John Hull began losing his eyesight at the age of thirteen when he developed cataracts. By the time he was seventeen he was blind in his left eye. Vision in his right remained adequate until his mid-thirties, when it, too, began deteriorating, necessitating thicker and thicker corrective lenses to carry out his duties as a professor of religious education. In his 48th year, he lost all sight.
Having grown up seeing, Hull retained the images of faces, objects and scenes in his memory, as you might expect; but it wasn’t long until he began losing these memories, too. Eventually, he forgot what seeing had been all about, an experience he calls “deep blindness.” His other senses, in particular his hearing, seemed to have crowded out his now useless abilities of visualization. As he grew more adept at “seeing” the world in a very non-visual way, he lost all that he had formerly experienced through his eyes.
John Hull’s experiences are one of many cited by the neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks in his book “The Mind’s Eye,” in which he examines what it means to have sight and how vision influences our experiences. I’ve been a fan of Oliver Sacks for many years because of his ability to explain in plain language some of the remarkable complexities of the mind and how it shapes — and sometimes distorts — the realities of the world we live in.
John Hull’s experience of deep blindness serves as a sad but apt metaphor for the deep spiritual blindness of the world we live in. Those of us who live our lives in the context of our faith in the reality of a personal and eternal God, who experience constant spiritual fellowship with his Son, Jesus, the Galilean rabbi of the New Testament, who practice conversational prayer and meditation and enjoy communal experiences of worship with other believers — those of us who call ourselves Christians see vivid and convincing evidence of God’s presence and activity all around us.
Meanwhile, walking beside us, witnessing the very same wonders, there are others who live in deep blindness, failing to see God at work anywhere. They have become so convinced that we are adrift and alone that many have actually forgotten who God is and have constructed in their minds a perfect, alternate reality where God is neither necessary nor wanted.
Case in point: The recent Health and Human Services ruling that would force everyone, even those with deeply held moral beliefs to the contrary, to finance free contraceptives and abortifacients to all. In a letter signed by former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon and other notables, this decision is called “morally obtuse” and an “assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience” of men and women of faith.
It is clear evidence that the White House and its chief policymakers are stumbling about in a deep moral and spiritual blindness, at best completely clueless to the moral concerns of people of faith, at worst completely antagonistic towards those concerns and the people who cherish them.
Blind to the strenuous opposition that would rise up against the HHS ruling, the White House on Friday was forced to come up with an “accommodation” in which insurance companies would be forced to reach into their own pockets and pay for contraceptives for us, a plan that displays such a staggering naiveté about how business works that it seems unnecessary to point out that changes absolutely nothing.
The Left has been on a crusade for decades to push businesses to clean up their associations so that, when we buy their products, we are not secretly providing financial support for dictators, sweat shops, slave labor, destroyers of the environment and a host of other concerns. Why? Because we understand that by purchasing a product, we may be financing all sorts of morally repugnant practices.
If we have a moral duty to only buy products and services from “green” companies, and that is the modern claim, those of us who believe in the sanctity of life at all stages of development have a similar duty not to buy insurance when our premiums will also purchase abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations. Under the new HHS regulations, it will be illegal for any of us to refuse to pay those premiums. We will be coerced by government rule to cooperate in an immoral scheme.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the aim of those who are driving the HHS policy. It is a policy designed to set Americans free from burdensome religious, moral and financial limits to our sexuality, to permit us to freely and recreationally copulate whenever and with whomever we choose, unworried by the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy.
Inconveniently, the church still insists that human sexuality was designed by God to be freely enjoyed only in the context of marriage, where it can be enjoyed in an atmosphere of love, trust and commitment, and where it can be appropriately procreative. The sexual libertines driving the HHS policy in the Obama White House are deeply blind to the wisdom of what Judaism and Christianity teach about sexually, and are committed to ending all barriers to absolute sexual freedom, by force of law, if necessary.
The Obama administration’s original policy and this new, so-called accommodation, are deeply offensive to many men and women of faith. It crosses a constitutional line in which is forces men and women to violate their religious beliefs in order to cooperate in the advancement of a brave new sexuality that is morally reckless, since it divorces human sexuality from the God who created it.
There can be no accommodation in this matter because no compromise is possible that respects the religious beliefs of Christians. If the first amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion has any meaning at all, the HHS policy must be rescinded.
Update: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has posted a PDF of the letter referenced above, and is updating it as additional people ask to have their names added as signers. You can see the latest here.