HULBERT, Okla. – A visitor headed toward this northeastern Oklahoma town stops along the way at a bustling Tulsa convenience market in late April. The newsrack has good tidings.
The top story on Page One of the state’s largest daily, The Oklahoman, on April 28 is headlined, “Governor signs fetal heartbeat bill into law.”
Driving back through Tulsa a few days later, the traveler sees the May 2 Oklahoman, published in the state capital of Oklahoma City, with another heartening Page One headline, “[Gov. Mary] Fallin signs abortion drug bill into law.” The first law requires that abortion providers offer pregnant women the opportunity to hear the unborn baby’s heartbeat before deciding about the termination. The second law says the abortionist must be physically present when a woman receives medication to induce an abortion, instead of watching via teleconference or otherwise away from the client. Both bills easily passed the Republican-controlled Oklahoma legislature. Things have changed.
Along with The Oklahoman and other state and national papers on the newsrack is the broadsheet Tulsa Beacon, a traditional-values weekly that represents the views of voters who have transformed the Oklahoma legislature so that pro-life bills actually get to the floor for approval.
Social change may move slowly when it has to originate with the people rather than elite judges and media who are accustomed to imposing transformation overnight.
After the U.S. Supreme Court birthed the permissive abortion mandate of Roe v. Wade in 1973, “we had 30 years when Democrats controlled the House and Senate” in Oklahoma and kept pro-life bills to die in committee, Beacon publisher Charley Biggs told The Wanderer in a May 8 telephone interview.
However, for the first time in state history the Republican Party controls both chambers and the governor’s office. The GOP also is the party of both U.S. senators and four of the state’s five congressmen.
As the national Democratic Party plunged heedlessly to the left, it hurt itself with millions of voters in state after state – not that the liberal media would like you to notice.
Those voters believe in “Restoring Faith, Family and Freedom Before It’s Too Late,” to quote the subtitle of the recently published book Indivisible, co-written by an evangelical Christian minister and a Catholic Ph.D. about responding to challenges against traditional morality in the United States.
Indivisible (362 pages, $21.99) was published in February by FaithWords, New York, with a Catholic edition by Ignatius Press, San Francisco. The new book says nothing about the Tulsa Beacon. But the professionally produced weekly newspaper is an example of the response by moral traditionalists that can arise in the current culture.
Although the Supreme Court invented permissive abortion as a constitutional right, that hasn’t stopped pro-lifers from trying to circumscribe it. “I don’t buy this idea that Christians ought to lay down and not be involved in politics,” the Beacon’s Biggs told The Wanderer. Indivisible makes the same case for involvement, noting at one point: “If believers had stayed on the sidelines since 1980, do you think the Supreme Court would include Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, men who have consistently defended human life and constitutional limits? Probably not.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops might reflect long and hard how a dominantly non-Catholic state like Oklahoma can pass laws closer to traditional Catholic and Christian morality, while a “Catholic” state like Massachusetts, dominated by liberal Democratic politicians, tries to grind those values in the dust.
Might at least part of the reason be the bishops’ decades-long timidity on moral issues but their bureaucrats’ enthusiastic embrace of a left-wing political agenda? Biggs said he worked as a reporter at Tulsa’s major daily paper, the World, for six years, then managed the World’s five zoned editions for seven years, but left because of “philosophical differences.”
Unlike majority conservative sentiment in the state, Biggs said, “The media here is just out of touch” in Tulsa and reflects a strong liberal view. He said he started the Beacon (www.tulsabeacon.com) “to be kind of a conservative alternative,” but not a Christian religious paper. It calls itself “Tulsa’s Family Newspaper.”
Asked about reader feedback the Beacon receives, Biggs replied, “Oh, listen, we get at least once a week a call or a letter from someone who says thank you for what you’re doing,” for publishing information not seen elsewhere. “…We get a lot of ‘Attaboys’ from people,” although some criticism, too. A woman recently bought 200 copies to distribute at her church, he said.
The April 26 issue of the Beacon had 16 pages in two sections – three news pages, three opinion pages with both local and national columnists, and two sports pages in the first section; movies, cooking, lifestyle columns, comics and classified ads in the second section.
A woman in Oklahoma City subscribes to the Beacon so she knows from the entertainment reviews what movies are all right for her children, Biggs said.
Biggs said he and his wife, Susan, are the only two full-time employees of the paper, and he does a lot of the writing, although he also has contract employees.
Even with GOP dominance at the state legislature, there are some bumps in the road. Nor is the Beacon an unquestioning supporter of the Republican Party. Stretched all the way across the top of the front page on April 26, a Beacon story proclaimed, “GOP leaders prevent a hearing on pro-life legislation.”
The story said the leaders didn’t want a “personhood” bill for unborn babies to come to a legislative vote. However, it quoted Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Reynolds, “Personhood is not going away without a fight because, no matter what certain members of this legislative body have decided, preborn babies are people. The right to life is a non-negotiable.”
Biggs said a lot of thought went into whether to make the Beacon a free or paid weekly before deciding to charge for it. “I felt if people were paying for something, they’d attach more value to it.” The circulation is around 2,000, he said.
While the Beacon speaks to an Oklahoma audience, the same issues face the rest of the nation.
In Indivisible, Catholic Jay W. Richards, of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, and evangelical James Robison, president of a worldwide Christian relief organization, LIFE Outreach International, liken Americans to people on the beach who’ve heard of an earthquake on the seafloor far away, but who keep sipping their drinks with little umbrellas as a tsunami approaches.
Being swept away in the tide isn’t necessary, they write, but people have to get to higher ground.
“God is not finished with us as a country. Decline is not inevitable,” they write. “But if we’re going to escape decline, we have to make a hard turn – and fast.”
With two different religious backgrounds, the authors note something long apparent to pro-lifers: Christians may have more in common with members of other denominations than with their own — orthodox Catholics able to relate more to faithful Lutherans “than with liberal Catholics who think like secularists,” staunch Calvinists at crisis-pregnancy centers better making bond with evangelical Methodists than liberal Presbyterians.
But the authors don’t want kindred believers just preaching to each other:
“St. Catherine of Siena said, ‘If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.’ Our world needs a multitude of torches aflame with the Spirit of God… Let us pray that we can, by our public witness and our personal holiness, preserve the good in our culture, expose the bad, and give guidance to those who are headed for disaster.”
The traditional Christian understanding of man’s sinfulness and imperfectability enlightened the Founders’ shaping philosophy of the United States, the authors say: “Sin is the main reason we need government and also the main reason to limit government.”
Put simply: Even in Paradise, Adam and Eve managed to mess things up.
And whenever politicians grasp for power to create a new paradise, they end up with the totalitarian opposite.
Authors Richards and Robison don’t confine themselves to today’s pressing moral issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage,” but demonstrate how common-sense conservatism benefits society, while ambitious liberalism undoes itself and society by overreaching.
They quote a study by the conservative Heritage Foundation: “When the federal government’s War on Poverty began in 1964, only 6.3 percent of children in the U.S. were born out of wedlock…. By 2008, four out of 10 births occurred outside of marriage.”
The government programs had the originally unintended effect of encouraging extramarital births and generational cycles of poverty.
The authors give a masterful summary of how meddling big government brought about the housing-market collapse and financial crisis, with international reverberations.
“If you feel you don’t understand the crisis, don’t feel bad,” they write. “It’s really complicated, and the powers-that-be generally avoid explaining the crisis accurately, since they were a big part of why it happened.”
Indivisible concludes with the ten “first principles of faith, family and freedom,” from “Every human being has equal value and dignity,” to “Culture comes before politics.”
After quoting Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., about “living within the truth,” the authors conclude, powerfully:
“The history of our country is but a short, small chapter in God’s grand, unfolding cosmic drama. Yet it is the chapter in which we live and choose and act. We have been told how the story ends, but not how our chapter ends, perhaps because, mysteriously, it is given to us to help write it.”
That is the overview for Americans everywhere. On the local scene in Tulsa, it is written weekly in the Beacon. What chapter will you write in your town?