John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and the drug-praising novelist Aldous Huxley all died on the same day, November 22, 1963. That nonharmonic convergence has led to some fanciful yarn-spinning by popular philosopher Peter Kreeft concerning after-death discussions among the three.
Ten years later, another sad day for America brought another curious combination. Lyndon Johnson died on the same day, January 22, 1973, that the Supreme Court decided unborn children could be killed on a mother's command throughout the United States. The ex-president's death, in fact, received greater play in many newspapers than the news of green lights for the grim reapers of the womb.
It is curiously appropriate that obituary notices concerning one immediate death and millions to come should appear on the same day, for the same mentality concerning the Constitution underlay both the errors of the Johnson administrations and the tragedy of the Supreme Court's abortion decision.
Here is what LBJ once said about his experience as a college student in San Marcos, Texas: "I was given a test by this history professor or political science professor, I forget which. The question he put on the blackboard was this: "Discuss fully what the federal Constitution has to say about education." So I did, and I must have gone on for 10 pages or so. Well, I got that paper back with a big red F across it. And the professor wrote on the paper, "The Constitution doesn't mention education." Well, I decided right then and there that if there wasn't anything in the Constitution on the subject of education, there ought to have been. And I decided I was going to do something about it, and if you look back on the bills that were passed during my administration, I think you might say that I have."
That's exactly what the Supreme Court did with abortion. It preposterously pretended to find a constitutional right to kill children, but everyone knew that Justice Harry Blackmun and company were merely enshrining their unbiblical preferences. Mr. Blackmun's decision ostensibly refused to declare when human life began, but in practice it did exactly that, because hunters do not deliberately shoot at an object in the forest if it might be a human being.
Lyndon Johnson liked to tell a story about a minister who lost his sermon notes. The preacher told his congregation, "I am very sorry, today I have no sermon. I will just have to speak as the Lord directs. But I will try to do better next Sunday." President Johnson occasionally promised to do better than God (particularly when it came to warring on poverty), but the Supreme Court regularly went to arrogant extremes.
Lyndon Johnson predicted that acceptance of his programs would lead to an end to the divisions of rich and poor within America. Harry Blackmun believed he was settling an issue that threatened to divide America. Both, instead of speaking as the Lord directed, spoke as leading social scientists and cultural priests of the period desired. But their declarations of peace, peace could not bring peace.
Why should anyone be surprised at this? Thomas Jefferson in 1822 predicted in one letter, "I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States." He so strongly expected the demise of Christianity that he wrote in another letter later that year, "I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian."
Mr. Jefferson was wrong, as was journalist H.L. Mencken in 1925 when he predicted, following the Scopes monkey trial in Tennessee, that fundamentalist churches would soon be extinct.
Twenty-five years ago, journalists predicted that abortion peace was at hand. The Des Moines Register on January 23, 1973, said goodbye to "emotion-charged hearings" on abortion, and the Milwaukee Journal declared that "politicians and policemen and judges" would no longer have to be concerned with the "distractive issue." In the years since then, liberal journalists have written obituaries for the pro-life movement whenever it had setbacks.
Why should anyone be surprised that despite all the predictions, despite all the disappointments, the battle to save the least among us goes on? What we all need to remember, as we think of the enormous setback 25 years ago and the struggles since then, is that Lyndon Johnsons and Supreme Courts come and go, but Jesus Christ is supreme on earth as in heaven, and the final victory is already won.