Speech to the New Jersey Right to Life Conference
Introduction by William Leib:
I had planned an introduction of Dr. Alan Keyes that read like a curriculum vitae, a dry recitation of his accomplishment. You can read that dry recitation in our convention journal. I sat last night with him at dinner and heard him speak. And I would do him an injustice if I introduced him that way because I think the way he needs to be introduced is to talk about his passion. His passion for God, for family, for justice, for freedom.
It would be wonderful, given what happened 140 years ago, where Alan's descendants in this country were treated as property. And a man named Lincoln stood up to that treatment and was willing to bring a nation to war and was willing to die so that treatment no longer took place and they were afforded the full rights that God gave them as human beings. I think it would be wonderful if this man was to deliver this nation, 140 years later, from the thinking that goes on that now treats unborn children, almost-born children, as the property of someone that you can do with as you please.
It is a great honor and a distinct pleasure to introduce to you Dr. Alan Keyes.
Being here today, I'm put in mind of the wonderful scene from the scriptures where the three apostles accompany Christ to the summit with Elijah and Moses, and they of course cannot fully comprehend what is going on--which of us could? And their reaction is very simple, they are overcome with the awesome joy of the occasion, and they say, "It sure is good to be here!" And that is how I feel today--witnessing what has been this wonderful outpouring of the Spirit and its fruits in New Jersey.
And I hope that you all understand as you come together here what tremendous significance you have for the rest of us in this country. What you have done in this state has been a true inspiration to us all. And God bless you for it. You have more than stood in the breach, and you have understood and demonstrated what I think it is all-important that everyone, top to bottom in this county, understand: that there is no party label, there is no allegiance, there is no personality, there is no one and nothing whatsoever that will lead us to back away from our allegiance to God and to His truth.
And I know that there are some people that don't like that lesson at all; I hear from them every now and again. They would dearly like it if we would just understand the "realities of life." And the reality, they think, is that whatever we might think, these great issues are here to be used so that some people can gain power at the expense of others. And when the time comes to make use of that power on behalf of right, we should look the other way.
I listen to all kinds of arguments like this these days, and sadly, they did begin, I think, with the arguments that were made in a case very well known to you, where folks are desperate to convince people that one should look over here, at the economy and the tax cuts and other things and ignore what is over there, which is the betrayal and abandonment of moral decency.
It seems to me that some people gave a dress rehearsal of that argument here in the state if New Jersey so they could apply it--as we are now seeing them apply it--in other quarters. It was wrong in New Jersey just as it is wrong in our nation now. Because I don't care whether we have warm houses and a roof over our heads. If we abandon our decent heart, it's all going to collapse in the end.
And there were some folks who came into your state in support of that sad argument, who profess to be pro-life. I image, in their hearts, some of them may still be. But at some point I think folks have to realize that out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. Why don't we ever read scripture and apply it? So, if I stand before you and say, "I'm pro-life," and then when the crunch comes I say, "But I have this political debt to pay, or the economy is great, or tax cuts were wonderful, so let the babies cry in vain"--then I am no more pro-life than those I have supported as they overturn and veto and override the decent will of the people of New Jersey and the people of America. It's time we begin to understand that the real measure of pro-life conviction is not what you say, it's what you do when the chips are down. All I can say to that is, "Thank God there was no doubt about the pro-life conviction of the grass roots people of New Jersey."
And I sincerely hope that your heart will someday be the heart of all of our leadership, and that they will learn, as American leaders have had to learn in the past, how to follow their people. And that in doing so they will finally be capable of leading this state and this nation back to decency. But always remember, if and when that happens, that there are going to be some people who try to claim that it was them. Leaders have a way of doing that, have you noticed that? People get the job done and they come along and say, "That was my work." Don't you let anybody convince you of that.
When the day comes--and it will come--when in this state and all over this nation we can celebrate the triumphant restoration of America's decent principle that all men are created equal and are endowed, not by their mothers' choice but by God Almighty, with their dignity and their human rights--on the day when we achieve that restoration, all of you wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whoever claims the credit, remember one thing: it was because you answered the call of Almighty God and did His will. It was nothing they did, it was what you did! And thank God for it. Every day, thank God for it, for He will thank you, I am sure.
Now it is true that for various reasons in this country now, our attention is focused on this issue of what kind of moral conscience we have. I think that without going into it in great detail--since I'm sure none of you know what I'm talking about--I would have to say some things have happened in the last several weeks that have actually led some people to doubt whether America still has a decent heart, whether we have a conscience, and so forth. And I want to say something right now that may prove a little controversial, and some people would say is down right suicidal for someone who is supposed to have the ambitions that are sometimes ascribed to people who have done what I have done. I've got to tell you that one of the things that is becoming increasingly clear is that we are right now suffering from the callous consciences of our women. Did you hear me say that? We are suffering from the callous consciences of our women.
I've destroyed my political prospects right there. But I want you to look at this truth and look at it carefully, because in the surveys and in the polls that have been taken, we stand back and marvel at the stubborn support that some people seem determined to give to wickedness. One of the things coming through loud and clear is that there seems to be a fairly strong preference among women for persisting in the delusion that there is some separation to be made between character and public life in America. I would like, just for a few minutes, for you to ask yourself why this would be the case. Because, you see, it's a kind of reversal of the traditional role of women in civilized society.
In civilized societies, as a general rule, the women are the ones you don't curse in front of; the women are the ones before whom, however brutal you might be under ordinary circumstances, you try to be on your better behavior when they are in the room. Women kind of decorate the human condition with the ideas of decency and self-restraint that then came to be understood as how we are to behave in polite company. And the great hope that I think has been secretly lurking in the hearts of mankind is that someday, not only in our homes and in our churches, but maybe all of our streets and indeed all of our arenas everywhere in the world would be considered polite company. And that by adopting this respect for the decency which emanates from the hearts of women we would actually remove from the world the scourges of war and human maltreatment.
So, why can it be suddenly in America that we are able to look upon wickedness, shut our eyes to it, turn our backs on it, and all our polls are telling us that the opinion of women is in the lead in this effort to turn away from decent conduct? Over here--again, without going into it in great detail, without naming names or anything--we have a great question mark now put before the nation as to whether in high places there has been an abuse of power which resulted in a deep abuse of the human person. I know there are some people trying to tell us that this is not what is going on. They say it is about whether we want to peer into the private bedrooms of thus and such. I don't know why it is that some people equate the Oval Office with a private bedroom. I realize that given some of the policies and decisions that have emanated from there in recent years, we might assume that everyone that has occupied it is asleep. But, generally speaking, we make a distinction between the office and the bedroom.
However, leave that little bit of common sense aside, that is not what this is about at all. I just want you to contemplate, in the abstract, the prototype episode. Someone comes to another human being in dire and desperate straits; their world is collapsing around them; they need help. They appeal for help to you or anyone else. You have it in your power to relieve their distress with a word. And at that moment, when they are, as it were, in the palm of your hand, when with a gesture you may set them on the course of relief or you may crush out their hope, you say, "Of course I can help you; what a terrible plight you are in. Just satisfy my . . ." (put after that "my ambition," put after that "my greed," put after that "my lust") " . . . and then I will help you."
What do we generally call this? Do we generally call this a roguish peccadillo? I don't think so; I think that we generally call this oppression. I believe that we generally call this wickedness. I believe we generally have recognized this as the very paradigm of evil. When human beings who are before us helpless and vulnerable, and in our power are by us abused and maltreated so that from them we can extract what it is that we desire to satisfy our ambitions and our lusts, we call this tyranny. We call this oppression. We call this injustice. And we have fought it--when we are decent--with everything that is in our hearts.
So contemplate that scene for a minute: I have you in my power, and instead of respecting your humanity, I crush out that humanity for the sake of my convenience, my whim, my purposes. If you think about that just for a second, and then ask yourself why is it that the women of this country might be tempted to have some sympathy for the perpetrator, I think that the answer springs to mind all too readily.
For if here there is someone abusing power over another for the sake of their ambition, their lust, their greed, their whatever, what is it exactly that since Roe v. Wade we have been telling the women of this country that it is their right to do? Is there in this life some person more vulnerable than the person in the womb? Is there in this life some human being more dependent, more helpless, more open to the absolute possession and power of another than that growing life in the womb? And yet, since that awful day when the Supreme Court lost its mind and heart and judgment and pronounced upon Roe v. Wade, what have we have told the women of this country about the act which, for the sake of our whim, and our convenience, and our fear, and our passion, and our desire to be free of the consequences, snuffs out the life of a innocent and helpless human being who happens to be wholly in our power?--"That is not wickedness. That is not evil. That is your right."
How dare we wonder and marvel at how people can still be approving, how can they still be supporting, how can they not see the evil that is in front of them? I'll tell you why we should not wonder at it: because as long as we stand by the principle that women have the right to kill their innocent, unborn children in the womb, we have destroyed the principle that "might does not make right" and we have embraced to our hearts, as the founding principle of this country, the foundation stone of all evil, all wickedness, all oppression.
I believe with all my heart that it is the Lord our God writing large before us the consequences of the poison we have put in the very soul of America. We see it now breaking out, erupting before us in all its deadly consequences. And what has for all these many years been killing the hearts of our women now has risen to the very head of our nation and is killing our very soul.
So, how can we be surprised by all the arguments being made today? "Well, the economy is doing well, great job, do whatever you please, oppress them whenever you like." But what is that argument? It is a way of saying that so long as our convenience is met, so long as our material needs are taken care of, we don't need to worry about right and wrong, and we have the right to do whatever we please. Is this not the same argument that we have presented to our women and our young women? "You want a career. You can't have a baby getting in the way. You're not ready for this. You can't afford to have to reorganize your life to meet the obligations of parenthood. Therefore you have the right to throw that life aside. So long as you are taken care of, so long as you are not inconvenienced, so long as your economy does well, so long as there is a roof over your head, so long as your ambitions and hopes are not disturbed, you have the right to disregard moral principles."
But it is interesting that what we have told women they can do to their children now restores the evil principle which in the past encouraged men to do whatever they pleased to women.
Is the irony of this lost on someone? And it has always been that way. I have listened to so many eloquent pro-life speakers who warned of this consequence: that the evil which we do to the innocent unborn will turn around and become the evil that will be done, that is done, to us.
And now I watch as those who claimed, over the years, to be fighting for the dignity and liberation and the right treatment of women in the workplace and elsewhere stand silently by while fresh example upon fresh example heap up on the doorstep of the highest places of the land. And they silently pretend that they should look away because, "Well, this person has been so good for women." I actually think that they should have been given pause before now, but many of them being on the wrong side of the abortion issue, it never occurred to them that it is impossible to say that somebody is good for women if they are not good for the children they bear in their womb.
You'll notice that whenever I'm asked to come into New Jersey by the folks in the Right to Life movement, you can be sure that I will be here. I will not even try to lie to you and tell you that I was asked to come into this state by your illustrious governor. But I can tell you that unlike some of my colleagues, including some for whom I had enormous amount of respect, if I had been asked, I most certainly would not have come. And why is that? Well, for this very reason. I don't see how anybody who came into this state to campaign for Christy Todd Whitman is ever again going to be able to stand before this nation and claim that there is some important and compelling reason why we should adopt legislation and human life amendments that are pro-life, and oppose those who are pro-death.
I tried to explain this to a friend of mine, Senator Santorum, because I thought that by coming into this state for Christy Whitman he utterly undercut himself as a Senator of the United States. I said, "Imagine that you are sitting down with one of your colleagues who is voting to sustain the President's veto, and you make the eloquent case, that I know that you are so very capable of making, on behalf of this being a so-necessary ban on live, partial-birth abortion. And he will look at you and say, 'I take the Whitman position on this, and you, yourself, said that she was a great gift to America. I am, therefore, a great gift to America. And when I go out there on that floor and vote against you on this one, I'm sure you'll understand.'"
There are times in life when we have to decide. We have take a stand for the innocent life in the womb. We must take a stand that says, "No, taxes are not more important than this. The economy is not more important than this. What you did on this bill and that bill and the other bill cannot be more important than this."
And do you know why? Because in the end all that we spend this tax money on--the efforts to deal with poverty, the efforts to deal with crime, the efforts to improve life in our schools, and so forth . . . Look at every single problem on which we expend all these many billions and hundreds of billions of dollars--including, at the end of the day, what we don't always want to recognize, all those billions we spend in order to arm ourselves to the teeth against the impulses of violence and human oppression in the world--and I'll tell you where all those needs come from: they all come from the willingness to embrace the same principle that does violence to innocent life in the womb. And as long as we enshrine that principle, we will spend all the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars and we will cure nothing; we will solve nothing; we will get nowhere.
I believe that this was the real meaning of Christ's words. Christ was a real practical guy. Some people like to pretend otherwise, but no. He understood the real foundation of any kind of success in life. Now this is sort of what you would expect. I mean, who better to explain to you how to use the wonderful machine except the guy who created it. If you really want to find out how to make the thing work, go to the guy who put it together. He'll tell you.
"In the beginning was the Word." Christ was there in the beginning, present at the creation. And what does He actually tell us about how to use this great and wonderful machine? He says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." What does that mean? "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all those other things will be added unto you." What does He mean? What He means, very simply and in plain language, is: "Get the moral stuff straight. Get yourself right with the Creator and everything else will be taken care of."
It is really as simple as those moments when you are trying to get the computer to work, and you just can't understand what's going on, and then your six-year-old walks into the room and says, "Dad, why don't you plug it in?" It's just as simple as that.
And yet what really appalls me is that with the pseudo-sophistication that is so characteristic of our time, we have all these people telling us that they are going to do such a wonderful job of tinkering with our money, and tinkering with our schools, and tinkering with our tax structures and all this sort of junk. And we are supposed to excuse it if they get the most important things wrong. If they cannot understand that first and foremost you must respect the basic rule--that God has invested every human being with an inviolable dignity, and we have no right, arbitrarily, to take life, to disregard fundamental rights for the sake of our whims.
If, as a nation, we want to return to the principle of truth, then we are going to have to do, as a people, what--I thank God--all of you have done here in this state, and what you have insisted in the end that your political leader should do. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and of His righteousness." And that means, in our time today, that if there is an abuse of power based upon moral turpitude, we must deal with that and excuse it for the sake of nothing; that if there is an abuse of innocence and vulnerability in the womb, we must deal with that first and excuse the failure to deal with it for the sake of nothing.
If this means that we have a litmus test, well then I don't understand why people run away from this possibility. I have a litmus test in many things in life. Is it somehow intolerant and bigoted if you have litmus test that you don't want child molesters taking care of your kids? I think that's common sense. Is it somehow a terrible and intolerant litmus test if you don't want psychopathic killers to be the wards of the law and the guardians of law enforcement? We take these kinds of common sense litmus tests for granted. When they recruit people into your police force in this state--thank God--they actually do a little bit of screening to try to make sure that psychopathic killers don't get onto the police force. They actually have litmus tests about that.
Because we understand, at some level, that there are certain fundamentals you have to have in place before you can move ahead. As a free people, there is a fundamental thing we must have in place--that fundamental principle which guarantees to each of us our claim to rights and dignity. Without it we cannot move forward.
And if our political leaders come before us and say that they will put it on the back burner, they'll get to it later, maybe next week, maybe next year, maybe next lifetime--then we have to tell them that they are no longer in the lead, that we will not follow them in that direction. Because that is not anything that will lead us back home. And home is where we need to be. Home in the sense of getting back to where we belong.
And where do we belong? I think we will remember where we belong when we remember to Whom we belong. Our Founders knew this because when they set up this great nation--this great nation being as it is such an exception in the history of mankind--they made it clear to Whom we belong as a nation.
Someday, I hope before it is too late, Americans, without arrogance or anything, will wake up to the fact that we really are in a special situation as a people. We are special because God, in His mercy, has marked out for us a way that is truly providential. And without all the brutal force and all of the nastiness through which conquerors in the past tried to bring humanity together, we have actually managed to assemble, in this place, a little microcosm of the whole human race.
For centuries people strove to do this, mostly by fire and the sword and mayhem, building great empires that would someday have all humankind united under some banner or other. But without force, at least in most cases, and without mayhem, we have actually managed to gather under the banner of law and liberty in America the whole human race. We have, like Noah's ark, representatives of every kind and every creed. And we are tested whether that human race can, in fact, in recognition of its common humanity, live in peace, live in cooperation, live in decency. We represent this hope for human kind.
But on what was that hope founded in the beginning? It was founded on the simple truth, "Remember, if we all want to live together in peace, if we want to have some basis for cooperation, if we want, in fact, to be treating one another with dignity, remember this one rule: you do not belong to yourself, you do not belong to one another, you belong to God. Treat each other as His property." From this recognition emerges our humanity and the chance for self-government and decency and peace. For it is the principle of compassion. It is the principle of cooperation. It is the principle of due process and law. It is the principle through which we realize our common humanity across all the boundaries of race, division and difficulty. We cannot afford to throw this away. And as we cannot afford to throw it away, we cannot afford to follow those who are indifferent to its critical importance.
One last word. There are times, I know, when folks can get pretty discouraged in the pro-life cause. Partly, I have to say, in the abstract, we could try to pretend we don't understand this. Because when all is said and done, we say with confidence, just as we were reminded a minute ago--we read the book, we know how it ends, we have great confidence. But we're human beings. We get asked to the garden and are asked to stay awake, and we fall asleep anyway. This is just the way we are. God understood it. Christ understood it. We ought to understand it. Sometimes we're going to have those times when we flag.
I believe that one of the reasons that the story of what has happened in this state is so wonderful, is that I can actually remember--because I've been coming in and out of this state--a time when here in New Jersey the Right to Life cause was passing through one of those little shadowy moments. I go now to other states where they are passing through it. What I love about being here today is that it lifts my heart with the inspiring thought that so long as there is within the heart and within the people that saving remnant of absolute faith in God's will that keeps some people walking and putting one foot in front of the other and trusting in His light and in His will, we do not fail.
No matter what it looks like, no matter what forces come against us, no matter what lies are told, no matter what manipulated, phony results there are in polls and elections; if we just forget all of that and keep letting God be a lamp unto our feet--lighting one foot after another foot in the path that He sets out for us, trusting that if we follow His word and do His will we move in the right direction--then someday it dawns again and we see the great victory of His will. In a small way here you have shown us once again that the curtain does rise upon such victories.
But let not your joy at this victory make you believe that victory is your cause for joy. It is not, for it is your faith that is the victory. It is your perseverance that is the victory. It is your unwillingness to surrender that is the victory. And whatever it looks like, however dark it may become, live by the light of that faith, and we shall persevere. We shall prevail to win more victories, until we have won for this nation's sake that victory over the lie which shall restore the truth that is the foundation of its justice, and its true hope, and its true dignity. And in that restoration, we shall fulfill that great and positive destiny that, I think, God marks out for us as he has in His better hopes marked it out for human kind. He did not put us here in order to be a witness to despair. He gave us the great gift of life so that we could be a testament to His glory. And glory, in case you missed it, is a good thing.
He created the world and after each and every day, He said, "It is good." We sometimes miss the point in Genesis, by the way, that He did that in one day with everybody else; it actually took three days before he could conclude that man was good. It really did. It took a while. And if I may end where I began: one of the things that we surely miss in that story, and that we are being reminded of in a quiet somewhat sinister way in our country today, is that man was not complete, man was not perfected, he was not pronounced good, he was not recognized by God as His image, and likeness until after God created woman. Do you realize that? This is a reminder that if the woman's heart is hard, the human race is lost. And if we wish, in fact, to restore ourselves to that hope from which we began and which Christ, Himself, came in order to redeem, then we must restore ourselves to that principle which awakens and enkindles in the heart of our women once again the respect for God's justice which is the true source of love. And by rekindling that respect, we shall open the river of love on which each nation builds its future, and through which this nation will restore again its future in God's will and in His hope.
God bless you.
Question & Answer Session:
Question: Will you run for public office?
Dr. Keyes: The answer to that actually hinges on what kind of leadership I see in the ranks of the Republican Party, as well as elsewhere. Right now I am not very much encouraged. And so, I have joined forces with a number of people who are speaking out now in order to give fair warning to the leadership in the Republican Party. Now, I am of the view that it is best to work with the grass roots majority that I know exists in the Republican Party for the things that are pro-life and morally decent, rather than abandon it and try to build something else. I think that the leadership has, in fact, abandoned the people. And what you do in that case is not to abandon the party--you abandon the leadership. So I will look to see if better leadership is willing to come forward.
Now, there is a tried and true principle in America, which I subscribe to, and which has been, in fact, the backbone of this county's progress. Unlike some other peoples in the world, we don't sit around waiting if it turns out that nobody else is getting the job done right. Americans are like that. At the end of the day, one of the wonderful things about this people, which after being here for a while new immigrants pick up on, is that while people in some parts of the world, if they walked into a room and saw a crooked picture on the wall, would walk by that picture a million times a day and figure that eventually somebody's going to straighten it because that's their business, in America, after about five minutes, three or four people will get up and straighten the picture because we can't stand it.
Now that seems like a minor point, but it's not. It is a major point because we know that if the job is not getting done right, the best thing to do is get in there and do it ourselves. That is how we built this country, and that is how we are going to get it back where it belongs.
And this I recommend. I have been attending lately wonderful fund raisers and events for people who in the course of the last two or three or four years have gotten involved in American political life, never having dreamed that they would ever do so. Just the other day in St. Louis I was being driven around by a lady who is now a delegate from the party to the national committee, and who hadn't even dreamed three years ago that she was going to get involved in politics. She got inspired by this, that, or the other, moved into the arena, and now she is moving up and taking over. I think there are some people in this room who have that same story. This is how it is done.
Don't let anyone talk you into believing that there are some "leaders" in an "establishment" and we do what they say, and that these "leaders" determine the money and the whole election process is all a lie. Money does not determine outcomes; polls do not determine outcomes. What determines the outcome is whether we sit on our butts or get off of them. That's what determines the outcome.
And that constitutes an answer to your question, because I mean to say by that, that if push comes to shove and nobody else is getting the job done, I suppose I'll lend a hand.
Question: I feel the way to dig underneath the issue of abortion is to undermine the precepts of feminism. Do you have advice for women, and men, on how to fight in this regard?
Dr. Keyes: I have a suggestion, but when I get to it, it's going to sound simple-minded, I suppose. But before I get to it, I have to say that I don't know about the experience of other men in this room, but though I am a deep believer in the scriptures, and while I think that there are some indications in there that men in the household are supposed to be able to play some role and it is referred to sometimes as head, still in the course of my married life I have definitely revised my understanding of what that means.
It reminds me of the story in the part of Don Quixote that nobody reads because it's in the third book. See we always read the first book which has all the funny stories in it. And we don't go into the rest of it in which Don Quixote actually finds patrons and Sancho Panza actually does become a governor and all kinds of wonderful things happen that actually confirm the success of his dedication to virtues and chivalry. And he is being entertained in one of these scenes by a wonderful duke who has taken him off the dusty road, gotten him all cleaned up and invited him to a magnificent banquet. And when he walks into the banquet room, people are taking their seats and the duke says to him that he should sit at the head of the table. This, it seems to me, is like the scripture's injuncture to men that we should sit at the head of the table in the household. And Don Quixote hems and haws and he says to the duke, "Oh, no, you sit at the head of the table." Finally, Sancho nudges him in the ribs and says, "Shut up, you fool, and sit down. Wherever the duke sits, that is the head of the table." In my experience of married life, at least, I've learned to understand what I call the Sancho Panza rule: All other pronouncement not withstanding, wherever my wife sits, that's the head of the table.
That being true, this actually is a sign that that kind of feminism was a derogation of a true understanding of womanhood. But leave that aside. There may have been some people subject to the feminist delusion who actually became women whose husbands could lead them to do things they really didn't want to do. I don't know that I'm casting any aspersions on myself, and if it seems like I am, it's because we have a lot of dishonest men in this room. But my experience of married life leads me to believe that at the end of the day, you are very careful about the women you choose to marry because you know darn well that you're never going to get her to do anything she doesn't want to do. And so you have to make real sure that she's the kind of person who only wants to do things that you can tolerate. This is why it sometimes takes a long time.
I say all of that by way of demurring a little bit from that notion that women have somehow been browbeaten by men into doing a whole lot of things, including abandoning the lives of their innocent children. At the end of the day, I think women in this society have got to stand up and acknowledge their true responsibilities. Societies have been made and unmade by the will of the women in those societies.
The simple thing I would say in response to the second part of the question, "What would I recommend?"--well, I would recommend that we take all the psycho-babble books and throw them in the ocean. I would recommend that we take all of the feminist tracts and throw them in the ocean. It would be much better to do that with books than the undergarments and other things the feminists have suggested.
And do one of two things, both of them amounting to the same thing. I would suggest that you study the scripture and you follow your hearts. And the reason I would say that those only sound like two things is because, in point of fact, if you truly do them you are actually getting your truth from the same source. For it is the finger of God that wrote the scripture and it is the finger of God that has inscribed the truth upon your heart. And if you really, really heed that heart, then the rule number one will be that you could never, ever, abandon the life of your child in the womb and you know it. It is an unnatural, as well as unholy, abandonment in which we turn against that nature which God has given to us. Whether it is done by the woman or by the man, we are doing that which does violence to our nature, in the literal sense.
And so, I think, all we have to do, if we want to get back right, is calm down, turn our hearts back to that source, and do what it tells us to do and we will be okay. I know a lot of women in this society who are doing just that and I am pretty sure at a lot of them are in this room. And that, if you hadn't noticed it, is one of the things that is starting to rally us and save us. It is not the brutalized hearts of people like Christy Todd Whitman that actually speak the truth about what women have to contribute to this society. It is, rather, the hearts of those who understand that there is indeed not only equal, but ever greater dignity in simply and humbly responding to the call of one's heart. And that call often means the care of one's family, as it can mean the leadership of one's community. In either case, I believe, as men and as women, if we do the will of God, we are doing that which transcends our gender because we are doing that which, as human beings, we are supposed to do.
Question: Don't you think that perhaps the male responsibility in all this is about seventy to eighty percent because, I think it is the male who conceives the baby? The female is passive; the male is active.
Dr. Keyes: I think that paradigm is a little short on substance. In point of fact, in the mere act of begetting, as it is called by one philosopher, at one level, once you have acknowledged the structure of moral obligation, that mere act of begetting becomes an active obligation. But without that moral foundation, I hate to tell you this, it is not there. In the absence of that kind of moral restructuring, if I were to choose which of the two sexes remains closer to the beast, I would have to tell you that it is probably men. It is true. Left to our own devices, it's not entirely clear to me that we would rise above the level of our animal nature.
I think someday, if somebody thinks through the real significance of the Genesis story, they will realize that that truth is in seed right there, and that, in the end, the true distinction of our human nature does not arise until woman is added to the picture. Until that point, everything that is said about man in Genesis is in some sense also said about other animals. People always talk about the breath of God going into the clay and He breathed and man became a living soul. That is the same formula that is used in all the other animals. That does not distinguish the creation of man from the creation of the beasts.
So, I would have to beg to differ with you. I think that when we play around with the role of women, when we do what we are doing in this society, disregard the fundamental significance of that gender distinction, we are, in fact, ignoring the truth of God. And in that ignorance, we do great damage to ourselves. Point one.
Point two: in the mere act of begetting we play an active role. Who wants to pretend that in all that follows, we play the most active role? In matter of fact, I can attest to the fact that this is not so. Try as I might, I can't do a whole lot for that baby in the womb, if the mom is not willing. That is a real active role. You really have to pay attention. All the women I've known, thank God, have done so, including, especially, my wife. It was actually a source of great reform in her convictions about various things she did in life. She became very careful when that baby was in her womb. And that's a sign that, in point of fact, with respect to this fundamental truth about life, the nurturing of that life is the active contribution of women.
And it remains so throughout a certain period where that bond is formed, where the two have become one flesh--yes, that is what He says, and it is especially in evidence and represented by the relationship between mother and child starting in the womb. And that fleshly relationship, that biological bond, that closeness in intimacy, gives rise to something that all of us experience, whether we acknowledge it or not. I often used to wonder why it was that even though in the mythology of our society, the man is supposed to be the protector in all of this, I often wondered why it was the case, then, that young children, when they are having nightmares, always scream for their mom first. Almost invariably. And on the battle field, people will tell the tale that, faced with the ultimate specter of death, who is it that is called upon most often? It's mom. So, if we're the protectors, why is it that they are calling their mothers all the time? I think that tells you something about the nature of that tie which we all experience, men and women. And which binds us, as it were, to that adult in our lives who first represents for us the power and the benevolence of God.
So, I do not believe it is possible to exaggerate the importance of the woman's role in society, the woman's role in the development of morality, the woman's role in development of civilized decency, and finally the woman's role, too, in the acknowledge of God's authority. It's not possible to exaggerate. And even in the way that the scripture describes the role of men, I think that what God is really doing is asking women to practice. Practice the respect that is owed. Be a model of it, so that the man will understand, because otherwise the man won't get it. If you don't example it, he won't get it. He will act just like a beast if you don't show him what it means to be a true human being. And the truth of that humanity which we ultimately come to recognize is not in the power we have over others, but in the service we offer them.
Question: One measure of conviction is what security you would be willing to give up for principle. In saying that, we are viewing in the healthcare system today, that is largely employer based, that pays for abortion by law. The church, at large, pays in to that health insurance system. At what point will we measure conviction in willingness to give up the security and cover one another on principle?
Dr. Keyes: I think that that is actually a question that can be raised in a whole range of areas, the healthcare system being one, in which in some ways for the sake of what we think of as very practical judgments we are tempted to make concessions in principle. We all feel better about life when we have health insurance for our families and ourselves. After having gone through a little period of time in my life where I didn't have health insurance, I can tell you, it's better to have it. You sleep better at night that way. And so, it is something that is totally explicable and understandable. But when push comes to shove, is it always the case that we are justified in saying, "I have to do it this way, because there is no other alternative"? Or do we, as human beings, with our God-given intelligence, have an obligation to come up with alternatives that allow us to withdraw our patronage from the institutions that are destroying our moral selves?
I remember the days in the South Africa businesses, how all the folks would stand around and say, "We have to withdraw our stock from this terrible oppressive government." They made many, many arguments that people found good. They went around to the churches; they convinced people; big movements arose. I stood there and thought to myself that this is all well and good for the sake of freedom from material oppression but what about the moral oppression that is killing us in this society today? What about all the institutions, the insurance companies, the phone companies, the movie companies, the television companies? All these businesses that have abandoned decency and that are pouring dollars by the billions into the coffers that are corrupting and destroying America--what about them? Do we always have to accept the excuse that we have no alternative, even in the most trivial of cases?
I remember during the course of the discussion that went on some months ago when our colleagues in the Baptist convention decided that they were going to boycott Disney, and so many folks came forward and were bad-mouthing that and saying how it was somehow or another impractical. And I found myself marveling that although we are supposed to be such partisans of decency, wanting to fight for the morality of our country, and yet we can't even give up Disney movies! What's the matter with us? We won't even touch our entertainment.
Now, there are two sides to this coin. The first is the willingness on the part of consumers to begin to withdraw their patronage from those who abuse our dollars by using those dollars in ways that destroy the future for our children by destroying their moral foundations. And I don't care where they are, when we get the opportunity, we ought to back away from them when we can.
But there's more to it than that. If we really want to succeed in that, then we're going to have to start getting creative. Within the ranks of the morally concerned in America--and there are so many millions of us--there are, in fact, people who have the wherewithal, the creativity, the money and everything else to put together alternatives to these institutions. We do not have to be entertained by the devil. We do not have to listen to news reported by the devils that are killing us in this society. We do not have to accept health insurance from them; we don't even have to accept phone service from them. And if we start to put together the alternatives, we can rebuild the economy of righteousness in America and withdraw our patronage from the economy of evil. When are we going to do it?
And that would mean working to put together the creative alternatives, and supporting them when they are on offer. And it would mean working, in that context, to make sure to retain the efficiency and effectiveness that has characterized Christian people. When are we going to remember this? All the wonderful notions of economic success that have been expropriated by the secular economists--where did they begin? From what mind did they spring? From what heart? They sprang from the Christian heart: the whole notion of entrepreneurship, in which the individual is considered to be the key source, not the collective masses under some despot.
Collective masses under a despot: that's how empires and civilizations built themselves up in the days before Christianity. You had to give yourself over to some tyrant and they would act in collective ways. Or you had to accept totalitarianism, the way they did in certain of the Greek states. When did it become possible for individuals to actually believe that, standing there on their own, they could, in fact, be self-sufficient--economically, materially and every way? When the insight was truly accepted that each and every one of us stands in relationship to the Lord God. And the insight that when we are justified, in His eyes, by our acceptance of His truth, we can count on His aid in what we do. That is, in fact, the basis of entrepreneurship and the economic success that built this country.
So, why should we, as truly believing Christians, be afraid to strike out our own in order to rebuild decent institutions of economic life that will help to preserve, rather than destroy, our moral heritage?