Monday, March 28, 2005

"A Consistent Ethic of Life"

So yesterday is Easter. I'm doing what I always do on Sunday morning: watching the Sunday funnies. Today I'm treated to a special Meet the Press with one of my favorite wignnuts discussing the Terri Schiavo circus. Dr. Richard Land is the President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Anyone with a title that long with the words "ethics" "religious" and "liberty" has got to be good for some GOP hypocrisy. As if on cue, listen to how supports his claims in his very first answer:

"I'm talking about the judiciary in general."
"I think the judiciary's out of control, and there are a lot of Americans who think the judiciary's out of control." 
"And I, like many other Americans, feel that the courts decided to give the back of their hand to the Congress..."
"And I think I speak for millions of Americans who feel that the legal system in this country is broken..."
"And I think millions of Americans--and I certainly would number myself among them--are shocked..."
"And I think there are lots of parents--and my wife and I would include ourselves among them--that are shocked."

I can't argue with that in general. And I, like many other Americans, feel that the Religious Right decided to give the back of their hand to the rule of law. And I, like many other Americans, think people like Dr. Land are out of control. I think millions of Americans --and I certainly would number myself among them -- are shocked. Maybe he should check the polls lately.

But not to stop the hypocrisy there, Dr. Land has this gem:

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you have the same misgivings about courts and the application of the death penalty?

DR. LAND:  I do.  I support the death penalty philosophically and morally. But I do not support the way it's been administered in this country.  And my belief has been that if you're going to be supportive of the death penalty being applied in cases of premeditated murder, for instance, I think that the convicted sex offender that killed Jessica Lunsford needs to die.  But if you're going to be committed to it, you have to be as committed to its fair and just application, and it's not been applied fairly and justly in this society.

So allowing a woman with a flat line EKG to die as was her wishes expressed to her spouse and legal guardian is unethical. But state sponsored killing of sex offenders is perfectly philosophically, morally and ethically just dandy. I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning!

But in all the back and forth with the panel members, Rev. Jim Wallis stood out. I think he gives the direction the Democrats need to take when campaigning on these sorts of ethical and religious questions:

REV. JIM WALLIS:  Well, first of all, our hearts go out this morning to Terri Schiavo and the family.  It appears she's near the end of her life, and so deep compassion for the family, and all of us care so much about this.  In principle we should always err on the side of life to be--that's the safer moral course, but we also should worry about the politicizing of any case, and I'm alarmed by memos that talk about firing up the base or defeating the Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.  That's way out of bounds for a case like this.

I think the conversation about life is a good conversation.  But then let's talk, as the Catholics do, about a consistent ethic of life.  Today a silent tsunami will take the lives of 30,000 children because of hunger.  Lives are lost in Iraq.  On death row innocent people are executed.   The bishops this week launched a new campaign against the death penalty.  I think a consistent ethic of life is a good moral guide for politics and it cuts both ways, cuts Republican and Democratic.  Religion should be able to critique left and right, not be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan.

The Religious Right, and thereby association, the Republican Party is the Pharisees of our day. They say they are just "trying to save Terri" but even the American people aren't that stupid. They are inconsistent in their application of their "Culture of Life" way beyond the point of hypocrisy, as Rev. Wallis points out. The on place they are consistent is in their inconsistent application. It's fine to kill, but not to abort. It's moral to wage war, but not follow the rule of law. Terrorism is bad, but torture is acceptable. As noted in this poll, thanks to this case, the Republican hypocrisy has been laid bare to even the most average American.

This is the key for the Democrats: Point out the hypocrisy as Rev. Wallis has. Point out how this whole circus is politically motivated. Point out DeLay's experience with pulling the plug. Point out the President's hearty concern for those in PVS who could not pay their hospital bills in Texas. Point out the Right's willingness to use force to overturn the rule of law. They are hypocrites.

It's time we point that out to people.