Friday, March 24, 2006

Like Ripples on a Pond: On the Life of a Much Loved Friend

In our lives there are people we meet who change us for good and ill. On the positive side, the influences can be thrilling, life-enhancing and joyful and if we are blessed we can know enough to be able to say: “this person changed my life, I am thankful for his/her influence.” If we are doubly blessed we can tell the person so directly. This tribute is about one such a double blessing friend: Dr. Richard Johanson.

It all began when a mutual acquaintance told me of another student at St. Andrews in Scotland (I was on a one year exchange from Queen’s University) who was going to go to Cambridge to study medicine. As I had just received a provisional place there to read law, we were introduced and said, as young students do, “see you at Cambridge.” And so, a year or so later, we met up.

It was the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship. We played in a folk group together, we played squash against each other we had relentless games of anything we could find - - croquet, darts, you name it. He was a superb and unrelenting sportsman, excellent scholar, amazing musician and, later, loving husband and excellent father. In later years we saw less of each other divided as we were by a continent and an ocean.

While at Cambridge we, with another friend of Richard’s, a talented medic from Zimbabwe, formed a folk trio and managed to wrangle tickets at the expensive “May Balls” put on in early June by the Cambridge colleges in exchange for playing a few sets of our blend of music in the wee hours of the morning and Richard or I would “pipe in the dawn” from the College ramparts.

Richard, as the better bagpipe player and guitarist (we never let him sing as his singing voice was terrible) was, with the other banjo and guitar-player, the musical excellence of the group. We played a kind of Celtic blue-grass, blues and African fusion.

He epitomized life lived “full on” and with great gifts of personal charm, good looks and staggering abilities in all areas of life - - he had everything. We often talked about God and religious faith and he was there, as in everything, a firm and sometimes combative but always fair opponent. He believed in virtue but not in God.

He played his bagpipes at our wedding and, soon after tying some monstrous cans onto the back of our “get-away car” (he loved pranks) wrote to us from his hospital bed saying that he had been diagnosed with a cancerous growth, a malignant melanoma, on his back. But his letter said much more.

He said that, while lying for weeks on his stomach in the hospital bed he had time to reflect on his life and had been wondering what all his gifts and talents were for. He had come to the conclusion that he’d been living entirely for himself and had lived, in fact, a very selfish life focused on his own achievements and prowess. I think this was a harsh assessment as he was a kind and generous friend. His letter also said that he realized that he had been keeping God at bay. The result of his reflections was, he told us in the letter, that he had made a promise to God that he would now live for others and for God for the remainder of his life. And he did.

Soon after, or about that time he decided to become a Christian - - a faith he had been interested in before and knew much about as the son of a Presbyterian minister, but had never embraced, he decided to convert. Literally,” to turn with” instead of go the other direction from this God he now accepted. Of course his embrace of the Christian faith was done with all the joy, enthusiasm and outrageous talent that he had brought to everything else.

He soon married his date from the last May Ball we played at, another doctor, a year or so ahead of him in her training, called Charlotte, they embarked upon a whirlwind life of medical training and qualifications, then missionary work here and there from Nepal to India to Russia to Africa. He specialized in safe-birthing techniques, built an international reputation and they had three children along the way as they both got more and more senior jobs ending up at a prestigious research hospital in England where he eventually was given the title “Professor.”

Their lives were full and joyous. He was also a top-notch skier and enjoyed playing his bagpipes in Austrian towns in the morning and skiing in the afternoons. He did all manner of sports, traveled and read avidly while continuing music within his family.

Sometime in the late summer a few years ago, he sent us a note saying that his cancer had returned. Typically, he diagnosed it himself and knew what the prognosis was. He faced it with genuine fortitude and even, if one can say such a thing, with a kind of joy. He knew he did not have long to live but threw all of himself into the adventure - -a last vital game. It was a mark of the man that with courage and irrepressible joie de vivre, he skied down a ski run the week before his death - -insisting that his illness not spoil a planned ski-trip- - daring death to take that from him. He won that one. Then, rather quickly and mere hours before we arrived to say farewell to him, he succumbed to his illness, dying at home in the arms of his beloved wife, completely exhausted by the disease and the way he lived in his fight against it.

Strangely, that same night the other doctor of our trio from so many years before arrived from the United States with his wife and they had also just missed saying goodbye to Richard. The two of us played the old songs into the small hours of the morning as the whisky, memories and tears flowed freely.

Our best man at that wedding where Richard played his bagpipes so beautifully almost twenty years before was the Rev. Alan Torrance, who now holds a Chair of Divinity at St. Andrews University where Richard and I first met several decades and a life-time ago. Alan passed on an item that I think it appropriate to republish here because it details another facet of the life of this most remarkable man. It comes from the journal of the Christian Medical Association in the U.K. and I share this here because it casts light, a bit, on how Christians see the living and passing on of faith and I know Richard would not mind.

So much more could be said about Richard Johanson however it is too personal and too deeply within friendship to share. What follows, however, gives a glimpse of the man, and shows a part of why love and religious faith matter, why they cannot be captured by simply rationalistic formulas and why faiths such as his continue from time to time, place to place and generation to generation - - ripples across the pond of being.

Last summer we saw his widow and children here at our home in France after they had been hiking with another family along a route in the Pyrénées that Richard loved. There was joy and laughter recalling old and more recent times.

Richard was missed but in a way he was also powerfully present; that too, an element of the faith he and his family and so many of his friends embrace. Here is the article from the journal of the Christian Medical Fellowship by Janet Goodall.

Janet Goodall reflects on the loss of a colleague


Son of a South African pastor, Richard Johanson was born in South Africa. His mother’s obstetrician was Paul Bremer, an old friend of CMF, so much prayer must have surrounded him from the start. We met in 1984 when Richard joined our hospital team as a junior doctor, by now married to Charlotte. They occasionally visited my home, then years passed and paths diverged. In retirement I heard that Richard and Charlotte were back at our local hospital, she as an anaesthetist and he as a highly respected perinatologist. By now they had three children, lives were full and we did not meet up again, although his work was becoming internationally acclaimed. I was therefore shocked to hear of Richard’s early death from a malignant melanoma in 2002. It is no surprise to note the affection with which he is remembered, or that an obstetric prize now bears his name.

Yet our tenuous connection did not end there. Not long ago our church family was blessed by the arrival of Linda, a research worker, and Paul, a lecturer in computer technology. Paul willingly came to my rescue over some teaching material I was trying to prepare and, after our technical discussion, I asked him how he and Linda had come to faith.

‘It was through Richard and Charlotte,’ he replied.

It emerged that Linda had been Richard’s research assistant, and the two couples had been friends for six years before Richard’s diagnosis. ‘We thought they were great,’ said Paul,‘except they were Christians, which we found a bit weird. We had a lot of discussions, though. Then we heard the awful news, and I got as far as saying,“OK, God, I’ll believe if you’ll heal Richard.” But he only got worse – from the start he’d only been given a few weeks to live. There was, though, a great sense of excitement and serenity about him which we couldn’t understand.’

The‘few weeks’were extended to five months – a crucial extension. One memorable day, Richard invited Paul and Linda to take a walk with him through the woods.

‘I do this every day,’ he told them,’ I sit on a log and look out over the countryside.’ Sure enough, there was the log and they sat down together to admire the view.

‘What I do here is pray,’ said Richard,’ and that’s what I’d like to do now.’

‘In his prayer he mentioned our names, and that did it,’ said Paul, still a little choked.

‘We just said to God that we gave in, and it was up to him what happened to Richard.’

Three weeks later, as very new Christians, they attended Richard’s funeral.

‘In spite of the sadness,’ said Linda,‘there was such a sense of peace.’

Someone at the service directed them to our church, and so we met. Soon I hope to meet Charlotte again. Despite the great loss Richard’s early death means to her and their children, and to friends and colleagues worldwide, we can surely thank God for answering those perinatal – and subsequent – prayers.

(http://www.cmf.org.uk/literature/content.aspcontext=article&id=1759)

I have not met the people that the article refers to but we are joined through our mutual friend. To recall Richard now is to smile and realize that in a real way he is not gone and that what was within him is blazing, undiminished and unquenchable. As so often used to be said between Christians, please remember Dr. Richard Johanson, his widow Charlotte and their children in your prayers for, as William Wilberforce once said: “we can render one another no more estimable a service.”

CENTREBLOG: Volume 116
Iain T. Benson©

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Meaning of “Conservative” and the Confusion of “left” and “right”

From time to time one comes across definitions or arguments elegantly set out that, deserve wider exposure. Simply because there are those who read this who do not read The Spectator out of England, this must be considered “wider exposure” even though it is a very narrow version of width.

A piece deserving wider exposure is a recent column by the polymath English historian and writer, Paul Johnson. His article, in a recent issue of England’s top conservative journal The Spectator and dealt with the question of which historical personage most deserves the title “right wing.” In particular, Johnson questioned whether either Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan were “right- wing.”

Of course the terms “right wing” and “left wing” are not particularly helpful for any important cultural questions and usually only serve as pigeon-holes for the intellectually lazy. That they are commonly used merely indicates how widespread such laziness is.

Johnson, however, wishes to look at the frequently used phrase “to the right of Genghis Kahn” in terms of a more meaningful marker of political beliefs: the term “conservative.” He then decides, I think wrongly, to see whether a person can be considered “right-wing” by virtue of whether or not they measure up to a meaningful definition of “conservative.” Beyond that, however, he has some very strong points to make.

Johnson’s error first. He accepts that to be “right-wing” is to be conservative yet, as perusing his own list below indicates, this is not necessarily so at all. Many contemporary libertarians who wouldn’t be caught dead with a moral proposition quite happily refer to themselves as “right wing” but would not satisfy a rigorous definition of “conservative” at all.

The language of “right” and “left” is just so much air and its use amongst otherwise intelligent people a further sign of the weakening of contemporary analysis - -such as other terms of that sort - - such as “values.” Still, his reminder of the characteristics of “being a conservative” are worth setting out since he comes to the conclusion that neither Genghis Khan nor Hitler were “conservative” or “right-wing” and makes a convincing case for the former in doing so. His treatment of these interlocking ideas is most useful. According to Johnson there are “six indispensable hallmarks of a conservative.” These are:

1) Firm belief in one, beneficent and omnipotent God;
2) Absolute morality as the basis of public law;
3) Strict limits on the size of the state;
4) Respect for the multiplicity of traditional power centres;
5) Restraint and self-restraint in all things;
6) Search for the right balance between the individual and the traditional units of society.
(“Who was the most Right-wing Man in History?” The Spectator, 25 February 2006, 34).
This list puts one in mind of similar ones contained in the pages of several of Russell Kirk’s books. For example, in The Conservative Mind (1953) the diminutive professor, who died in 1994 and who resembled nothing so much as a hobbit in his later years, set out a list of six (later amended to 10) indicia of the conservative. Here are Kirk’s six canons:

1. Conservatives believe there exists a transcendent moral order to which society ought to conform; as a corollary, political problems are, at bottom, religious problems.

2. Conservatives believe that society ought to change slowly, with caution and with acknowledgement that the whole of wisdom exceeds our partial knowledge, and hence, all things contain mysteries that shouldn’t be cast aside merely because we do not understand their importance.

3. Conservatives respect tradition and the wisdom of their ancestors, even those who are dead [what G.K. Chesterton referred to as giving a vote to our ancestors or “the democracy of the dead.”]

4. Conservatives believe all public measures should be guided by prudence—i.e., concern for long-term consequences, not just short-term expediency.

5. Conservatives believe that different people have different callings, and do not think the differences—social, economic, educational—should be eliminated. As a corollary, conservatives believe complete equality on earth cannot be obtained, is not desirable, and ought not be attempted (save in the courts), and therefore
governmental attempts to take private property from the rich to give it to the poor in an attempt to level the economic playing field is a bad idea.

6. Conservatives believe that mankind is imperfectible [there is no earthy utopia
obtainable by law or politics].

(The Conservative Mind [Chicago: Regnery], 1953, 7 – 8.)

Kirk’s sixth canon is important and missing from Johnson’s list. Still, the result of applying these to Genghis Khan and to Hitler is clear. Neither was conservative by any measure. As Johnson sets out with respect to Hitler:

Hitler broke all these rules; he was an atheistic pagan, a moral relativist, a totalitarian, an ultra-centralist, an uninhibited exhibitionist and a collectivist. In many ways Stalin was to the right of him.

Johnson also notes that conservatives are not afraid to use force or to use it thoroughly if necessary but do so as a last resort and with Hitler (and Stalin) it was the first.

Stalin, who was hardly “right”, however, “…killed even more people than Hitler and Mao twice as many again, 70 million at the latest count.” So, says Johnson, “…logically Genghis should have taken on this political coloration, and the phrase should run, “he’s even to the left of Genghis Khan.” Well, no. The best thing to say about “left” and “right” is perhaps “his right and left wings hit when he flies” which just about sums it up the reality of “right/left” politics.

Contemporary politics that use terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” to describe parties that are not particularly either (one might well ask, for example, what is the real difference in Canada between “liberals” and “conservatives” today in terms of well worked out agenda and social vision - - in light of the lists set out above?) are as confused as the attribution of “left” or “right” to Hitler or Genghis Kahn. Even many contemporary “socialists” are more dead than red in terms of the principles historically understood as socialist.

Perhaps the language of “left” and “right” needs simply to be jettisoned. Certainly we do not use it at the Centre as it hides more than it communicates. Understanding the terms above, however, suggests that the term “conservative” still has useful work to do - - once we understand its content.

Conservative? Moi? It all depends on what you mean by the term.

CENTREBLOG: Volume 115
Iain T. Benson©

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Theocracies in America: What Needs to be Learned to Preserve Ordered Liberty

A recent measure in the Missouri house introduced by Republican Representative David Sater calls for that State to officially recognize “a Christian God” and though, apparently, the measure has no legal effect it has been supported by many people as recognition of the fact that the Founders of the United States of America were overwhelmingly Christians and, so the reasoning goes, the majority of citizens of the State remain Christians today.

Sater defended the measure, saying Christianity was integral to the nation’s birth. “The majority of our forefathers were Christian,” Sater said. “They used the Ten Commandments to form the foundation of this nation.” Apparently, then, such use historically provides ongoing practical guidance for law and politics. Similar statements are made from time to time in England where that country’s “established religion” of Anglicanism is often viewed as giving rights for the application of laws grounded in the Christian religion to those who do not accept that religious faith. Sater’s measure has already received a committee’s blessing and is headed toward the House floor.

In an article in the Kansas City Star, Tim Hoover (“Even the Pope has a Say on HCR 13”, March 12, 2006) writes that some, including leading Jewish spokespersons, have rejected the kind of argument used by Representative Sater as coming dangerously close to establishing a state religion. Hoover notes that the Pope has rejected a request from certain Missouri religious leaders to support the initiative. Larry Weber, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, sent letters to Catholic lawmakers outlining the church’s stance on the matter and is quoted by Hoover as follows:

Unfortunately, the recognition of ‘a Christian God’ found in HCR 13 is inconsistent with the basic tenet of our Catholic faith that there is but one true God…. Catholics long have recognized their relationship with those who worship the God of Abraham — Jews and Muslims…. The Second Vatican Council in 1965 also officially acknowledged that the three faiths believe in one God.

Weber also wrote that the Pope has offered more recent guidance on the matter. In his Sunday blessing at St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 30, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the Second Vatican Council’s teachings.

They (the council) recalled with clarity the special link that connects
Christians and Jews, they repeated the esteem toward Muslims and the followers
of other religions, and they confirmed the spirit of universal fraternity that
dispensed with all discrimination or religious persecution.

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/14077372.htm?source=syn&msource=MR_001

The Missouri issue shows very different approaches to the role of the state in relation to religion. How many Christians, supportive of the “Word” could deny, if they considered the matter, that the God of Abraham is also the God of Jesus? Why then the exclusive language affirmation? Is this just bad theology or bad politics, or both, or neither? Why do certain kinds of Christians seem to feel they need Caesar to affirm God?

Whatever the answers, the Missouri initiative and much other recent commentary shows that the nature of faiths in relation to politics is a serious issue for America; a country that has never really managed to get its population, and many of its politicians and religious leaders, to understand the nature and limits of theocracy. Some are suggesting that this now poses a serious threat to the United States.

In a review of American political commentator Peter Phillips’ 13th book, “American Theocracy” in the New York Times Book Review, Columbia University Provost and professor of history Allen Brinkley (“Clear and Present Dangers” March 19, 2006) sums up the book this way:

In an era of best-selling jeremiads on both sides of the political divide, "American Theocracy" may be the most alarming analysis of where we are and where we may be going to have appeared in many years. It is not without polemic, but unlike many of the more glib and strident political commentaries of recent years, it is extensively researched and for the most part frighteningly persuasive.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/books/review/19brink.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5070&en=78b7f9e39884fae5&ex=1143522000&emc=eta1)

The book has three main themes that are, according to Professor Brinkley’s review, not new to the Bush years but “…exacerbated by this administration's policies — that together threaten the future of the United States and the world.”

The three are: the role of oil in defining and distorting [so the author argues] American foreign and domestic policy; second is what Brinkley refers to as “… the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government”; and, third, the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating. The failure of leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future according to Brinkley’s review is the link that unites all three.

It is with the second of these that I am concerned here; “the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government.” Much turns, of course, on what we deem “radical Christianity” to be and how we view the appropriate relationship between religious beliefs and government.

Two things are necessary to state up front. First that government now as always must be concerned with beliefs. These beliefs may be religious, non-religious or, as is most likely in the contemporary West, a combination of the two. Second, every set of beliefs, except those established with a proper understanding of the role of freedom in relation to governance, has the likelihood of over-extending itself in relation to power. I have mentioned before French philosopher Jacques Maritain’s useful creation of the term “theocratic atheism” (Evans and Ward eds. The Social and Political Philosophy of Jacques Maritain (New York: Scribner, 1955, 248). Atheists and agnostics have shown themselves just as capable of erecting totalitarian systems; worse, they tend to have no “internal” critique of such a strategy as communists and certain socialists have shown throughout history by their perpetual justification of the suspension of liberties for some in the goal of ultimate liberation (so they argue) for all – those fortunate ones in the future.

The central question for belief systems of all kinds is: “what is the proper role and extent of the state?” Theocracy is defined as follows:

A form of government in which God (or a deity) is recognized as the king or immediate ruler, and his laws are taken as the statute-book of the kingdom,
these laws being usually administered by a priestly order as his ministers and agents; hence (loosely) a system of government by a sacerdotal order, claiming a divine commission; also, a state so governed: especially applied to the commonwealth of Israel from the exodus to the election of Saul as king.
Oxford English Dictionary (Compact Edition, Vol. II, p. 3282).
Theocracies attempt to use the beliefs of some (perhaps a majority of citizens as in the Missouri example) to first affirm principles that others (whether minority or not) do not support. Then, as history shows, they move to suppress the appropriate freedoms of others. Both aspects are a problem.

It would interest those forerunners of contemporary apologetics, G.K. Chesterton and his protestant counterpart C.S. Lewis to note that in Missouri the measure to put a “Christian God” into the State Constitution has been accompanied by attempts to remove alcohol from the State legislature!

It is not the fact that governance is rooted in beliefs or what motivates them per se, that causes the problem, however, but in the sphere of action of the beliefs. Theocracies go too far with governance. They claim to have powers over things they should be leaving alone. They attempt to make Caesar into God and God into Caesar. Either way they make an idol of the state.

Christian beliefs are no more dangerous here than any other beliefs and, in fact, because the Christian religion at its most mature recognizes a limited confidence in the role of the “church” in relation to governance (and vice versa), it could be argued that recognizing limits on the role of “Caesar” provides a guideline that other belief systems do not have.

To return to the theses of “American Theocracy” as outlined by the Brinkley review (for I have not yet read the book), it is not the fact that Christians are taking politics seriously (“radical” simply means pertaining to the root or foundations of things) that ought to concern people but the fact, if it is true, and the Missouri issue suggests that it is, that some of them might not understand the proper role and extent of the state in relation to religion.

Let’s take a practical example here: consider the ways in which one might approach the issue of education and school prayer in public schools.

To argue, as some do, that all school days in public school should begin with Christian prayers goes too far. The principle can, after all, be turned around just as easily as school principals (or governments) change. What is “the Lord’s Prayer” today can become a prayer to “Gaia the Earth Goddess” tomorrow once the principle is accepted that “every day shall begin with a mandatory prayer set by government regulation.”

In a world of diverse beliefs and democratic governance what is the Lord’s Prayer one-day can easily, and will in many communities, become a prayer to another divinity some other day. A shift that is likely to be strongly opposed by those who insisted on “the Lord’s Prayer” in the first place. What has happened with “male/female” marriage in various Western countries ought to show how a concept can be taken over, hollowed out and replaced once the state is in the business of re-making definitions that it took on from the earlier religious traditions – traditions to which it no longer looks for guidance. Better in the first place to think more carefully about what matters are really for the State to decide in the first place.

What is necessary is to look a little closer at the diverse belief systems and the nature of democracy and the principle of respect for minorities. Islam often fails in this and that is why Christians are not free to meet for worship in, for example, Saudi Arabia. Muslims might have noticed they have no such fears in the “tolerant” West many of them are so quick to deride and whose institutions they would like to explode.

This is why “one size fits all” as a concept for public education is less and less likely to work and why all sorts of citizens need to rethink the scope and purpose of public education. This is not a new problem. In a subsequent article I want to examine a debate in Canada in the 1950’s that needs to be recalled, as it has not been satisfactory addressed. That, however, is for another day.

Once we realize that public education is providing a moral education to the young (by design or default) citizens may reject that vision. The solution when citizens reject such teaching is either to change the teaching or to provide alternatives. If a large number of citizens cannot change the teaching (for reason of lack of concern by politicians or coordinated resistance from within the systems guiding education) then democracy has been shown to have yet deeper flaws. Many in Canada believe that the so-called “public” systems are a failure but they often have nowhere to go for alternatives but “home education.”

What happens in the private schools, set up by citizens with particular religious beliefs and freely chosen as such by parents (the primary educators of the young after all as the Supreme Court of Canada recognized in its decision of R.v. Audet many years ago) is another matter. Here it may well be appropriate for Jewish schools to begin with Jewish prayer, Christians, Hindus and Muslims to begin with prayers from their own tradition or what have you. Atheist and agnostic schools will begin with their own recognitions - - usually none at all which is fitting given their presuppositions.

Those in education concerned about the moral future of the country in relation to basic conceptions of citizenship (for example, why should we care about “tolerance” “fairness” or “equality” to name but three) need to find a core education in civics that provides a basic understanding of citizenship and its opportunities and obligations.

Perhaps, in fact, we need to ask less of public education in many other areas, not more. The hegemony of current public education (with the implicit assumptions that “one size fits all” and “what we are doing isn’t “moral” anyway”) is overdue for foundational change but when this happens it will be essential to find the basics of a “core curriculum” in civics. Beyond that I believe respectful diversity is the key to a properly democratic educational system.

That some sorts of American religious believers wish to have public schools legally required to open with recitation of the Lord’s Prayer whether or not the school is a Christian school, ought to give us cause for concern just as the blanket exclusion of Christian or other religious groups from the same schools on some supposed “strict separation” argument ought to give us concern. Both are errors and both need to be addressed.

We do have to fear theocracies of all sorts but we must remember that they come in all flavours – religious and non-religious and that is the real problem with American, or any other nation’s “theocracies.” We need radicals who believe in important things and respect the search for truth, we don’t need theocrats that think they have the whole of the truth and wish to use general laws to force them on others. Societies are not “Christian”, individual citizens are, and laws are for everyone whether Christian or not.

The failure to understand this distinction poses a genuine danger to liberty no matter from what quarter it comes. Learning how to apply the principles of humility to governing is a very long road indeed and one that many people need to learn when they seek to uphold concepts such as “one nation under God.”

CENTREBLOG: Volume 114
Iain T. Benson©

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spina Bifida as a Death Sentence: Holland Ushers in New Horrors.

Years ago at Queens University I had a friend called Jane. She was a lovely soul who, among other good deeds, used to work at a camp for handicapped youngsters. She once told me of a little girl, one of the group she looked after, who was confined to a wheelchair and who had a surprisingly perky and upbeat manner.

One day this little girl, full of fun and actively involved in all that was going on, looked up at Jane and piped up: “You know Jane; it’s FUN having Spina Bifida!” My friend, somewhat amazed that this debilitating condition could be the grounds for rejoicing in any way asked: “Why is that Tracey?” and the little girl answered: “I don’t know, just because.”

This little moment in time, captured over twenty years ago, came back to me on reading the latest account of “developments” (one cannot say “progress”) in Holland. You can read about it here: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/mar/06030601.html

Within a few weeks it will be completely legal to kill Tracey and any like her. Spina Bifida, a terrible condition to be sure, in which the spine is not properly formed often leading to serious debilitating handicap will now be, not only a disadvantage that can be worked with, but, most likely, a death sentence, especially if one has the misfortune to be conceived in Holland.

Good old Holland! Land of salted licorice, open drug use, red light districts, tulips, euthanasia, and now infanticide! A new meaning to the term “low countries” and a new reason to see how the issues are inter-related. Kill the elderly out of a false sense of “compassion” and soon you will be killing the handicapped. It has been said by “pro-life” people for decades and denied by those on the other side.

To understand what Holland is about to do, it is useful to review the facts about Spina Bifida and ask oneself how this is different from many other handicaps. The answer is: it isn't. Just watch what malformations and deformations are added to the list in the months and years ahead. Once things start sliding on the slippery slope, they soon pick up speed. To learn about Spina Bifida, look here: http://www.nichcy.org/pubs/factshe/fs12txt.htm."

Wonder what those “there is no such thing as the slippery-slope” folks are saying now?

CENTREBLOG: Volume 113
Iain T. Benson©