Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Interior Design:
A New Science Curriculum

A consortium of Conservative Jewish Rabbis and Orthodox Presbyterian Elders has unveiled a new science curriculum entitled "Interior Design." Currently the proposal is a detailed 11-page outline for an encyclopedic series of 105 volumes, which proponents hope to interest school textbook publishers in producing over the next seven years.

"We realize that public schools cannot teach a particular religious belief" explained consortium chair Rabbi Jesus Melendez Garcia. "But teachers must recognize that within each discipline of science is a core concept that makes too much sense to be of human origin. Our species is simply not intelligent enough to have figured all of this out in the first place. It must have originated in a subconscious revelation."

Co-chair Rev. Silas Jeremiah Cohen added that too many students graduate from taxpayer-supported school systems with the idea that scientific research is a matter of intuition and random accidents. "How can we expect students to even consider the existence of a holy God, who expects certain standards of behavior? The current watered down textbooks give the impression that the most far-reaching academic achievement is a matter of luck, chance, probability, having no relation to discipline or following rules and standards."

The draft outline released to the press emphasizes that:

1) Ancient Greek Philosophy was God's way of undermining faith in the pagan Olympic Pantheon, to pave the way for St. Paul's evangelism of the Gentiles.

2) The Nativity during the reign of Caesar Augustus was actually the 25th Coming of Christ, by whom all things were made, who came to check up on progress at the close of the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian periods, the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and at undetermined times during the Tertiary period of the Cenezoic era.

3) The Law of Moses, properly understood, outlined the scientific method of testing a hypothesis through repeated experiments, and refining theories that would be be more pleasing to God with each round of new research.

4) Many of the detailed instructions for the vessels to be installed in the tent housing the Ark of the Covenant, and in the original Temple in Jerusalem, are coded references to test tubes, beakers, bunsen burners, and crude spectrographs.

5) The Scientific Revolutions was inspired by mystical revelations visited upon Copernicus, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Joseph Priestly, Michelson-Morley, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein, probably by the Angel Gabriel himself, although Michael may have had some role also.

Interior Design was promptly denounced as fundamentally unsound by Jimmy Gerald Schuyler, press spokesperson at the headquarters of Baptists and Pentecostals United for Separation of Church and State. "As my dear wife Robbie Patterson said to me last night, while we put our eleven children to bed, 'Jimbo, I don't want our children learning about God from science teachers. The whole idea is so profane it makes my skin crawl.' A loving God who sacrificed his only Son to save us from sin cannot be meaningfully revealed in the inevitable gaps punctuating the panorama of Human Reasoning. What man of any faith whatsoever would stand in THAT gap anyway? God certainly has better places to be -- in my heart for instance, which I am not submitting to any curriculum for study."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Thief in the Night

Nyesha was in deep sleep when her ears detected a sound like someone sliding her bedroom window open. The sound did not wake her.

She lived on the second floor of a flat, square-cornered, two-story brick apartment building. The tattered sign out front advertised “luxury apartments.” In the current real estate market, that meant anything better than a public housing project. It didn’t look any different than a project. All the plumbing and electricity worked, and there weren’t any rats to speak of. Naturally, there were iron bars outside every window. There were security lights on the parking lot all night, and the brick walls of the building offered no good way to climb up to the windows where her family lived.

A faint slithering sound, like something soft sliding past metal bars, did not wake her either.

The sound of breathing in the room, a few feet from her bed, did wake her up. The sight of a full-grown man standing in her room woke her up all the way. But she did not scream.

He was just standing there. She could see him clearly, a little more clearly than she should have in the dim light that came through her windows from the parking lot. He was kind of medium dark, with long curly hair loosely combed back. He was covered by a loose robe. She wouldn’t have said he glowed in the dark or anything, but she could see him.

“How did you get into my room?” she whispered.

“Through the window” he answered, in a surprisingly gentle voice. “Didn’t you ever read that I would return like a thief in the night?”

Nyesha’s mother sometimes took her to church, and sometimes didn’t. Nyesha remembered something like those words was in the Bible. Now who was it who said that anyway?

“Mother K says when Jesus comes back he’s going to crack the sky and appear in glory, surrounded by angels, with a great light around him...”

“I could do that. Well, not ‘crack the sky,’ because there is nothing solid about the sky. It’s an optical effect I arranged at the Beginning, putting the right mix of gases into your atmosphere, so that the blue light would be scattered evenly. It turned out to be a beautiful arrangement. Haven’t they taught you that in school? I thought your scientists had figured out the mechanics by now.”

“Yes, but they teach us different in church. Pastor says the scientists are teaching evolution and not to believe it, because I was wonderfully made.”

“So you were my dear. From bacteria, to a body fit to receive a living soul, in 3.5 billion years! It is truly wonderful. First the eukaryotes, then the prokaryotes... Yes, the hardest work was putting the first cell together. Everything after that was like rearranging a set of Legos. Still, there is none like you, even among your own species. You are unique. And then, the flesh did not totally accept the soul. Not a total rejection, but tweaking that relationship has been an endless piece of work.”

“Wait a minute” Nyesha said, waking up beyond waking up. “You telling me you are Jesus? I don’t see any throne glowing in the dark behind you, and no angels neither.”

“I didn’t call for any. My dear disciple John always wanted to see me that way. I even gave him a vision of it to comfort his last months, and like the faithful man he is, he wrote it all down. But those brilliant trappings don’t mean anything to me. It’s not like I’m a candidate for Emperor of Rome or anything. I don’t need to prove how powerful I am. I said I would come back like a thief in the night. I said you never know the day or the hour. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. I’m not trying to make a big impression right now. I just want to hang out here a while and see what’s up.”

“Down here in the ‘hood? In southeast? Everybody here so ignant you can’t learn nothing.” Hearing a man in her bedroom hinting that he was Jesus come back, and hanging out in the ‘hood, brought out her best street talk. Nyesha had her heart set on going to Harvard and becoming a neurosurgeon. She had the brains for it, and the study habits, and she knew five dialects of English. One of them was essential to daily survival. Another was just the natural way to talk in her family. Two more would be essential to her career. She could also speak Late Modified Middle English, with a syntax reminiscent of the King James Bible. She learned it from her grandmother.

“I can learn what I need to know anywhere. But this is where I feel at home. People with money and authority mostly ask me a lot of stupid questions, and then don’t understand the answers anyway. I could have been born in a palace the first time. I chose to be born in a manger, remember? I could sit right here in your bedroom and shut down the engines of all those planes taking off from the air force base. Which I may do after I sort out what they are up to.”

“If you be Jesus, why you need to come back here to find out what they up to?”

“The perspective be totally different, girl. I know what it look like to me. I need to find out what it look like to you... You and, at last count I think it was 6 billion of you? Man, that is not what we had in mind when the command “Let there be light” was issued. It was all calibrated so carefully, the plasma, the hydrogen clouds, the rapid production of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen... This world was intended for about one to two billion souls max. Not a very intelligent design, was it?”

“Aren’t you going to crash planes and lift people into the sky and leave cars with no drivers plowing into each other?”

“What kind of gross science fiction have you been reading? I’m the Prince of Peace, the Lamb who was slain. I came not to judge the world but to save the world. And from the way it looks here, you-all have a lot to be saved from right now. Me, crash planes and take drivers out of cars? People might get hurt!”

“So what you want me to tell mama when she come in to wake me up for school, and there be this strange man in my bedroom?”

“Well, let’s see. You can tell her that Jesus has come back, and you were blessed to be the first person on earth to see him... Or you can tell her that a thief climbed in the window without breaking those bars that are spaced four inches apart, and you didn’t scream... Or you can go back to sleep, and I’ll make myself scarce.”

“You mean you just got here and you going away?”

“I always just got here, I’m always going away, and I’m always coming back. But don’t worry, you can count on one thing: I will always be with you. Just, I won’t let your mama see a strange man in your room. Hey, you go to a public school, right? Someone is passing rumors around on the internet that I am not allowed in school. I’ll be hanging out there today. Your brother got a ’do rag I can borrow? Just tell him ‘the Lord has need of it.’”

Twenty-First Century Foxes

Hello all you good Christians, its time for the annual Summer Doldrums Review of Faith on the Silver Screen, examining Hollywood as it looks to the Great Noisy Majority west of the east and east of the west!

The new century's surprise hit was Saddleback Mountain, a daring and poignant (or boring and insignificant) look at the lives, careers, and families of two young Christian men, pursued throughout their lives by a youthful homosexual affair at a summer camp run by Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. Gay rights organizations expressed outrage that the protagonists were not portrayed seeking a life-long monogamous commitment to each other. Instead, each sought to put the relationship behind them, marrying glamorous women and pursuing lucrative careers in the ministry. Media networks bearing The Name of Jesus as a business trade mark sharply criticized the movie, because the lead characters seemed driven by some purpose in life to keep coming back together.

The most poignant moment came when the two men ran into each other unexpectedly, at a national strategy conference for a Defense Of Marriage Amendment to the federal constitution. An intimate meeting in Pastor Dennis Elmar's hotel room after a day of passionate speeches inspired the pastor and best-selling author to tell Elder Hardtack Jewst "God, I wish I knew how to quit you." Viewers were left with the impression it was Jewst, not God, that Elmar desired to quit, but the mild blasphemy left this unclear. Or, perhaps the most poignant moment was when Elmar's devoted wife, Precious Rubies, observed him tenderly kissing the elder. Forced to consider whether the private Lear jet, the five mansions, the adoring team of missionary assistants, the seven-figure income, was worth throwing away in a fit of wounded outrage, she chose to buy another vineyard and stand by her man. Most of the American movie audience couldn't figure out why this one deserved any Academy Award nominations, or why anyone paid much attention to it at all.

Equally low on this year's list was The Michelangelo Cipher. Like Saddleback Mountain, this flic is based on a work of fiction, and received all the attention of new historical research. The plot revolves around the Italian Renaissance sculptor's discovery that a secret cult of patriarchal male chauvinists in the Roman Catholic Church, code named Dei Opus, was importing penguins from Antarctica to serve as sex slaves to celibate priests. This provided a dramatic and sinister motive for Pope Julius II's attempt to pull the scaffolding out from under Michelangelo as he painted revealing codes into the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It also provoked howls of civic outrage from the Bloom County Chamber of Commerce, and a sympathetic but undecipherable commentary from Mallard Fillmore.

Denunciations from exasperated Vatican censors -- rendered impotent by the Protestant Reformation, the separation of church and state, and the oblivious disregard of most practicing Catholic parishioners -- granted the story line a profile and importance it probably did not deserve. Particularly in the United States (where movies are commonly mistaken for Gospel Truth), a tremendous torrent of words was expended on the subject, in the end signifying nothing much. Evangelical Protestants objected to the original novel's reliance on apocryphal gospels. Academic theologians noted that neither the author nor the critics seem to have actually read these gospels. A panel of Orthodox Jewish rabbis announced that all the gospels are apocryphal, so they wouldn't object to anyone in their synagogues watching this bizzare story line. "Nobody familiar with the Talmud could possibly take it seriously."

An ecumenical moment came in the video tape broadcast by Al Jazeera satellite network, not authenticated, portraying a man who appeared to be Osama bin Laden. He denounced both movies as symptoms of western moral decadence, calling on "my brothers of the Curia, TBN and CBN to join me in a great crusade for godly rule in all nations." Urging "pious and faithful militants of God" to engage in creative jihad against any movie theater showing either film, the voice on the tape rambled that from such humble origins emerged the Islamic Revolution by "the apostate Shia heretics" of Iran. In a subsequent interview with Diane Sawyer, Ayatollah Ali Khameini remarked that he found the theme of Michelangelo "entirely plausible." Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad announced that Iran might have to produce nuclear weapons after all, and take complete jurisdiction of Antarctica, to protect the world's penguins from any further molestation.

The greatest sound and fury on the spiritual front this year was undoubtedly Mel Gibson's remake of The Last Passion of the Christ, subtitled Apocalypse Now. It is loosely based on obscure medieval manuscripts, an unpublished novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Book of Mormon, and selected passages from the books of Thor Heyerdahl. Gibson now assures the world in technicolor and surround sound that Jesus was crucified on Easter Island by a band of Maya priests descended from a renegade faction of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and that the experience was ten times as painful, bloody and gory as he presented in the earlier film version. The Southern Baptist Convention criticized the movie for implying that slavery destroys the morals of any culture which relies upon it. Fans of the Left Behind series raved over the Maya calendar's schedule for the world to end in 2012, confirming that we are indeed living in "The Last Days."

The highest grossing movie we examined provoked nothing like this sort of controversy. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe adhered closely to the story line of a book published more than half a century ago, by an author who quietly allowed his faith to shape his writing. C.S. Lewis wove into the Chronicles of Narnia an enchanting tale which was never presented as The Truth, but openly admitted to be magic. Appreciation for the movie was only slightly marred by Pat Robertson's incoherent demand that the CIA "take out that lesbian White Witch woman," thereby averting the sacrifice of Aslan on the Stone Table.


Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and Oral Roberts University, have signed a joint Studies Abroad/Student Exchange Program agreement with Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba student organization at Punjab University in Lahore, and at several other campuses in Pakistan. "We see this as a way to offer our students an overseas experience immersed in the kind of righteous, moral atmosphere we have labored to create on our own campuses," Liberty University founder Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote shortly before his death. "In a nation where academic planning is in the hands of godless liberals, I want conservative Christian students to learn from our Islamic brethren how to bring immoral professors to heel."

Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), the largest and most powerful student organization in Pakistan, enforces complete separation of men and women in dining halls, although there is no university regulation requiring it, and members have physically assaulted fellow students for drinking, flirting or kissing on campus, or even talking to a student of opposite gender in a cafeteria line. The organization recently blocked a proposed curriculum in musicology and performing arts as an insult to Islam. If IJT objects to a teacher's syllabus, massive protests are generated about his moral qualifications.

"I dream of the day when we in America can also use force anytime we witness immoral public behavior" exclaimed Benjamin Henry Harrison III, one of the first Liberty University students to sign up for a year at Punjab. "At my campus it wouldn't even get to that point, but if we can establish an atmosphere where Christian students at large public universities, or at depraved institutions like the Ivy League, can enforce appropriate modesty, we could reclaim America for the god of MY fathers."

Off to another IJT-dominated campus in Pakistan, Calvin Colton Wainright declaimed "I go as an apostle in the war against terror, to demonstrate to our Muslim friends that there are godly men and women in America who are not about sending women to medical school or allowing the weaker sex to hold posts in government."

Jonathan Hubbard Winslow, assigned to organize a welcome for twenty IJT members coming to America for six months of study, hopes to work up a few targets for direct action, bringing together listservs of Christian students at nearby secular campuses, with the inspiration and tactical ingenuity of the newly arriving guest students. He has had to carefully avoid Islamic student organizations, many of them filled with fifth and sixth generation Americans, who by and large are hostile both to evangelical prosyletizing by Christians and distortions of Islam and jihad by organizations like IJT. In America, he says, Christians are more receptive to holy war than native-born Muslims.

Enthusiasm is clearly stronger among American students for the overseas component of the exchange. "This may not seem like a great way to pick up girls," chortled Ichabod Emmons Oxenbridge, "but I understand that there are well developed social customs for a godly man to requisition a wife when he catches sight of a good looking young virgin, and they know how to submit to their husbands. A few friends at Brigham Young University are hoping to get in on this exchange program too, sort of getting back to their roots, and sharing their heritage with a receptive audience."

Dr. James Dobson released from captivity, imposter flees

Thoughtful Christians who find Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family Q&A in their church bulletins every month have long wondered how the author of such modest, carefully nuanced, well-balanced, insightful advice on family life and child raising could make such an unmitigated fool of himself commenting on electoral politics, state and federal courts, environmental stewardship, and other public issues. The shocking answer was revealed recently when the real Dr. Dobson emerged from twelve years of confinement, reporting he had been kidnapped by Karl Rove in 1995, while a look-alike imposter has apparently been making political pronouncements on his behalf.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson was found bruised and slightly malnourished but otherwise unhurt by the side of a rural highway near Grand Junction, Colorado, last month. Dobson told police that he had been kidnapped and kept in a basement for over twelve years, with no way to guess in what state he was held captive. Police are searching for a man who has apparently been posing as Dr. Dobson during the entire time he was in captivity. Mrs. Dobson told detectives that while she was preparing breakfast early in the morning, the man she believed was her husband had suddenly turned off the radio in the middle of a news broadcast, stepped outside, and taken off in his car. She has not seen him since, and heard an hour later of her real husband's escape.

"Karl invited me to a meeting with his new protege, a reformed alcoholic who had failed repeatedly in business named George W. Bush," recalled the recovering Dobson from a hospital bed. "I wasn't impressed; I reminded Karl that while we rejoice over every repentant sinner, we don't let them sing in the choir right away. Karl kept telling me that W was one of Billy Graham's finest pieces of work, and I finally said, OK, I'll give Billy a call when I get home, and I would give Karl a call afterward. He sort of smiled wanly as he walked me out of the office, and the next thing I remember, I was waking up with a terrible headache in this tiny concrete block room with the door locked."

Dobson professed shock that Rove's protege, a newly elected Texas governor at the time of their meeting, had twice been elected president of the United States. "I never got any newspapers, and the only TV I watched was on carefully prepared video tapes. I had no idea how old the news or programs were when I saw them." Dobson was also unaware of the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, the war in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, or the monumental national debt run up since January 20, 2001. He was, however, allowed to watch hundreds of hours of reporting on the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"When the president commits a moral indiscretion, the most important thing is to pray for him" Dobson observed. "But frankly, making political statements or analyzing current events is not my priority right now. My family comes first, and I have a lot of catching up to do with my beloved wife and our dear children. I'm sure that's what Jesus wants me to devote my time to. Ministry will have to wait until I am firmly grounded. I would just say to anyone who thought they were following my advice, find yourself a good church home. There are thousands of loving congregations to choose from. Remember what Jesus said to the pharisees when they tried to trick him into political pronouncements."

With the disappearance of "Rove's Zombie," as some Focus on the Family staff have begun to call the imposter, competing factions have immobilized the publisher. A handful of long-time employees, who had been assigned to handle family and child matters, while being kept out of the loop on all other issues, are claiming to be the conservators of Dobson's real legacy. While several top aides have resigned, the agency's webmaster insists that until a court determines who is the real James Dobson, everything on-line will remain just as it is, and there is some question whether the current board members have been properly identified.

Rove, a recently retired White House aide, did not return phone calls, but a brief statement faxed to 137 daily newspapers asserted that the man found by the roadside in Colorado is an imposter, probably working for the Democratic National Committee, the National Council of Churches of Christ, or the French government. "Rumor has it that this guy is saying, at the time he allegedly disappeared, he was on his way to sit down over barbecued ribs with Molly Ivins to find some common ground. That proves he was and is not the James Dobson I knew" Rove's press release concluded.

Interview with a Novelist:

Ann Rice on Spiritual Fiction

The Door's itinerant cub reporter, Siarlys Jenkins, recently snagged a direct interview with Ann Rice (or a long-fanged woman who said she was Ann Rice) concerning her latest speculative novel: Christ Lestat, Out of Transylvania. Better known for the stunning financial success of her first novel, Interview With A Vampire, and for a series of sequels exploring the esthetics of damnation, Rice made a modest splash among religious media with her announcement of a late-in-life commitment to Jesus.

SJ: So what qualifies you to write a novel about a segment of Jesus's life on which the gospels are almost entirely silent?

AR: As the gospels are silent, someone has to make it up if we are going to get a good story out of it. I feel myself facing the same dilemma as St. Christopher. Here was a big strong man who wanted to put his muscles at the service of the most powerful king in the world. Some old hermit tells him to fast and pray, which would ruin his abs and pecs. Eventually, the church found work for him ferrying pilgrims across roaring torrents, and even Our Lord took a ride on his back. My strength is imagining things that never happened. As a new-born Christian, I want to put that faculty to pious use.

SJ: Isn't there some danger that readers will think your words ARE gospel truth? Look how many people took LaHaye and Jenkins's speculative take-off on the Revelation to St. John as inerrant prophecy?

AR: Oh, come on. How many people believed in vampires any more or less because of my earlier novels?

SJ: So nobody is going to believe in Jesus as the Christ any more or less because of your latest novel. That's reassuring. Where did you get the idea that the Holy Family spent twelve years in Transylvania?

AR: There is a good deal of ambiguity in the reference to "Egypt." I mean, Judea was only a few days march from the Nile, and they were economically integrated provinces of the Roman Empire. Herod had lots of friends and business associates in the Nile delta and Alexandria. Whereas Dacia was a remote frontier province at best, not even fully conquered in the reign of Caesar Augustus. There are obscure semantical connections between "Egypt," "Gypsies," "Romany," and "Romania." It serves as a kind of prequel to the apostolic journeys of Paul in the same direction. Besides, I know a lot more about Transylvania than I do about the Ptolemy dynasty.

SJ: Apparently you know a good deal about the apocryphal gospels too.

AR: Certainly. The Lost Books of the Bible are much better drama than the Synoptic Gospels. I mean, I'm not trying to compete with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Everybody has read their versions. They don't agree either. Matthew doesn't give any special reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but tells how they fled to Egypt. Luke wasn't worried about Herod at all. He says they circumcised Jesus after the eighth day, waited for Mary to complete the days of her purification, presented baby Jesus at the Temple, and went home to Nazareth. Matthew says when they returned from Egypt, they went to Nazareth to fulfill a prophecy, like they didn't live there before. Mark and John don't mention the subject. So it's wide open for me to weave a tale.

SJ: Your book makes the little Jesus out to be something of a walking roadside improvised explosive device. People are always dropping dead for offending him. Why was his childhood such a marked contrast to his adult ministry?

AR: He didn't do those things when he was an adult? My next Jesus novel is going to be awfully boring if he can't miraculously slay thousands of enemies, awe the ignorant populace into submission. What is the point of being king? What kind of Lord allows himself to be insulted, beaten, spit upon, and doesn't retaliate gloriously? Isn't Christ the Lord far more powerful than a mere vampire?

SJ: Yes, you do share some problems with St. Christopher's early life. I take it you don't plan to serialize the Crucifixion.

AR: Well, that's already covered quite thoroughly in the Gospels, isn't it? My first vampire novel took off because it was a unique take on a familiar legend. I want my take on Jesus Christ to be a whole new twist that nobody ever thought of before. If it isn't, why would anyone buy my books? But how does this sound? To prove beyond all doubt that he is King of Israel and Lord of All, he steps down from the cross, a bevy of angels lifts him up to a burst of heavenly trumpets, his wounds heal instantly, and all the soldiers who have been mocking him drop dead of fright. Then...

21st Century Perspectives

© 2107 Random Pearson Thompson Orbis Oxford Sons Inc.

The last hope for overturning Roe v. Wade was drowned in a wave of public revulsion after the Respect Life Riots and Massacre of 2023. Several years in which the Supreme Court lurched between 5-4 and 4-5 divisions, swayed one way or the other by successive presidential appointments and the vagaries of mood in the senate, left little sense that any firm legal or moral principles could emerge from the debate over abortion. Polls consistently showed about 25% of the population firmly committed to restoring severe criminal penalties, 25% firmly committed to unrestricted free choice, and 50% who wanted the issue to go away. In a desperate attempt to seize the political initiative, a series of "Monster Rallies for Life" were called in several medium sized cities by Richard Viguerie, Ralph Reed, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the increasingly manic Dr. James Dobson, and the demented Rev. Pat Robertson, whose advanced Alzheimer's disease already inspired sympathetic comparisons to Ronald Reagan.

No proof that the organizers intended violence to follow their inflammatory speeches has ever been assembled. Following Robertson's rambling speech in Charleston, SC, and Dobson's snarling exhortation in Atlanta, GA, large mobs chanting "We Remember Jerry Falwell" fanned out in several directions to engulf a number of clinics, some of which included abortion among their medical services. Other targeted clinics did not, but had vague references to women, families or parents in their name. In five cities, several doctors were kidnapped and hung from lamp posts, only three of whom had performed abortions in the previous ten years.

Prime-time network news, CNN, Fox News, and U-Tube, treated viewers across the nation to lurid images of the final coup-de-grace, when pro-life rioters assembled a pile of dismembered women in front of two different looted, burning clinics, under a banner which proclaimed "These Women Tried to Kill Their Unborn Babies." In fact, only about one third of the women murdered were pregnant, and at least half of those had been seeking prenatal nutrition counseling, but belated recognition that some of the bleeding abdomens in the pile contained unborn fetuses inspired a frenzied rush to retrieve them. The sight of weeping young women cradling deceased embryos, some as small as three inches long, was the political death knell for the Right to Life Movement as we knew it. Ann Coulter's reference to the fetuses as "little faggots" only added insult to irreparable injury.

A shaken Antonin Scalia resigned from the Supreme Court and retired to a monastery in New Mexico. President Dennis Kucinich, already rivaling Ronald Reagan's record for the oldest serving president, appointed as Scalia's replacement a previously unknown jurist from the Supreme Court of South Dakota, who played a key role three years later in crafting the 8-1 ruling affirming "there are some evils which can only be combated by vigorous government action, and other evils which are only made worse by political intervention. Intimate personal decisions should be made neither by rioting mobs nor by the police powers of the state, but by the home, the church, and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind." Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a bitter dissent, which relied heavily on citations from Edmund Burke, and Pope Pius XII. Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice, sharply criticized Thomas for "introducing foreign jurisprudence into the sovereign laws of our nation."

Historians generally agree that the near-disappearance of abortion in the United States began after Planned Parenthood joined with Focus on the Family to produce the universally praised Planning for Family Life curriculum, adopted by most public school systems, many Roman Catholic and Lutheran parochial schools, and (with some modifications in scriptural reference) by most orthodox Jewish yeshivas and Muslim schools in North America. With the cooperation of inner-city pentecostal women evangelists, recovering from teen motherhood, the curriculum is credited with bringing a sobering sense of the emotional toll of premarital sex, combined with sensible reliance on contraception in or out of marriage, reducing out-of-wedlock births by 90% and raising the percentage of married couples to 65% of adult Americans.

The economic development which provided a firm foundation for Family Life to succeed was largely the result of another joint project, put together by Oxfam America, Anglican Mission to America, and the Grameen Bank. Initially inspired by the appalling incompetence at all levels of government, which left New Orleans and the gulf coast in a state of prolonged depression 20 years after Hurricane Katrina, over 40,000 idealistic young African and Asian college students volunteered for two to five years each to bring hope and sustainable development to North America's inner cities and isolated rural communities. Cuba's post-Castro Libertarian Socialist government contributed 530 doctors to the effort, generally considered to be the largest such rescue since the Marshall plan in post-WW II Europe.

Pope Gregory XVII, formerly Cardinal Charles J. Chaput, issued an encyclical in 2031 entitled Lex Nihilo, observing that "whereas the rate of abortion is lowest in nations where the procedure is freely available, and most prevalent in nations where severe criminal penalties persist, it is clear that the most effective protection for unborn life is to ask the secular state to remove all criminal penalties, so that the Church may do its holy work unafflicted by the profane hand of the civil magistrate. We have confidence that what should be rendered to God does not need to be decided and collected by Caesar." Church historians generally consider this the first instance where a Bishop of Rome quoted approvingly from the writings of James Madison. In keeping with tradition established by Gregory's predecessor, Benedict XVI, the encyclical ended with the ritual intonation "Of course, We could be Wrong."

Mel Gibson, Archbishop of the Orthodox Roman Lateran Jihad, promptly denounced "the former Cardinal Chaput" to a Los Angeles police officer who had pulled him over for drunk driving. Gibson solemnly informed the officer that the Pope was "a manifest incarnation of the Anti-Christ, and captive servant of the Jews," a statement Gibson promised to prove beyond any doubt in a forthcoming movie, Left Behind by the Last Apocalyptic Passion of the Holy Grail.