A disturbing pattern exposed

Did the governor of New York actually say that pro-life people have no place in the state of New York? Does he think he can speak for all New Yorkers?

During a radio interview, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke about a schism among Republicans, saying, “Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.’’

Was Cuomo referring mainly to politicians he labels as “extreme conservatives’’? Probably. But by claiming “that’s not who New Yorkers are,’’ Cuomo went too far. He arrogantly alienated a lot of New Yorkers who don’t see things his way.

Yet, as much as I disapprove of the governor’s arrogance, I am not surprised by it. This is the spirit that is starting to dominate the Democratic Party. It’s an insistence on only one way to think about a growing number of issues if you want to be accepted in the party.

There must be unquestioned support for abortion (disguised as women’s rights or health), full endorsement of gay marriage (disguised as civil rights with manipulative accusations of bigotry and discrimination toward those who disagree) and devotion to big government (disguised as income equality and compassion for the poor). These are litmus tests for the party faithful.

Even more disruptive to civility and tolerance is the condescending ridicule aimed at people who see things differently. Watch a discussion on something like CNN’s “Crossfire’’ and you’ll see the snarky smirks and hear the belittling tones. Who wants to be identified with this attitude of intolerance? I don’t like it among conservatives or liberals.

According to Cuomo, there’s no safe zone for Democrats if they oppose abortion, defend the 14th Amendment or disagree with homosexual marriage. Evidently, he also believes that there’s no place for them in New York if they want to be true New Yorkers. I couldn’t make this stuff up!

Cuomo was just parroting a media effort of more radical liberals to convince people that they belong to a crazy fringe if they see things differently. “It’s the way the whole nation is going,’’ we’re told. But this is an empty hope that saying something often enough will make it real.  

Although abortion on demand is a provision of federal law, for example, it’s not because the people had any say about it. The courts acted without the consent of the governed. It wasn’t democracy at work. The same is true of gay marriage. Do you think gay marriage is legal in a growing number of states because the democratic process led to it? Think again. In state after state, the courts thumbed their judicial noses at the public and forced their view of sexuality on entire states. Are we an oligarchy or a democracy? Is this what representation was meant to be?

And all of this has been done under a contrived sense of evolutionary progress. By changing terms from “baby’’ to “fetus’’ and from “sexual preference’’ to “sexual orientation,’’ people give themselves a delusional sense that they are progressive. There is no scientific evidence for denying that a fetus is a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. We might try to assure ourselves that we’re only terminating a pregnancy, but abortion terminates a human life in its early stages.

As for homosexuality, if you want a same-sex relationship as consenting adults, you’re free to have one in every state of the nation. But to ask the whole country to equate the kind of sex you desire with unalterable realities like race and gender not only removes sexuality from moral categories, it offends people who are turning away from the lifestyle and it lacks scientific evidence.

If the state offered gay couples benefits and privileges that come with legal marriage, it should not be done as a civil right for a special class of citizens. This is the wrong category, and using it would inevitably violate the religious and individual freedoms of those who disagree with homosexual behavior. If the state equates homosexuality with race, people will be obligated to honor it under threat of civil law.

Manipulating the category of civil rights like this will only cause deeper alienation between gays and society. Is this what we want? There must be a way we can rise above the divisive arrogance expressed by Andrew Cuomo, because our current approach is deeply dividing the nation.

Steven W. Cornell, senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church and a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc. 

Duck controversy?

Notice the slight play on words in my title?

Phil Robertson, patriarch and star of Duck Dynasty is not one to “duck controversy” when it comes to his Christian beliefs.

Of course, as the story unfolds, we discover how he can say whatever he wants in an interview as long as he doesn’t cross the sacred line by talking negatively about those who prefer homosexual sex. This is what got him into some trouble with the A&E Network.

It’s not controversial that the network distanced themselves from Robertson’s personal views. Most people could accept their right to do that. A&E, however, went too far when they put Robertson on “indefinite suspension.” This amounts to an intrusive effort to control Robertson’s personal liberty and free speech in what he says on his own time. And let’s be honest, there is no way that Robertson’s views could have surprised the network.

This means that they don’t care if he holds his view as long as he doesn’t talk about it — at least not publicly. Like others on this issue, they’re saying, “Keep it to yourself or keep it in your Church!” There is no safe place for publicly disagreeing with a homosexual lifestyle.

If A&E made their decision based on concerns about loss of business, I expect we will see them back pedal in the near future. 

I agree with Al Mohler who said, “the controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life: Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.”

I also agree with Russell Moore, “If the reports are true that the reality TV star’s suspension was due to his stated views on homosexuality then I hardly think silencing him can be called open-minded. In fact, it’s the sort of censorious cultural fundamentalism that is neither ‘progressive’ nor ‘pluralistic.’”

Listen, we should all be able to agree that the virtue of tolerance is necessary to protect civility in a diverse society. America is a nation of significant ethnic, religious, ideological and lifestyle diversity. Tolerance is not just “putting up with differences,” but truly respecting others despite differences.

Tolerance, as a virtue, shines most when people deeply disagree but treat each other with respect. Society suffers when people do not respect each other on lawfully permitted differences. Somewhere along the way, however, true tolerance was replaced with a counterfeit operating under the same name. The new version demands full agreement not respect. The results are eroding our freedoms. 

Tolerance has become a strategy of power to control people rather than a virtue to promote civility. 

On many issues the public largely feels like we are given a choice between agreeing with a set of politically approved ideas or being labeled intolerant, irrationally phobic or even a hateful bigot. 

I am not suggesting that it’s easy to protect unity in the kind of diversity we have in our country. But we simply can’t promote unity by forcing everyone to see things one way under a threat of being demonized for disagreeing. I believe most people have had enough of this distortion of tolerance.

  • Are you tired of being told what to think and say on certain issues?
  • Do you feel forced to pretend you agree on politically correct sensitivity issues?
  • Does tolerance feel more like a strategy to silence you than a virtue to free you?
  • Are you tired of the sensitivity police trying to control what people say? 

The practice of zero tolerance on narrowly defined sensitivity issues has resulted in a long list of absurd punishments — even of children in our schools. Hate laws are being used to enlist thought police to read motives where they do not exist. A growing number of people are being sued for following their long-held religious and moral convictions. 

I am grateful to live in a country that has largely moved past the days of racial and gender sectarianism. We must protect people from discrimination based on matters of nature beyond their ability to control or change. I am not suggesting that we are completely victorious in these areas, but, like most people, I am tired of those who refuse to celebrate our advances out of a desire to be seen as victims to whom society is in debt.

We need a wake-up call to what’s happening in our country. Forced agreement on debatable issues threatens true tolerance and violates freedom. The virtue of tolerance functions where there is disagreement but respect. Intolerance forces people to pretend they have no differences. 

Think about it.

Steve Cornell

A Clash of Visions for our Nation


Ever since the government shutdown, Democrats and their media outlets have gloated over an apparent division in the Republican Party. Like a well-rehearsed choir, they gleefully sang their chorus about the tea party vs. the rest of Republicans.

Then came Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom the far left desires as a challenger to the presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Fearful that Clinton could move toward the middle during the primary, more radical liberals want a challenge from the far left.

The emergence of the Warren factor made conversations and reporting among Democrats anything from awkward to dismissive. But as the Affordable Care Act unraveled, awkwardness became a new normal for the Party faithful. Listening to Democrats try to defend the president’s health care debacle has been painful.

I am not talking about the delusional side led by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Far more intelligent liberals have looked painfully uncomfortable trying to offer a positive spin or just trying to change the subject to “those terrible, horrible Republicans.” It’s been embarrassing to our country.

Awkwardness, however, reached a new level when the president himself offered a quasi-apology and assured Americans that he would tweak the federal law to make it work better. Did he plan to run it through the required legal process before changing it? He didn’t present it that way.

But even if the president does act unilaterally regarding the law, he can’t talk his way out of the national mess of the Affordable Care Act. This time, style won’t trump substance. Instead of insuring the uninsured, Obamacare is causing millions to lose their insurance. Despite broken promises and a website failure, the ACA is actually positioned to fine those who lost their insurance. How did we get into this mess?

Barack Obama won the office of president as an eloquent speaker who made an easy contrast of style with former President George W. Bush. Obama clearly came to office on style over substance. (He simply didn’t have enough experience to offer substance.) Yet he can’t be completely blamed because voters evidently wanted it this way.

President Obama has operated on style over substance all the way from election to re-election. Like the contrast with Bush, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney, the Republicans who challenged Obama and lost, offered much of a challenge. They got “out-styled.”

Now enter N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, and watch how the left becomes nervous. Here is a man who has his own style, and after years of the conceal-and-deal, smoke-and-mirrors of an Obama administration, Christie’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approach might appeal to Americans. His style could easily be a threat to a Washington establishment figure like Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t have a lot of style herself. Imagine a Christie-Clinton debate.

The left wasted no time launching attacks against Christie. But they might be facing more than they realize in Christie. He has never been one to worry much about clamoring little voices. Whatever one thinks of Christie, the deeper concern should be a need for voter interest in substance over style. It’s not enough for Americans to wake up because they’ve been hit in their wallets or deceived about their health care.

This is not a time to celebrate our president’s failure through partisan eyes, but to take inventory as to how we got here in the first place. We face a clash of visions for this country like never before in our short history. What kind of nation do we want for our children and grandchildren?

We cannot expect to flourish in the freedom and prosperity we’ve enjoyed if we continue to do everything possible to deny the God of our forefathers. A wise teacher warned that, “where there is no revelation from God, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction” (Proverbs 29:18).

Although we are a pluralistic nation with freedom of religion, let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can continue to flourish in freedom without the influence of the law of Christ that shaped the founding of this great country. Let’s not fall for a distortion of the original intention of keeping the state from controlling the church into some mythical notion of total freedom from religion.

Don’t let anyone deceive you. Each person’s vision for this nation has connections with a moral and religious perspective — even if it’s atheistic. The final question is which perspective we will choose to shape our laws and our common life.

Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He also is a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc.

Sunday Column

Responses poured in concerning my Sunday News column about the tone on the left becoming increasingly bitter and partisan. My use of MSNBC as an example fired up a lot of readers. “How could I oppose MSNBC when Fox News and conservative talk radio are so bad?” they asked. 

I responded in today’s column and the responses continue. See: Let’s keep dialogue real and civil

Steve Cornell

Watch your political tone

The tone of politics on the Left is becoming notably worse. Just watch MSNBC.

There is no room for fair and balanced political commentary on MSNBC. They give new meaning to agenda-driven journalism. They only employ opinion journalists who fit a predetermined point-of-view.

Commentators like Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’ Donnell share a bitter partisan spirit aimed at trashing the Republican Party. Currently the network seems to be in overdrive to win the House of Representatives to Democrats in the 2014 midterm.

But this tone is hurting political dialogue in America. It’s a tone of intolerance mixed with sneering and condescending arrogance.

It has been particularly disappointing to see Chris Matthews devolve into a cynical and sarcastic commentator with a venomous (and, at times, irrational) hostility toward Republicans.

It’s more than a little scary that these commentators actually believe that they represent mainstream America. Their ratings alone should snap them into reality. And it’s widely known that Americans thirty-five and under are turned off by angry partisan politics.

Perhaps I shouldn’t trouble over networks like MSNBC given their dismal ratings. I’d prefer to see this as more of a problem on the far left, but the tone is slowly dominating liberal politics. Lately the President himself appears to be taking his tone and talking points from MSNBC. This was particularly clear during the government shutdown.

The last time I wrote about this concern I received emails from liberals who concurred and expressed similar dismay over the tone that is slowly dominating politics on the left.

It was the extreme Right side of politics for many years that was labeled narrow-minded and controlled by litmus tests. The Left side is now competing for those labels — and winning.

The spirit taking over the Left is based on an insistence that there is only one correct and permissible way to think about a growing number of issues.

Party acceptance (socially) requires complete (and often irrational) rejection of Republicans, unquestioned support for abortion (disguised as women’s rights or only a “fetus”), total embrace of gay marriage (disguised as a civil right or sexual orientation) and commitment to big government (disguised as compassion for the less fortunate).

But along with these litmus tests comes a tone of mocking ridicule toward poor ignorant people who dare to see things differently. Do you want to be identified with that tone?

There is no longer any safe zone on the Left for those who oppose abortion or for those who disagree with homosexual marriages. Yet a few bold members willing to self-check the radical extremes and divisive attitudes of liberal politics could bring sanity to the Democratic Party before it’s too late.

Fair-minded liberals should be asking if this is what they want for their side of politics. If you’re bothered by the tone and direction consider organizing an internal revolt and demand changes before it’s too late.

Perhaps you fear the consequences of opposing the tone or failing the litmus tests. But I believe you could find enough courageous members who are willing to hold the Democratic Party accountable.

Steve Cornell

The President’s Speech

The President’s speech today was an unbelievable display of partisan posturing based on significant misrepresentations of why the government shut down.

It’s frankly a little scary to think that our leaders so boldly take us for fools.

What the President did was not an example of good leadership but of brazen and unmitigated personal and party promotion. And the manipulative use of health care for such bitter partisanship is despicable. I realize this happens all the time in politics, but this President has taken it to new levels. Please do not allow the smooth talk to deceive you.

Rather than delay the individual mandate, Obama and the Democrats chose to shut down government. Now millions will face penalties due to Obamacare. The so-called Affordable Care Act has been the source of widespread reduction to the work week from 40 hours to part time hours. ObamaCare has also been the most partisan legislation passed in this century.

I want honest efforts from our leaders to work together. The President and Democrats have resolutely and arrogantly refused to work in any way with the other side that would require the slightest concession.

The President publicly gives the impression that the only reason he won’t cooperate is because he must protect the poor people who don’t have health care from the angry Republicans who want to deny them care. What a deceptive distortion! Does he really believe that Americans are dumb enough to fall for such distortions? 

And today by slight of speech, the President actually blamed all the “crises” on a “small segment of Republicans.” He threw that in to move the heat off of himself for the crises that occurred under his watch. The level of deception is unbelievable.

An unbiased look at the President’s speech today will reveal that it was filled with calculated distortions of the facts for political advantage. I hope most Americans will refuse to be swayed by the smooth talk and lies. President Obama’s message has consistently been “do it my way or you’ll be hating on Americans and I will take every opportunity to make them see it this way.” But this “My way or the highway” attitude must stop. 

Where is the leadership we so badly need?

Steve Cornell

Syria, Abortion and Hypocrisy

During his speech on Syria, President Barack Obama appealed to those he called his “friends on the left,” saying, “I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.” 

The president also said, “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

On one level, I understand that we live in a world where international safety might require measures of accountability between nations. We must not allow our weariness with war to make us complacent to the dangers in the world. Admittedly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were partly based on misguided idealism about our ability to export democracy to the Middle East. But let’s not exchange this idealism for some kind of delusional isolationism. 

Whether we like it or not, we are living in a global community. Advanced capabilities in warfare like long-range missiles and chemical and nuclear power require us to be global in our concerns. The U.S. also is the most powerful nation in the world and with that power comes responsibility. 

I regret living in a world where we sometimes have to kill people to restrain evil. I also find it morally unsustainable to stand idly by while people are being tortured and unjustly killed. Sometimes, aggressive violence must be stopped by principled force. 

In his book, “Love in Hard Places,” D. A. Carson raises important questions: “Where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love — of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?”

Yet, on another level, it’s a bit difficult for me to think of America as the moral leader when it comes to the safety of children. How can we argue for the safety of children from chemical attack in another country when (especially among those on the left) we fiercely defend the legal right to abort millions of babies in this country? 

Some will likely take issue with this comparison, but no matter what title you use for the occupant of a mother’s womb, it’s a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. It’s an indisputably verifiable fact that the life of the fetus is more than a “product” of conception. Abortion does not merely terminate a pregnancy; it terminates the life of a baby. 

If you have children, look closely at them and remind yourself that had you chosen to abort any of them at any point from conception to birth, you would have ended the life of the child. Induced abortion is the deliberate destruction of an unborn child.

If you’re unconvinced or offended by my comparison, at least do some research on what happens in an abortion. Induced abortion is the premature expulsion of a human fetus through surgical or chemical means. More than 90 percent of induced abortions are performed for nonmedical reasons. The large majority of surgical abortions are performed during the seventh through 10th week of pregnancy. By this time, a baby’s heartbeat, arms, legs and fingers are identifiable.

The thought of a mother’s womb becoming a baby’s death chamber is unconscionable. In a country where the laws allow abortion, should we expect to be viewed as a moral leader in protecting innocent children in other parts of the world? 

Perhaps the humility and resolve President Obama mentioned should start with our own nation. Jesus gave some excellent advice for all of us to follow when he said: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). 

Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He is also a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc