Silence of the shepherds III
A preacher's first obligation is to speak God's truth--wisely and warmly, clearly and courageously. Sometimes, there are lapses. One example arose at the inauguration prayer service on Jan. 20, when popular speaker Tony Campolo warned about "the principalities and powers," and forcefully cited as current manifestations sexism, homophobia, and racism, but did not tell his listeners that it was the Apostle Paul who first warned about the principalities and powers (see Ephesians 6:12). Why is that important? Because Paul's beliefs were very different from those espoused by today's feminist, homosexual, and racialist lobbies. Paul affirmed the created and redemptive equality of the sexes, but emphasized the importance of male leadership in the home and church. Paul believed homosexuals could be forgiven and changed, but noted that homosexual practice is depraved and its widespread acceptance an evidence of God's abandonment of a society. Paul was culturally sensitive for the sake of the gospel, but taught that the church should be race-blind. Mr. Campolo, instead of leading the Clintons, the Gores, and other listeners to examine their own attitudes in the light of the gospel, encouraged them to believe that they are the light of the world. Sadly, in a sermon that called social sins by name, Mr. Campolo (who has personally confronted social sins through exemplary inner-city work) failed to say the one word that cried out to be said --"abortion." He has apparently talked about abortion in private counseling sessions with Mr. Clinton, but how could he not call attention publicly to the near full-term babies, who by this president's stubborn veto, will have their skulls punctured and their brains sucked out? Mother Teresa won the admiration of Protestants and Catholics alike for speaking truth to the Clintons at the national prayer breakfast three years ago. This social-justice advocate unswervingly stood up for the weak and helpless to her last days. The difference is that Mother Teresa, unlike Mr. Campolo, never passed up the opportunity when in the presence of power to issue a challenge on the biggest social-justice issue of our day. Those identified as evangelicals should do no less.
All but one of President Clinton's nominees to fill top government jobs enjoyed smooth sailing in the Senate. Andrew Cuomo became secretary of housing after the Senate Jan. 29 voted 99-0 to confirm him. The secretaries of state and defense both won 99-0 confirmation votes the previous week. On Jan. 30, William Daley, the first Clinton appointee of the second term to encounter any opposition in the Senate, easily assumed the post of secretary of transportation with a 95-2 confirmation. Bill Richardson, Mr. Clinton's pick for UN ambassador, and Federico Pe `a, the former transportation secretary who is on his way to the top job at the Energy Department, picked up key support in Senate committees. But new revelations about White House political fundraising improprieties snagged the president's pick for secretary of labor. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says Alexis Herman's confirmation will be delayed, pending an investigation of her role in putting together a White House "coffee" with the president that was attended by more than a dozen top bankers who not so coincidentally wrote big checks to the Democrats. Also at the meeting were Democratic fundraising officials and the government's top banking regulator. Mr. Clinton acknowledged in a Jan. 28 press conference that "in retrospect," Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig's attendance at the meeting was inappropriate. Ms. Herman's office of public liaison arranged for Mr. Ludwig to attend, based on a "misunderstanding" of the nature of the meeting, White House officials claimed. Sen. Lott said, "The present explanation ... is not sufficient."
White House officials' previous explanation of their 200,000-name computer database of lawmakers, reporters, political supporters, and visitors to White House functions was simple: They needed the computer to generate invitation lists, thank-you notes, and other social correspondence. They're sticking by their story, despite statements to the press last week by Truman Arnold, former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who says he used the White House database to identify prospects for increased donations. Mr. Arnold told reporters for The Los Angeles Times and Time magazine that access to the database made it easier to reward donors with White House visits, trips on Air Force One, Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers, and coffees. "If people who give money are treated with special graces and made to feel they're appreciated," he told Time, "they'll come right back and give the next time." DNC officials said Mr. Arnold's access to the government computer was not direct, but conceded information from it was forwarded "through the appropriate channels." Republicans in Congress aren't buying it. Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.) called the computer a "hotel link with the Lincoln Bedroom."
A delicate balance
One day before the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment 13-5 (three Democrats joined the majority Republicans), President Clinton released a letter to the Senate urging rejection of the BBA on the grounds that it would pose "grave risks" to Social Security. That was the Democrats' bone of contention during committee debate over the amendment: whether to place the Social Security "trust fund" off budget and beyond the reach of the amendment. The committee-approved amendment would count the trust fund, which currently is running a surplus; some conservative Republicans in the House want to modify the amendment to bar surpluses from being used for other federal spending. Social Security, like other federal "entitlements," grows automatically according to the government's Consumer Price Index. On Jan. 30, the same day the BBA was approved in committee, another Senate panel heard testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said the CPI should be reduced. That would automatically cut the projected increases to several government programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Mr. Greenspan urged the creation of an independent commission to periodically determine how much the CPI overstates inflation. The proposal was immediately denounced by the American Association of Retired Persons.
President Clinton Jan. 31 asked Congress to give immediate approval to a measure that would authorize $385 million to pay for condoms, IUDs, and birth-control pills to Third World countries. Pro-life lawmakers want to try to restrict the aid from going to organizations that perform or advocate abortions. Federal law prohibits those "family planning" funds from being used for abortions or abortion advocacy. But pro-lifers argue the fungibility of funds forces U.S. taxpayers to support abortion-promoting organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the UN Fund for Population Activities.
Man without God
In New Jersey, police discovered 10 children--ages 2 to 16--left to fend for themselves in an Atlantic City crack house. The two sets of siblings had been in the house for three weeks without running water, heat, or electricity; they survived on canned vegetables. The whereabouts of their parents was unknown. Two Tacoma, Wash., toddlers were severely injured after being hurled from a third-floor apartment window during a domestic dispute. Police arrested the father of the two-year-old girl and one-year-old boy. A Texas homemaker, accused of stabbing her young sons to death and then cutting herself to cover up the crime, testified the boys had been attacked by an unknown intruder while she was sleeping on a nearby couch. Prosecutors hammered away at apparent inconsistencies in her account, but a defense psychiatrist testified that Darlie Routier is suffering from traumatic amnesia that prevents her from remembering details of what happened. The prosecution claims Mrs. Routier killed the two boys--ages 5 and 6--because she was angry over money problems and the burdens of motherhood. In North Carolina, convicted serial killer Henry Louis Wallace received nine death sentences, one for each of the nine Charlotte-area women he murdered during a two-year crime spree. After the sentencing, he apologized to the victims' families.
We shall overturn
Seeking to reverse California voters' expressed intention to end racial discrimination in that state, the Clinton administration filed a legal brief against the California Civil Rights Initiative. The voter-passed law, now on hold, would prohibit local and state government--including state-run universities--from giving hiring or admissions preferences to people based on race or gender. In its brief to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the Justice Department argues that CCRI violates the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment by making it more difficult for women and racial minorities to seek relief from discrimination. California Gov. Pete Wilson--a supporter of CCRI--said the Justice Department reasoning was convoluted, "turning the equal protection clause into the unequal protection clause."
Back to the Constitution
A federal appeals court in Oregon ruled that the surreptitious tape recording of a jailed murder suspect's sacramental confession to a Catholic priest violated the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Oregon jail, following state law, had routinely taped inmate conversations with visitors, except for attorneys. In the confessional, the inmate had denied committing the triple murder, but implicated a friend and co-defendant. In Alaska, a federal judge ruled that three landlords who--based on religious beliefs-- had refused to rent to unmarried couples are protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion. He said city and state laws prohibiting rent discrimination based on marital status are unconstitutional. In a similar 1994 case, the Alaska Supreme Court had decided in the renters' favor.
Sex and drugs
The Hawaii state House passed a bill attempting to undo state court rulings allowing homosexual marriage. Also approved: a bill giving homosexual couples some of the same rights as married couples--such as joint property and inheritance rights--that stops short of allowing homosexual partners to actually wed. Both measures now go to the state Senate. Despite evidence that other treatments are medically superior, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine editorially endorsed using marijuana to treat glaucoma and chemotherapy-induced nausea. The endorsement follows recent passage of voter initiatives in Arizona and California allowing doctors and caregivers to prescribe the illegal drug for medical uses. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Policy, didn't mince words in responding to the journal's pro-pot position. "Other treatments have been deemed safer and more effective than a psychoactive burning carcinogen self-induced through one's throat."
The Christian Coalition announced a new program, the "Samaritan Project," to combat poverty and revitalize inner-city ghettos. Flanked by black and Hispanic pastors at a Washington news conference, Coalition director Ralph Reed said the project--which will raise up to $10 million to help inner-city churches minister to at-risk youth--"shatters the color line and bridges the gap that has separated white evangelicals and Roman Catholics from our African-American and Latino brothers and sisters." The Samaritan Project also calls for a number of government initiatives, including establishment of a $500 tax credit for taxpayers who give both money and at least 10 hours of time to private groups that help the poor. A Texas judge authorized the hiring of a private investigator to find Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the prominent atheist who vanished with one of her sons and an adopted daughter in 1995. Another son, Christian evangelist William Murray, is seeking guardianship of their estates. Ms. O'Hair's atheist groups also want control of the estates. Former Olympic Park bombing suspect Richard Jewell filed suit against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, accusing the paper of libeling him in stories linking him to the bombing. CNN agreed to settle with Mr. Jewell out of court.
Certain unalienable rights
Cuba is a "totalitarian anachronism" respect for human rights in Nigeria "remains dismal" Burma--now known as Myanmar--is guilty of "arbitrary and sometimes brutal dictates" in Indonesia, there continue to be "serious human-rights abuses." Those conclusions come from the U.S. State Department annual report on human rights, issued Jan. 30. Singled out for special criticism was the government of China, described as a nation that has silenced all public dissent against the government "by intimidation, exile, or the imposition of prison terms, administrative detention, or house arrest." But heightened repression will not alter the Clinton administration's policy of "constructive engagement" toward China, said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.Relations with China are too important to be "held hostage" to only one issue, she insisted. The State Department human rights report also criticized Beijing for intensifying its policy of severely restricting all religious groups. And the report said Christians still are singled out for persecution in a number of countries, including Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and the Sudan.
Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who turned 66 Feb. 1, returned to his Kremlin office, seeking to allay concerns about his health. Mr. Yeltsin, who underwent quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery in November, has been suffering what his doctors called a "moderately grave" bout of double pneumonia. A brief video clip of Mr. Yeltsin at work showed him to be trimmer and more vigorous looking than in earlier appearances. Some of Mr. Yeltsin's opponents have tried oust him on grounds that he is incapacitated. The Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the November dismissal of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, ending her three-month battle to return to power. Ms. Bhutto was booted by President Farooq Leghari, a former ally, because of alleged "corruption, nepotism, and misrule."