Welcome to this, the 18th annual remembrance of the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers. Fr. Frank Pavone–how wonderful to have you here to preside.
As most of you know, I’m Rev. Rob Schenck, and I’m an ordained Evangelical minister, while my identical twin brother, Fr. Paul Schenck, is a Roman Catholic priest. (That leads to many interesting conversations.) But it falls to me, the “older brother” (by ten minutes) to admit to my younger twin, that he has a lot to teach me–and–that Catholics have much to teach Evangelicals about the two-fold call to evangelization.
You see, Evangelicals are big on the saving of souls. In fact, Evangelical churches are sometimes called, “soul saving stations.” Now, the saving of souls is an indispensable part of the Gospel, but it has a parallel mission: The saving of souls is paired with the saving of culture.
Now, my brother and I have been debating since we were “womb mates” — but Fr. Paul, I’ll give you this one: The Roman Catholic Church has been saving cultures (if you will) or a long–long time. (And, Archpriest Alexander Webster, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say the Orthodox have been doing it just as long–or, you may argue, even longer; but I won’t open that conversation here!)
Any way, we Evangelicals tend to think in 10-year increments; Catholics and Orthodox think in slightly longer expanses—like 1000-year increments.
So, it’s been 18 years since we started this event. In my short-term Evangelical mind, that’s 17 years too many–because in 1995, we had hoped that the conscience of this country wouldn’t allow the killing of the unborn to continue another year.
But, another year did come and go, and another, and another, and here we are 17 years later.
Now many people–among them many of my Evangelical colleagues–have been tempted to give up on the fight for the sanctity of life, because, as one said to me recently, “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”
And, of course, yesterday marked the 39th year since seven judges, in Roe v. Wade, created a vacuum of law, leaving the most defenseless members of human society vulnerable to cruelty and death.
I don’t know how some might see it, but I see the absence of law; and the resultant callousness of abandonment; and the burning, poisoning, dismembering, eviscerating, and smothering of tiny human beings–as consummately uncivilized–in fact, barbaric–behavior!
So, the justices unleashed barbarism in our culture when they voted 7-2 to strike down laws protecting vulnerable pre-born children.
But you know something–Rome, as they say–wasn’t built in a day. (Neither was Constantinople . . .) It takes a long time–very long periods of time–to build and rebuild civilizations.
So, Fr. Frank and Fr. Alexander, and my fellow Evangelicals, we have our work cut out for us. We must still save souls by announcing the Gospel whenever and wherever we can–but we must also reform civilization. We must civilize the United States of America by ending the tyranny and tragedy of abortion in our time–while modeling and teaching compassion and care for the most vulnerable in our society–
And, that, folks, ought to keep us all busy for at least another 18 years.
Now let us light the perennial Life Candle.
Ok, I lit a firestorm by my endorsement of Mitt Romney for President. I put out a statement on why I made this choice, but here I’ll tell you how I made it:
First, long ago I abandoned my search for perfect candidates. They simply don’t exist. If you dig deep enough, you will find every candidate has compromised his or her principles, engaged in hypocritical behavior, and has pursued self-serving actions. Why? Because it reflects who they really are–human beings. Let’s face it, we have all done these things in our lives. “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10), “[T]here is none good but one, that is, God. (Mark 10:18), and, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10)
So, knowing I would never find the perfect candidate, I considered other criteria:
1) On the question of a candidate’s faith: Again, long ago I concluded that a candidate’s claim to faith in Jesus Christ is not the sole determiner of whether that person will govern well. Jimmy Carter is only one example among many. Carter was a born-again, Bible-believing, Southern Baptist. That’s the only reason I voted for him. My colleague Rev. Pat Mahoney pointed out in a recent conversation that Carter spoke of his conversion and commitment to Christ before it was politically in vogue. There wasn’t even a constituency to exploit by doing so; he had nothing to gain by it. It goes without saying Carter not only governed poorly, he took stands that were inimical to Christian principles. Lesson: Presidential leadership requires far more than the right religious profession.
2) The road to the presidency is an enormously complex one. It requires coalitions. Committed Christians alone cannot elect a president. We may feel like a majority because we exercise more political muscle now than ever in American history–but that doesn’t mean we’re an electoral majority. We are, in fact, and in every way, a minority. Minorities don’t get presidents elected. A successful candidate must and will reach out to constituencies that may hold to positions opposite of his own. Reagan did it; both Bushes did it; and every successful president will need to it.
3) I used several measurements to evaluate the candidates:
– Was he or she a “good person”? Did they exhibit a basic, fundamental ethical code that guides first their private life, then their public life? (Again, searching for perfect records is futile. They simply aren’t there.)
– Was he or she open to advice, counsel, direction that may have been opposite of their own opinion? In other words, was he or she “teachable?”
– Did he or she hold to principles more in alignment with classical Christian moral teaching or less in alignment with it?
– Did he or she have a wide enough appeal to bring in a majority of the electorate, as well as enlist the required endorsements of a wide swath of different groups, influential public figures, state and local politicians, etc., etc.? You can’t win without these endorsements and supports.
– Does he or she understand and generally act in accordance with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
– Does he or she have a quality family life? (Family is the first mediator in society. It is, in fact, the first form of government. If you get it wrong on family, you just can’t get it right in the larger government.)
– To be a successful candidate this time around will require raising upwards of $1 billion. Does this candidate have the demonstrated capacity to do that?
– Does this person have demonstrated executive-level private and public leadership experience? The private (real world) sector does’t behave according to the rules of government. A winning candidate must completely comprehend both worlds.
– And, finally, let’s get real: A candidate must be photogenic and likable. American voters will not elect unattractive and cranky people. There is a huge personality factor to be considered.
Having prayerfully taken all these things into consideration–not just a few–and having met all the candidates personally (those currently in the race, as well as those that have dropped out), I came to the conclusion Mitt Romney best meets the majority of these criteria. You may disagree, and I fully respect that. It’s the way our system works and it’s what makes it so wonderful. It would be the height of arrogance for me to believe I will in any way be a decisive factor in this election, but I hope to do my humble, little part by sharing my opinions with you.
May the best candidate win–for the sake of the American people and those we influence around the world.