In his "Breakpoint Commentary" of May 19, 2009, Chuck Colson commented that "On Sunday, President Obama delivered his controversial and much-awaited speech at Notre Dame. I found little surprising about the speech itself. Not that I agreed with it — far from it. What I mean is that the speech was what I and anyone who has followed the president’s political career should have expected: he has repeatedly affirmed the position that a woman’s right to an abortion takes precedence over the unborn child’s right to life" (Breakpoint: May 19, 2009).
Those of us who have been following the invitation of the president, who is overtly pro-choice, to speak on a campus that is supposedly pro-life, watched the drama unfold as Mary Ann Glendon, a prominent Harvard University law professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, refused to accept the prestigious Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame. She refused because the university is also honoring President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights and has taken several steps during his first 100 days to widen access to abortion services and to ease restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
Even though 70 bishops have gone on record opposing Notre Dame’s decision to honor a man who stands in clear opposition to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Notre Dame stood her ground arguing that the invitation is simply "‘an opportunity to broaden the debate on issues important to Roman Catholics, not a step at odds with church teaching,’ the school’s president said in a letter to graduates" (Kusmer, Ken, Associated Press Article: "Notre Dame chief: Obama invite can broaden debate").
As the debate continued, some graduates refused to take part in their long-awaited and hard-worked for commencement. President Obama shamelessly stood his ground placing the convenience of the mother over the right of the unborn infant to life. Chuck Colson stated, "The closest he came to saying something ‘new’ was his frank acknowledgment that while we should be working together to reduce abortions, at the root level, the pro-life and pro-choice positions are, in his words, ‘irreconcilable.’ True" (Breakpoint: May 19, 2009).
The troubling thing in all of this was the wild accolades our president received even while espousing the necessity of continuing the practice of infanticide. For Catholics, abortion is seen as "an intrinsic evil." Thus, while the president was being consistent in his views on the subject, his audience was not. How can they pray for the end of abortion each Sunday and then support its practice by their applause on this commencement Sunday? There is a foundational fault in such behavior.
Whether or not you are pro-life or pro-choice is not the focus of this article. Rather I use this platform to highlight the discrepancy we have allowed to develop in this country between faith and practice. I find it interesting that when an institution of higher learning desires to promote a liberal agenda, we always guise it under the umbrella of "opening dialogue." Yet, these same institutions systematically and consistently censure conservative views. Where is the dialogue in that?
Putting that aside, there is a greater concern I have and it is this concern that makes this a religious article and not a political commentary. That concern is the wrong-headed belief that there is such a thing as liberal Christianity. Considered by many to be "the last of the great Princeton Theologians," J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) warned "that there is no such thing as liberal Christianity. There is Christianity and then there is liberalism."
What transpired at Notre Dame this past Sunday (May 17, 2009) was nothing more than a crowd of cheering liberals hijacking the name of Christianity. People who claim to be Christian, while they deny the very essentials of Christianity. That is what gives the church a bad name in the world. That is what gives credence to the charge of hypocrisy. I agree with Mr. Colson on this point: the true Christians were outside protesting, not inside applauding.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights.