On August 20, 2005 my wife and I sat in the office of a world famous surgeon from Johns Hopkins hospital. The Saturday appointment struck us as an unusual time to meet with such a prestigious doctor. The hospital was like a ghost town - darkened hallways, empty offices and a skeletal staff poised at the main entrances for security. To our surprise, there were several families going in and out of the doctor's office. He appeared without the traditional entourage of receptionists and assistants. Chipper and buoyant, the doctor greeted us with a glow and a smile. read more
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It is amazing that the biggest news story for the last few weeks has been the arrest of a Harvard professor for disorderly conduct at his home in Cambridge, Mass. Overshadowing the health care debate, national security and every other national concern -- the story simply will not go away. It’s got all the elements of a good television drama, except there’s no sex or violence. read more
Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, made comments that should have won him an award for the most racially insensitive remarks of the year. His statements were made in a committee markup. An audio recording of the heated exchange between Durbin, and Sen. Brownback, R-KS, revealed the unfortunate bias of the senator from Illinois. Durbin justified the fact that 41 percent of pregnancies in Washington D.C. are terminated by abortion by essentially saying it was a black thing. His exact words are listed below: read more
The following is an excerpt from a letter that will be sent this week to President Obama from leaders in the African-American community. Two events have precipitated the writing of this letter.
1. The President hosted a Stonewall Riot 40th anniversary celebration at the White House, when no such meeting has been afforded to African-American clergy.
2. The legal attempt to overthrow the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that has come out of Massachusetts last week. read more
Last Friday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the charge in passing a landmark climate bill. For many people concerned about the environment this legislation seems like a major step forward. Unfortunately in life and politics, a supposedly good thing done a wrong way can leave us worse off than if we had done nothing at all. Our first step toward cleaner energy could have begun with increasing our nuclear energy sources or several other strategic beginnings. read more
President Obama declared that he is committed to a "comprehensive immigration overhaul." The dilemma with this statement is that the word comprehensive often includes an amnesty provision for undocumented persons. The problem with blanket amnesty is that there is a wide variety of people within the huge immigrant community, ranging from criminals who scoff at our laws to dedicated family people. To date, a great number of pandering politicians want to avoid dealing with the complexity of the current situation by simply waving the magic wand of amnesty. read more
Late Thursday, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers filed a motion to dismiss a case that challenged the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act often referred to as DOMA. DOMA currently prevents couples in states that recognize same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes and other federal rights of marriage.
The Justice Department lawyers concluded that giving federal marriage benefits to gays would infringe on the rights of taxpayers in the 30 states that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages. read more
Several of the reporters called my public relations firm an "expensive, GOP political campaign firm that has masterminded several conservative victories." Although my firm is very expensive, I was shocked that they did not know that my current firm helped me promote the book I co-authored with Tony Perkins Personal Faith, Public Policy and that they did a fabulous job in helping us on various projects for the past four years. read more
The bill was created to block a D.C. City Council measure, approved in early May, which seeks to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The D.C. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a bold move because D.C. residents have been fighting for home rule for years. Despite their struggles, Congress has still maintained the procedural right to weigh in on any new law in the District of Columbia. read more
Nearly three weeks ago, Washington, D.C.'s former mayor, Marion Barry, spoke at the first citywide rally that said no to same-sex marriage reciprocity in D.C. It was at this rally on April 28 that the former mayor declared for the first time that he was against same-sex marriage. The next week, true to his word, Barry voted against the D.C. measure, which is still in a 30-day review by Congress prior to becoming law. read more
Last Tuesday an early morning e-mail alert was sent to gay activists instructing them to secure seats in the D.C. City Council chambers. The activists were aware that our local coalition of ministers and churches were planning to attend the meetings to hear the final vote on a same-sex reciprocity bill which, if ratified, would allow marriages performed in other jurisdictions to be acknowledged in D.C. read more
Last Tuesday my organization, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, held an open-air rally in D.C. to oppose a same-sex marriage reciprocity bill, which is currently being pushed through the D.C. city council. Several hundred concerned citizens—including more than 100 pastors—attended because they felt their opinions were not being heard. Many felt that the bill had been surreptitiously advanced. read more
Anderson Cooper is one of the class acts on cable news. He is bright, personable and very thorough as a journalist. Therefore, on occasion I will compare the coverage of major stories on CNN with both the network news outlets and Fox News. Although I have always liked Cooper's personal style, I often disagree with his slant on the news.
As I flipped through the channels last Friday night, I was offended by the content of the show. It seemed to me that overt propaganda was masquerading as news on Cooper's 360° show. As I have already stated, typically my concerns with Cooper are minor and I hardly ever resort to fussing at the screen. Well, this particular segment got me riled up. read more
This past Monday night on Larry King Live, Pastor Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, waffled on his stand to support evangelical political involvement to protect marriage. He told Larry that he had sent apologies to his gay friends for how his comments about gay marriage were misconstrued. He denied that he had ever endorsed Proposition 8 in California (which amended the constitution of the state to defend marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman) during the two years of its duration. Finally, he claimed to be totally oblivious to what was happening in Vermont concerning gay marriage. read more
Over 30 years ago, I sat in a dorm room talking to a black, pre-law student from Detroit. As he glared at me, he said that it made more sense for us to think about being Republicans than Democrats because of the unique needs of our community in the 70s. That was out-of-the-box thinking at that time. Today this man is a successful investment banker, leading a powerful firm.
A few years later my first cousin, a Harvard Law graduate shared a vision of becoming a patent attorney and later a political leader. He spoke of shaking things up and making a lasting difference in our nation. As a result of his hard work, he joined a prestigious law firm at age 25 and was elected to the Richmond City Public School Board the same year. At age 32, he became a partner at the firm. He was nominated for the Virginia Supreme Court at age 34 and elected the first black Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court at 47 years old. read more
During the last few weeks, there has been much discussion about the future of the evangelical movement and its impact on the American culture. For years, prophets of doom have been busy telling the world that the evangelical movement is dead or dying. This year as President Barack Obama's administration has shifted the nation's stance on embryonic stem cell research and abortion, many in the faith community have justifiably become concerned. Further, RNC Chairman Michael Steele's decision to lower his personal and his party's vocalization of socially conservative issues, such as protecting the life of the unborn and preservation of traditional marriage, has left many evangelicals feeling abandoned by both parties.
What's next for evangelicals? It seems to me that evangelicals are on the verge of finding their collective voice in a very new way. In the future evangelicals will seek to be more of a swing vote, placing pressure on both parties to advance a theologically conservative and fiscally conservative agenda. They will base these stances on a combination of biblical orthodoxy and common sense. The conservative movement would do well to attempt to re-build bridges behind the scenes with mature and developing evangelical leadership - especially in minority communities. read more
Last week as I was discussing the difficulty of communicating issues of faith on secular media, a Catholic friend of mine asked why the Pope had spoken out so boldly on the AIDS problem. It seemed to this liberal Catholic that the Pope had once again stuck his nose where it did not belong. Pope Benedict XVI made the following statement in Yaounde, Cameroon, "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms ...On the contrary, it increases the problem."
As far as I can tell, contrary to my friend's opinion, the Pope was right this time. In fact, his statement was not just a doctrinal position on sexuality; it was also a practical observation about a dreaded disease that the Roman Catholic Church has invested billions of dollars to fight around the world. I agree with the Pope that a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
It was appropriate that his statement was made in sub-Saharan Africa, where some 22 million people are infected with HIV (accounting for two-thirds of the world's infections in 2007, according to UNAIDS). Adding insult to injury, this region also accounted for three-quarters of all AIDS deaths in 2007. In four southern African countries, national adult HIV prevalence has exceeded 30 percent: Botswana (38.8 percent), Lesotho (31 percent), Swaziland (33.4 percent) and Zimbabwe (33.7 percent). Food crises faced in the latter three countries are also linked to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by some experts. In just the past year, the AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people in this region. Perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that more than eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS, according to the UNAIDS 2008 report.
The Pope's observation about the use of condoms also applies to the spread of HIV in the developed world as well. There needs to be a world- wide initiative aimed at two things: 1. stopping the spread of the disease and, 2. finding a medical cure for HIV/AIDS.
Just days before the Pope issued his statement in a far away national capital in the impoverished land of Cameroon, leaders in the world's most powerful city also threw up their hands in exasperation. Washington, DC health officials discovered that at least 3 percent of residents are living with HIV or AIDS. The report points to increases of incidence in every race and sex; in fact the disease has impacted every population and neighborhood within the District.
This is particularly disturbing compared to the 2006 report. The DC report does not conclusively show that condoms do not work. It suggests to me, that many people are not even trying to use condoms. The increase in the HIV/AIDS infection rate is not the only surprise in this work. Let's look a little deeper into the study.
Cases of HIV and AIDS in DC jumped 22 percent in the last two years. What has caused such an abrupt increase? The report states that men having sex with men accounts for most of the cases. Heterosexual transmission and injection drug use follow. The raw data states that of those living with AIDS, 37.5 percent were due to homosexual contact, 25.6 percent were due to heterosexual contact and 23.5 percent were due to drug use.
I was personally shocked by how many older people in the nation's most powerful city assumed that all "the noise" about safe sex was for someone else. Those in the 40-49 year age bracket had a startling 1 in 10 rate of occurrence among residents. Further, the black community in DC seems to need a very intense HIV/AIDS education program since black men reached the highest infection rate. In the 2008 DC update, the black female infection rate is equal to that of white males.
The overarching lesson the DC numbers show me is that the AIDS pandemic has similar dynamics here in the states as it does overseas. Dr. Shannon Hader, Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration at the DC Department of Health, stated (somewhat defensively) that Washington does not have the highest rate of the disease among the world's capital cities - but it does have the highest rate among US cities.
Thankfully, Dr. Hader stated that the District is still looking to initiate a comprehensive response, including early detection and prevention of ongoing transmission. Even the Washington HIV/AIDS Administration agrees that responsibility toward sexual encounters is a primary factor in preventing the virus from transmitting. In fact, Dr. Hader stated that along with other preventions, "...serious decisions about relationships can make a large prevention difference."
In conclusion, let me applaud the Pope's boldness to state the primary way HIV/AIDS can be stopped. I felt sorry for him that his brave statements have been interpreted as petty, bigoted, and out of touch with modern sexuality. I also applaud the Roman Catholic Church for having the wisdom to minister to people around the world suffering with AIDS. Many of us non-Catholics are guilty of criticizing the way problems are being addressed without investing anything in a solution. For this reason, I have made a commitment to stamping out AIDS in our lifetime. I have raised thousands of dollars to fund research for a world famous, D.C.-based organization. My vehicle for raising the money was running several marathons. The fund raising has been my contribution. What's yours?
We should all do what the hymn writer said, "If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!" Let's take every opportunity to combat the spread of this dreaded disease. read more
Last Tuesday, I stood in front of the steps of Maryland State House as one of the speakers at an annual pro-life rally. Nearly 1,000 demonstrators chanted, sang and vowed to return to their homes that night to strategize organizing their houses of worship, schools, and communities to fight the continuing devaluation of human life by the American public. When it came time for my remarks, I reminded the crowd that the battle for life was not over - we simply have new battle lines.
The day before our rally, President Obama made a powerful but concerning speech, justifying his decision to remove the restraints against government funding of embryonic stem research. The president warned twice that overstating the promise of stem cell research is wrong. This was wise, as embryonic stem cell zealots are promising handicapped men and women breakthroughs during their lifetime for the most debilitating diseases. Although it was refreshing to hear a cry for tempered expectation from the president, future research could lead to major ethical transgressions, such as human cloning.
Most pro-life conservatives believe that Congress should have banned federal involvement in human embryonic stem cell research based on the fact that it destroys a human being. We believe that the nation should never approve the destruction of living human beings to preserve or promote the health of other living human beings in the name of science. Based on this moral posture, the religious community especially encourages the use of alternative sources of stem cells, such as adult stem cells, those from umbilical cords or placentas, or other new sources such as reprogrammed skin cells by increasing federal funding for this type of research.
The embryonic stem cell research debate became personal for me this past September when my wife needed a stem cell transplant. All other treatment for her blood cancer - multiple myeloma - had failed. Let me take a moment to describe her treatment protocol. Weeks before the transplant, she went into the hospital where her own stem cells were frozen and stored. Later on, high-dose chemotherapy was administered to her in a sterile hospital unit on a 24-hour basis for a week. Finally, her stem cells were given back.
What I have just clumsily described is an autologous stem cell transplant. This by far is the most common type of transplant performed on myeloma patients today. The term "autologous" refers to stem cells that are collected from an individual and given back to that same individual. Autologous transplants are also referred to as auto grafts. The doctors believe that this treatment has given my wife back her life and her future. Ironically, this encounter with modern science reminded me why I am pro-adult stem cell research (which has yielded 72 treatments or cures like my wife's) and anti-embryonic stem cell research (which has yielded no treatments or cures).
Congress should obviously not have opened the flood gates of embryonic stem cell research because it's ineffective!
In the 10 years that embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) has been conducted, there have yet to be any successful treatments of any medical condition. In fact, ESCR is problematic in that the cells divide and multiply so rapidly that they create tumors. There are also problems of host rejection. There is, however, a successful and ethical alternative: adult stem cell research.
Unlike ESCR, seventy-two breakthroughs have been made in adult and cord blood research. These breakthroughs are addressing major health concerns, such as ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease among others. With the success of adult stem cell research, logical people conclude that we should put money where the breakthroughs are occurring and stop cloning embryonic cells.
We should be investing our resources in this kind of medical and scientific research that is not only effective but is also ethical in that it does not require the destruction of a human embryo. In this debate over human life, regardless of whether it is over abortion, embryonic stem cell research, or end of life issues, we must have a fixed reference point from which we do not deviate. That point is simply this: all innocent human life is deserving of our collective protection.
Research that involves the destruction or manipulation of embryonic human beings should be eliminated from universities. Higher institutions affiliated with religious institutions must understand the indictment they bring on our beliefs if they participate in research involving human embryonic cells. College alumni must take the time to find out if their alma maters are participating in morally suspect research. If an institution is using human embryos, its alumni should petition to halt such research. The academic community should set standards that define the precious and unique nature of each human life.
In a legal brief filed by Mother Teresa in a court case in New Jersey a number of years ago she wrote:
I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition-very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight-that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.
The goal of life should not be to enrich and prolong our own lives at all costs, especially when that cost is the next generation. If we aggressively follow the path of cloning and embryonic stem cell research, we will become the first generation of Americans to fail to make sacrifices so that our posterity might prosper. We will also wrongly commit to sacrificing our posterity in the pursuit of the elusive fountain of youth. We are better than that. Let's commit to the protection all human life.
Harry R. Jackson Jr. is senior pastor of 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in the nation's capital. Jackson, who earned an MBA from Harvard, is a best-selling author and popular conference speaker. He leads the High-Impact Leadership Coalition.