Another Adolescent Decision in a Time of Grown-Up Challenges

The Baby Boomers strike again.

This week, the Ontario Court of Appeal—the highest-level court in the country to consider a case of physicians’ freedom of religion—endorseda lower court’s ruling that all physicians must enable their patients to engage in abortion, assisted-death, or several other ethically questionable procedures. Physicians must either provide such procedures or give a direct referral to a physician or agency who will.

The Ontario Court recognized that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms acknowledges physicians’ right to refuse to serve as an accessory to what they view as a moral crime. But the three justices ruled that other principles took precedence over those rights.

What principles?

Equal access to legal medical procedures—which sounds fair enough, but more about that below. And also patients’ avoidance of “shame and stigma,” which sounds, well, oddly disproportionate when measured against physicians’ sincere concern not to assist in the killing of people under their care.

The legal experts have offered their arguments, and I found useful material here, provided by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, an intervener in the case. Let’s look at the decision here in the broad terms of cultural history.

Since the 1960s, Baby Boomers have enjoyed a kind of perpetual adolescence, and particularly a quest for maximal personal freedom and the extension of justice to those the Boomers deemed worthy of it. Genuine good has come from the resulting half-century’s campaign. In many respects, Canadian society cares for the poor, the disabled, the non-white, the female, the sexually different, and other marginalized groups better than we did before.

Along with that agenda, however, has come the adolescent tendency toward simple, even binary, views. That trait is perfectly understandable in young people just getting acquainted with the adult world. But so many Boomers, well into their senior years now, seem never to have jettisoned such an outlook.

Thus the Ontario Court’s decision is phrased in terms of the most pitiable cases: patients who don’t speak English, who have little education, who lack mental health, or who otherwise cannot easily navigate the complexities of our current medical systems. This all sounds commendably compassionate—except when one pauses to consider that it isn’t the physicians’ fault that health care is being delivered in such a complicated fashion.

It isn’t the physicians’ fault that people who want a single, clear thing done—terminate the life of one’s fetus, terminate one’s own life—apparently need the help of a person with years of university education just to find someone who will do it.

Indeed, in the internet age, how hard can it be to locate a list of people to do a particular thing—particularly if, as the Court heard from those who want to coerce physicians into compliance, it is so very important that people get what they want as quickly as possible? Why can’t there be a single website and phone number?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Scaring kids—about the right things

“Attention, everyone. Code red. Code red. The school is now in lockdown. The school is now in lockdown. Students, follow the directions of your teachers.”

All over the United States, schools, colleges, and universities are instituting and practicing procedures to deal with the threat of an armed marauder. They’ll likely proliferate in Canada soon, too. As school shootings now seem to occur every month or so, the danger seems to be real and imminent.

But it mostly isn’t.

A few months ago The Washington Post reported that fewer than 150 people (children and adults) have been shot to death in America’s elementary and secondary schools since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. That’s not 150 people per year, but 150 people over two decades.

Fewer than 8 people, nationwide, per year.

An American is ten times more likely to be struck and killedby lightningthan to be killed in a school shooting. One is four thousand times more likely to be killed in a car accident—at a time when traffic fatalities are less frequent than at any time since the late 1950s.

A recent story in The Atlantic points to a previous wave of child-focused hysteria in America, the pointless “duck-and-cover” drills in the 1950s. (There’s nothing like a cheap wood-and-tubular-steel school desk to keep you safe against megatons of thermonuclear blast.)

The 1980s saw the rise of parental fear over strangers snatching kids off the street as they went to and from school, only to see the worry rise to a fever pitch over Satanic ritual abuse—which started in the United States and spread rapidly around the world.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Is Christianity Anti-Semitic?

The recent synagogue shooting in Poway, California, has focused attention on an abiding question regarding Christians and Jews: Is Christianity inherently anti-Semitic?

According to The Washington Post, John Earnest, the young man allegedly responsible for the death of one Jewish worshiper and injuries to a rabbi, a child, and another synagogue-goer, was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Escondido, a suburb of San Diego. And before he walked into the Jewish house of worship to open fire, he apparently penned a seven-page letter that, among other things, connected his murderous actions with traditional teachings of his evangelical church.

The particular teachings most relevant to the violence were two: (1) that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ; and (2) that the promises made in the Old Testament to Israel have been transferred to the Christian Church, which supercedes the nation of Israel in God’s global plan of salvation.

By the middle ages, furthermore, teaching (1) had morphed into the idea that not only did the Jewish authorities of his day kill Jesus, but all Jews ever since collectively bear the guilt of that unjust and terrible act.

So let’s sort things out.

First, the New Testament makes it clear that Jewish leaders conspired with Roman leaders to do away with Jesus as a political annoyance. Pick up a Bible, read through the last third or so of any of the gospels, and you’ll find the same story. Jesus taught inconvenient truths, so the powers of his place and time opposed him. Thus has it ever been.

The larger theological point is that, from the Jewish point of view of the early church (and the early church was constituted almost entirely by Jews), there are only two kinds of people in the world: Jews and “the [other] nations,” or Gentiles. At that time, the Romans dominated those other nations as they dominated the (Mediterranean) world. So when the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders together mistreated Jesus, symbolically the whole world did him in.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]