U.S Notes & Quotes

Excerpts from selected publications

Democratic Ethicists, Theologians Fault Clinton

WASHINGTON TIMES, Dec. 26—When it comes to questions of morality, the stance taken by members of political parties is often more varied than their leader’ public acts would suggest. In the days after President Clinton was impeached, almost entirely by Republican votes, many self-described Democrats found it necessary to point out that they, too, find scandalous—and perjurious—conduct reprehensible.

“Talk about partisanship,” theologian Gabriel Fackre told the Washington Times. Fackre, a two-time Clinton voter, describes himself as “a good Democrat,” said the paper. “What shocked me most was there wasn't a single Democrat” on the House Judiciary Committee who supported impeachment, he is quoted saying.

Another two-time Clinton voter, Robert Jewett of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, took issue with the way some defenders of the president have framed their arguments in religious terms. He told the paper, “The public has been given a counterfeit argument about morality and forgiveness,” and added, “We're not after perfection. We're only after minimal standards. … If

you don't defend even [minimal] moral standards, then the whole system goes out.”

Belief in Miracles Is Growing

THE OREGONIAN, Dec. 25—Despite the steady drumbeat of doubters—from 18th century Enlightenment thinkers to modern believers in science and technological progress—faith in miracles is widespread and growing, said a recent news report.

Sixty-one percent of Americans “absolutely” believe that “Jesus was born to a virgin mother,” according to the Oregon daily, citing Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University. Furthermore, “A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that the percentage of people who ‘completely agree' that ‘even today miracles are performed by the power of God’ has increased 14 points between 1987 and 1997, to 61%.”

The report noted that popular culture is investing in this new belief in miracles, with books about angels and saints and movies such as The Prince of Egypt and television shows such as a recent ERepisode that discussed miracles.

In the midst of a culture becoming more open to the miraculous, one body has become stricter in its view of miracles, said the report. “Perhaps no institution investigates miracles like the Roman Catholic Church,” it said, adding that “[i]n 1974, the Vatican issued new guidelines, distinguishing between the truly “miraculous”—physical happenings without a natural cause—and the “supernatural,” which meets a less stringent standard.

‘personal Biblical Interpretation Led to Clinton Crisis’

SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE, Dec. 27—The contrast is familiar: for a Catholic, reading the Bible is personally enriching, but freedom from errors of interpretation was guaranteed to the Church, not the individual reader. However, for the Protestant who doesn't accept a divinely guided teaching authority, reading the Bible can reveal doctrine based on personal interpretation.

A Scripps Howard News Service report suggests that this difference may have led, by a roundabout way, to President Clinton's impeachment. It refers to past “pivotal talks” Clinton had with Rev. W.O. Vaught in Little Rock, before and after Clinton became governor.

The report said, “The young Clinton claimed the feisty Southern Baptist as his spiritual father and constantly sought his wisdom about complex moral issues. Vaught died just as Clinton rose to national prominence.”

“It was Vaught who told Clinton that the Bible didn't forbid the death penalty. He also said that personhood begins with the first breath, because the Bible says life was literally breathed into man at creation.” Vaught's theory, it should be noted, fails to account for other parts of Scripture, e.g., the visitation story, where an unborn John the Baptist responds to the presence of the unborn Jesus.

The report concluded, “It's impossible to know if the future president ever asked his pastor what the Bible does or doesn't say about adultery and the moral status of sexual acts other than intercourse. But somewhere along the line, according to Monica Lewinsky and others, Clinton became convinced this was another complex issue on which he was going to have to read the Bible and, claiming his doctrinal freedom as a Baptist, make up his own mind. The rest is history.”