, Douglass.” The President asked for his opinion of the speech, and Douglass replied: “It was a sacred effort.” And so it remains. Just weeks later, Abraham Lincoln would belong to the Ages.

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Abraham Lincoln: An Oath Registered in Heaven

by Robert Morrison

January 16, 2009

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March 4, 1861

Wheezing old General Winfield Scott, gouty but doughty, was determined. The hero of a score of battles since 1812 would not let rebels disrupt the inauguration of the first Republican President. Virginia-born but Army-bred, great Scott stationed sharpshooters on the roofs of all the prominent buildings along the inaugural route. If anyone tried anything, Scott thundered, he would use his cannon to “manure the Virginia hills” with their bodies.

Scott’s brave show worked. Abraham Lincoln’s path to power was unimpeded. Lincoln rose before the as-yet-uncompleted Capitol building. As he spoke, seven states had already declared themselves out of the Union. They had set up their own rival government in Montgomery, Alabama. Lincoln weighed his every word. If he came down too strongly, he could tip Virginia and Maryland against the Union—and then the nation’s capital would itself be surrounded. But if he did not take a strong enough stance, his own supporters would be disheartened.

Holding Lincoln’s stovepipe silk hat on that Inaugural stand was his defeated rival, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, the Democrat. Another Democrat, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, would administer the oath. Taney had said “the black man has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

Lincoln appealed to reason. Secession, he said, was illegal. And it was impossible. A husband and wife can get a divorce, but how can sections of the same country separate? He spoke eloquently of those “mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone.” He urged his “dissatisfied fellow-countrymen” not to take the momentous step of civil war, reminding them: “You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’” Finally, he called upon “the better angels of our nature” to avert the looming catastrophe. Those better angels would not abandon this troubled land—despite four long and bloody years of fratricidal conflict.

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Andrew Jackson: King Mob?

by Robert Morrison

January 16, 2009

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March 4, 1829

Do you think the campaign we’ve just witnessed was too long? How about a four-year long campaign? Do you think it was too dirty? How about charging one candidate with being an adulterer, bigamist, and killer? And calling his opponent a pimp? That’s how long and how bad the campaign of 1824-28 was. Ever since the House of Representatives chose Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to be President—and Adams promptly chose a defeated rival, Henry Clay, to be his own Secretary of State—backers of Andrew Jackson howled “Corrupt Bargain!” And they kept howling for four long years. To his enthusiastic supporters, Jackson was, simply, the Hero. He had won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, saving Louisiana and the West, and really saving the young country from the British. For the four years of his single term, President John Quincy Adams lived in the shadow of Jackson’s inevitable triumph. Jackson championed democracy. His opponents feared “King Mob.” Adams’ backers, though not Adams himself, circulated all the old rumors of Jackson’s 1791 marriage to Rachel Robards, a woman whose divorce was not final. They circulated the infamous Coffin Handbill, showing nine black coffins with the names of men the hot-tempered Old Hickory had killed, in duels, or as an iron-willed military commander. Jackson’s people responded with the wholly false charge that John Quincy Adams had procured a young American virgin for the lecherous Tsar of Russia when Adams was our ambassador. Talk about ugly!

President Jackson’s demeanor on the day of his Inauguration, March 4, 1829, could not have been more dignified. He wore mourning black, in honor of his recently deceased wife. On seeing the newspaper accounts of her long-ago sin, Jackson’s beloved Rachel had suffered a heart attack and died. He would blame Henry Clay to his dying day—and hate him for it.

Jackson bowed to the inaugural crowds, but their conduct was not so dignified. They mobbed the President’s House, backwoodsmen with muddy boots standing on damask covered chairs to get a glimpse of their idol. Jackson’s friends had to form a flying wedge to keep the rescue the new President and keep him from being crushed by his admirers. Bowie knives cut souvenir tassels from elegant draperies.

Nothing we’ve yet seen of Obamamania has equaled the raucous first Jackson Inaugural.

America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Thomas Jefferson: Americans “Enlightened by a Benign Religion”

by Robert Morrison

January 15, 2009

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March 4, 1801

Thomas Jefferson would wear no ceremonial swords to his simple swearing-in ceremony. He would ride in no stately coach-and-six, as President George Washington had enjoyed. “Mr. Jefferson,” as the simple Virginia republican preferred to be called, took breakfast at his Washington boarding house with all the other diners on Inauguration Morning, 1801. Then, he walked to the still unfinished Capitol, where he took the oath of office. He was the first President to take office in the new national capital. He was the first sworn in since the death of George Washington in 1799. Jefferson spoke in a barely audible voice (he was never the orator John Adams or Patrick Henry had been). Still, his listeners appreciated the way we soothed the ruffled feathers of a hard-fought election campaign. “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists.” Jefferson had been elected only after weeks of balloting in the House of Representatives when the Electoral College failed to designate a clear winner. He spoke of religious liberty as one of the great achievements of the young republic. He and his close friend James Madison had blazed that trail with their work on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom fifteen years earlier, in 1786. Now, Jefferson described God as “an overruling Providence [who] delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter…” He closed his inaugural address with a question: “[W]ith all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens-a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” These wise words can certainly be treasured by us two hundred years later, when national administrations of both parties are planning to add trillions to the national debt that will weigh down our children and our children’s children. Another point jumps out from Jefferson’s first inaugural address: It’s pretty hard to square his words about God’s “overruling Providence,” His delight in our happiness here and hereafter, with the scurrilous charges thrown at Jefferson during the 1800 campaign. It’s hard to see this man as an “atheist” of any kind.

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