Lincoln quoting Jefferson: “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just!'’
During his political career, which spans four decades, Connecticut U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal has been storming moral mounts and shaking his fists at the gods. At some point, the gods of Western morality may respond.
Blumenthal’s reaction to American Nazis in Charlottesville was commendable and necessary; in any denunciation of Nazism, there must be no ambiguity – no moral confusion. There are indeed degrees of evil in the world. The bank robber who murders a teller commits a greater evil than the bank robber who simply robs a bank.
However, using the greater evil to excuse the lesser cannot be defended on moral grounds. The Antifa movement, like the American Nazi movement and the KKK, uses violence as a means of moral suasion. The Nazis and the members of the KKK who hijacked a protest over an attempt to remove a statute of Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville should have been unreservedly condemned for who they are by all people whose moral sense is not impaired by political considerations.
These two groups have been with us a long time; we know them, and we should not pretend to forget or forgive the unrepented sins of their dark past. Both groups have bathed in blood up to their knees. The anti-black, anti-Semite, anti-Catholic KKK used to hang or terrorize its victims; these days, they are content to defame and rouse public opinion against them. German Nazis persecuted and murdered Jews; these days, American Nazis accuse Jews, who they falsely believe are animated by anti-patriotic globalist pretensions, of capitalist greed. The shadow of Buchenwald falls over all of this, and although David Duke is not Himmler – because there are differences in moral degrees of evil -- the seeds of the greater evil are sown in the ground of the lesser evil.
The Antifa movement – so called anti-fascists who have adopted the Stormtrooper tactics of Fascists -- should be roundly denounced for who they are by those who regularly storm moral mounts and shake their fists at the gods whenever television cameras are rolling. The Antifa movement has long been infiltrated by anarchists; in the anarchist dystopia, such senators as Blumenthal would be unnecessary excrescences.
Even for those who agree there is a moral order of greater and lesser evils, Blumenthal’s too ardent support of the more indefensible practices of Planned Parenthood is difficult to justify on moral grounds. Blumenthal's position on late term abortions, Orthodox Jews would say, is morally indefensible. Even a Reform Jew like Blumenthal may be uncomfortable with the killing of nearly born babies and the selling of their body parts to doctors, a process, some may think, that comes uncomfortably close to morally noxious Nazi practices?
The moral position on abortion – most especially partial birth abortion -- of 3rd District Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro also is confusing, which is why, she laments in her recent book, “The Least Among Us: Waging the Battle for the Vulnerable,” her bishop removed her as a trustee of her Catholic High School. Scandal in the Catholic Church is synonymous with sowing moral discord in the minds of Catholics. And Catholics who are public figures, so long as they remain in the faith, have a moral duty to maintain Catholic religious convictions in a morally confused universe. If they break with their Church on important matters of doctrine, a devil word in the modern period, they cannot maintain communion with the believing church, lay or clerical.
Of course, DeLauro has little use for bishops and little understanding of the historic opposition of her Church to the grave sin of abortion. She believes as a professing Catholic -- “My faith has always been important to me…” – that abortion has, within her Church, completely taken over “the conversation on faith in politics.” And she is inching toward a wholly indefensible moral position that important moral issues should be decided by the state, not bishops or rabbis.
DeLauro seems unaware that Catholic opposition to abortion and infanticide during Imperial Rome was the lever that freed women from a crushing paternalism in which the paterfamilias of a Roman family exercised complete dominion over the life and death of his unborn and born children. Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, not uncommon in the Roman Empire, are becoming more common in the Western world as Christian perceptions are replaced by a morally neutral secularism, both in Europe and America.
The modern notion of human equality, unknown in the Roman Republic, descends from Biblical doctrine: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” And the highly romantic notion of the love of children also has its roots in Christian faith, “But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).”
In Heaven, one hopes, abortion is frowned upon, as it is among bishops in DeLauro’s church. There, one hopes, Nazism, Klu-Kluxery, Antifa fascism and anarchism will not gain a foothold. Here below, the usual strife continues. Flawed moralists continue to belch fire from their secular pulpits. Medical practitioners, unbound by the Hippocratic oath – noxamvero et maleficium propulsabo: “I will utterly reject harm and mischief”— perform partial birth abortions, after which dismembered baby parts are auctioned off, while politicians, wrapping themselves in moral mantels, wink behind the curtain.
Not a church going man, Abraham Lincoln, quoted from Thomas Jefferson, not a church going man, in his Columbus, Ohio, debate with Steven Douglas: “… there was once in this country a man by the name of Thomas Jefferson, supposed to be a Democrat -- a man whose principles and policy are not very prevalent amongst Democrats today, it is true; but that man did not take exactly this view of the insignificance of the element of slavery which our friend Judge Douglas does. In contemplation of this thing, we all know he was led to exclaim, 'I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just!' … He supposed there was a question of God's eternal justice wrapped up in the enslaving of any race of men, or any man, and that those who did so braved the arm of Jehovah -- that when a nation thus dared the Almighty every friend of that nation had cause to dread His wrath. Choose ye between Jefferson and Douglas as to what is the true view of this element among us.”
Lincoln’s audience applauded this sentiment of a frail man leaning for support upon the crutch of an eternal truth. How often, we should ask, do the political heirs of Lincoln and Jefferson tremble when they consider that God is just?
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist.