Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost Reflection

"On the completion of the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth (cf. Jn 17:4) the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost to be the perennial agent of the Church's sanctification; in this way believers were to have access to the Father in one Spirit through Christ (cf. Eph 2:18). He is the Spirit of life or the spring of water welling up to eternal life (cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39). By him the Father gives life to men, who are dead because of sin, until he shall raise their mortal bodies in Christ (cf. Rom 8:10-11). The Spirit has his dwelling in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19); that is where he prays and bears witness to the fact of adoption (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15-16, 26). He guides the Church into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13): he makes her one in fellowship and service; he fits her out with gifts of different kinds, hierarchical and charismatic, and makes his fruits her adornment (cf. Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22). By the power of the Gospel he gives the Church youth and continual renewal, and he brings her safe to the consummation of union with her Bridegroom. For the Spirit and the Bride say to the Lord Jesus: 'come' (Rev 22:17)."

--Lumen Gentium, 4

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Political Rise and Fall of Dr. Ben Carson

by Justin Soutar

(This article was originally published on the website Intellectual Conservative May 11, 2016 at )

More than two months ago in early March, following a slew of major defeats in the GOP primary elections, award-winning neurosurgeon, popular speaker, bestselling author and Tea Party candidate Dr. Benjamin S. Carson officially announced that he had decided to withdraw from the presidential race. For those millions of us citizens across America who had been his loyal and dedicated supporters for the previous several months and years, the sudden demise and fizzling out of Dr. Carson's remarkable presidential campaign came as a jarring and profoundly disappointing anticlimax. Carson's stunningly dramatic rise from relative obscurity to a leading presidential candidate in less than a year's time appeared to bode well for his chances of winning a substantial number of state primary elections--and thus a sufficient number of delegates to the upcoming Republican National Convention--to secure his adopted party's nomination for President of the United States in 2016.

Unfortunately, however, Dr. Carson's performance in the early Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada primary election contests in February, as well as in the Super Tuesday primaries of March 1, failed to meet the expectations of his hardworking organizers and supporters, who had reasonably expected him to carry at least a handful of these critical early voting states. Instead, closely reflecting national polling data at the time, Ben Carson came in consistently third or fourth in each state's election returns behind Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. In the wake of Super Tuesday, with more than one fourth of the states having already voted, Carson had amassed a total of only about 60 delegates--not even one-twentieth of the total necessary to clinch the GOP nomination. Since the math and polling trends now rendered electoral victory extremely unlikely if not impossible, Carson's campaign team realized that it would be futile for him to continue to stay in the race. Calmly facing the unpleasant reality of defeat with his characteristic humility and wisdom, Carson acted prudently in bowing out of the primary election contest when he did.

Within two and a half years' time, Dr. Ben Carson's political star had climbed with extraordinary steadiness from the horizon to the zenith, where it shone with dazzling brilliance, and then suddenly it plunged toward the opposite horizon, disappearing from view entirely in a matter of weeks. What happened here? How did the previously little-known Dr. Carson so quickly achieve the status of a major presidential candidate, only to find himself leaving the race just as things were heating up?

Paradoxically, Dr. Carson had laid firm groundwork for his presidential run by building a solid reputation outside the political realm in the fields of medicine, education, business, and culture. He is probably best known for his trailblazing twenty-nine year career as the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, during which he performed more than 36,000 surgeries with an extremely low patient mortality rate, including the first-ever successful separation of twin boys joined at the back of the head. For his veritable encyclopedia of stunning achievements as a neurosurgeon, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. For a number of years, through the Carson Scholars Fund, Ben and his wife had been working to reform and improve America’s education system by setting up reading rooms in inner-city elementary schools across the country to encourage more kids to read books, stimulating better academic performance through a merit-based reward system, and offering scholarships to promising students from low-income families.

In addition to the significant business experience he accumulated as head of the multi-million-dollar pediatric neurosurgery division at Johns Hopkins for three decades, Dr. Carson had served on the corporate boards of a number of Fortune 500 companies, including Costco and Kellogg’s. Finally, Carson’s fascinating rise from a single-parent childhood of poverty in inner-city Detroit to a world-class neurosurgeon had won the respect and admiration of many Americans of different races and backgrounds who had read his popular autobiography Gifted Hands (1990) or seen the TV documentary of the same title (2009). More recently, Ben Carson’s influence on American culture was further strengthened by several other widely read books, including the number one New York Times bestsellers America the Beautiful (2012) and One Nation (2014); the latter sold an astonishing forty-two million copies in the ten weeks following its release, outselling Hillary Clinton’s simultaneously released autobiography Hard Choices three to one.

What initially catapulted Ben Carson into the political limelight was his brilliant, thoughtful, frank, courageous, and respectful off-the-cuff address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden—a monumental discourse which deserves a place in the annals of conservative oratory alongside Barry Goldwater’s 1964 speech at the Republican National Convention and Ronald Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire” address of 1983. In this eloquent and well-balanced critique of contemporary America, delivered while he was still practicing neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Carson put ObamaCare, our nation's tax system, our national debt, and our moral decline into perspective and suggested some biblically-based, common-sense solutions to these problems. To those who heard him speak that February morning, it was obvious that Dr. Carson was endowed with a rare ability to discuss complex issues in simple terms that any layperson could easily understand. It was this highly accessible speech that introduced him to the nation as a great communicator with a solid grasp of America’s founding principles and ignited a national movement to draft Ben Carson into the 2016 presidential race.

From that time onward, as a popular speaker and author of multiple bestselling books, Dr. Carson became increasingly well-known within both the African–American community and the wider American cultural arena for his insightful and articulate reflections on what made our country great; for the simple stories he often used from his own experience to illustrate a point; for his intelligent and original opinions on how to resolve our national problems; and for his optimistic vision of America's future based on a return to our nation's founding principles. And his character traits of self-reliance, hard work, honesty and integrity, humility, courtesy, and compassion, combined with his devout Christian faith, traditional moral values, and record of exemplary achievement, made him a principled leader and a shining example of the American dream whose mass appeal transcended racial and political boundaries. In short, millions of Americans already knew, liked, and trusted Ben Carson for months and years before he ever became a presidential candidate.

The ironic thing is that, despite his authentic leadership credentials, Dr. Carson had never desired or intended to run for President of the United States. When the suggestion was first made to him immediately following the 2013 speech, he laughed it off as ridiculous. After all, he was a sixty-plus-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon on the verge of retirement and a registered Independent with no prior experience in politics. But his address at the National Prayer Breakfast had unwittingly prompted the establishment of a super PAC called the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee under the leadership of conservative political activist John Philip Sousa IV—and once that ball got started rolling, it continued to steadily gain momentum. During the next two years, at the instigation of this committee, upwards of 500,000 Americans insistently clamored for Ben Carson to run for president on the Republican ticket, claiming that his leadership in the White House was desperately needed to straighten our country out. Finally, in May of 2015, the reticent Dr. Carson acquiesced to the will of the people and threw his hat into the presidential ring, entering an already crowded field of contenders for the GOP nomination.

At that time, national polls registered Ben Carson as the presidential choice of about 5 percent of Americans, so it wasn't surprising that the mainstream media initially paid him little attention. He was a classic longshot candidate for the White House, and most observers never seriously expected him to surge out of the bottom category into the top tier of likely presidential candidates. They were in for a surprise. Carson's entry into the race further elevated his public profile, stimulating his modest and already growing support base to expand at an accelerated tempo. Slowly but unmistakably, Ben Carson's national poll numbers started to climb out of the doldrums, leaving single digits behind within a few weeks. (During this time, he also made quite a splash as the surprise winner of the first televised Republican debate.) By the end of June, Dr. Carson had risen to 18 percent, making him the second most popular Republican candidate, and he continued to surge throughout the summer, steadily gaining on Donald Trump. In August, he was tied with Trump for the number one spot, and by early October, Carson had actually overtaken Trump to become the leading Republican presidential candidate in national polls--and despite the predictions of naysayers, he managed to hold that enviable position for the next two months straight.

If Ben Carson's five-month ascendancy from near-oblivion to the pinnacle of the GOP field and his two-month dominance of that field represented astonishing achievements and newsworthy events from the perspective of any reasonable observer, the reaction of the radically secularist mainstream media pundits on both sides of the political aisle was even more astonishing. With conspiratorial uniformity, they ignored Dr. Carson almost entirely. Despite their earlier casual dismissals and negative predictions, here he was leading in national polls, sharing the center of every debate stage with Mr. Trump, yet there was no serious discussion of why this was happening, no thoughtful commentary on this remarkable and unexpected development, no extensive interviews with Ben Carson on the major networks. Instead, we were saddled with a nearly total mainstream media blackout of Dr. Carson, while the lion's share of big media attention remained obsessively devoted to Trump, Bush and Christie. This incomprehensibly hypocritical and blatantly unfair treatment of Ben Carson on the part of America's media elite represented a prime example of biased and irresponsible journalism. Journalists bear a responsibility to the general public to convey and reflect upon the truth of what's actually going on, but in this case the Beltway journalists were obviously at pains to conceal the truth because it didn't mesh with their radically secularist agenda for our nation.

The corrupt mainstream media elite and the corrupt Washington political establishment--which, for convenience, may be treated as a single entity, since the same mega-corporate interests essentially run both entities and they share the same radically secularist agenda--couldn't tolerate the mere idea of an honest and principled citizen statesman like Ben Carson getting into the White House. If that were to happen, the deeply entrenched political corruption that buttresses and sustains their jealously guarded power and influence would be pulled like a rug from beneath their feet and the power of the federal government would revert from these usurpers back to its rightful owners, i.e., we the people. So these cunning and worldly-wise media moguls had to figure out some way to derail Ben Carson's astoundingly successful grassroots presidential campaign in order to prevent him from winning the Republican nomination. They knew they wouldn't be able to smear his reputation with any dirt from his past because there isn't any dirt in his past to dig up. They had attempted to spread some lies about him, but that didn't work very well because most people already knew the truth about him, and those who didn't discovered it soon enough. They tried to find some juicy errors or omissions in Carson's income tax returns--a huge potential "gotcha"--but that search came up empty. And they knew that his political campaign (unlike their good pal Hillary Clinton's) was being run entirely in accordance with federal election law, so they couldn't shut him down legally or call that into question.

Consequently, the mainstream media executives settled on a strategy of deliberately ignoring Ben Carson and relentlessly focusing their primary attention on their own favorite GOP candidates, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie. This approach extended to the Republican debates, where despite his high poll rankings and central position on the stage, Dr. Carson was generally given far less time to speak than the mainstream media darlings. As the months passed, this strategy of marginalization proved effective. Not seeing or hearing much of their candidate on TV, millions of less fanatical Carson supporters gradually became discouraged and drifted into the more visible and noisier Trump, Cruz, and Rubio camps. By the end of 2015, Carson had slipped to second place in national polls; he was at third place this past January, and had sunk to fourth place by the time actual voting began in early February.

Yet even with this perceptible decline in nationwide support precipitated by the big media boycott, Carson might still have won the Iowa caucus on February 1 had a despicable last-minute dirty trick not been pulled off by a rival and less principled GOP campaign team. Just hours before voting began, a false rumor that Carson had dropped out of the race was deliberately circulated by the Ted Cruz presidential campaign, deceiving who knows how many thousands of Carson supporters into casting their ballots for Cruz instead. Spreading this lie about Carson enabled Cruz to steal victory in the Iowa primary election. Although he would not withdraw from the race for another month, it's apparent in retrospect that the Ben Carson presidential campaign was essentially finished at that point. Dr. Carson already had enough of a challenge trying to win state primary elections with official campaign and super PAC funding limited to grassroots donations and the heavy media bias against him, but when a dishonest tactic by a fellow candidate on opening day was thrown into the mix, the stage was unfortunately set for his presidential campaign to flounder beyond reasonable hope of recovery. 

Although history indicated that Carson didn't necessarily have to win Iowa to win the Republican nomination this summer, and so technically his chances were still pretty good, it was critical that he score victories in at least some of the other early voting states to give him a realistic shot at winning his adopted party's nomination. But with the deck stacked against him, he lost one state after another, and his chances of making it to the GOP convention as a presidential finalist correspondingly dwindled. Regrettably, Dr. Carson's campaign never recovered from the major damage it sustained in Iowa.  

So in essence, Ben Carson rose to political prominence on the strength of his credentials as a principled citizen statesman, but he failed to clinch the Republican nomination because the corrupt mainstream media and D.C. political establishment conspired to do him in. Shame on them. However, there is more to the story than that. While many of us ordinary Americans do profess traditional religious and moral values, we have nonetheless almost unconsciously allowed the propaganda being constantly cranked out by the radically secularist mainstream media machine to influence our thinking and shape our political loyalties. As a result of this, we have gradually abandoned a humble, honest, great, wise, selfless, moral, principled, civil, commonsense citizen statesman candidate--Ben Carson, a true populist--in favor of an arrogant, dishonest, petty, foolish, self-seeking, immoral, unscrupulous, rude, and ridiculous establishment politician--Donald Trump, a fake populist. Shame on us. Apparently, we’ve allowed ourselves to become so intoxicated by the mainstream media propaganda that we are unable to clearly distinguish between a counterfeit and the real deal. Unlike Carson, who truly represented "we the people," Trump is a charlatan who merely pretends to represent us, while in reality he represents himself and his bank accounts and the Washington political establishment he craves to join. Unlike Carson, Trump is a shameless braggart and a rabble-rousing demagogue who cannot be safely trusted to govern this nation in accordance with the principles of the Founders. Yet this clanging cymbal is seemingly trusted by more than two-fifths of the American populace.

If, at the end of the day, we the people are really on the side of the corrupt media and political establishment, what does that say about us? It says, for one thing, that we are a gullible bunch, easily bamboozled into believing exactly what the establishment wants us to believe. This lack of discernment and critical thinking would have horrified the Founders, who regarded an intelligent and well-educated citizenry as indispensable to the continued health and wellbeing of the American republic. While Carson intuitively held, as he put it in one of the debates last autumn, that "the American people are not stupid" (his emphasis), he was clearly overestimating our intelligence. Yes, we are stupid. Just as a certain crowd, at the instigation of certain religious leaders, preferred the release of a convicted murderer over the innocent Son of God himself, so we, under the influence of our own media and political elite, would rather elect an assertive, blustering, corrupt, and ambitious worldly real estate mogul as President of the United States than a meek, quiet-spoken, ethical, and trustworthy Christian doctor, philanthropist, speaker and writer. We prefer Trump to Carson. We prefer vice to virtue. And because of that, we’ve cavalierly passed up our first real chance to nominate and elect a truly great president since the days of Ronald Reagan, leaving America vulnerable to the capricious whims of a corrupt, immoral, and tyrannical Trump or Clinton presidency and ensuring continued national decline for at least another four years.

During the past two months, I've been asking myself why God permitted Ben Carson to achieve such remarkable early success as a presidential candidate if he knew that his campaign was ultimately doomed to failure. I had sincerely believed that God was raising up Dr. Carson to be our next president, and I was also convinced--as I still am--that he was the only presidential candidate who would have healed and united our broken and wounded nation and restored America to greatness. Apparently, for some strange combination of reasons, God willed that Ben Carson emerge for a brief span of time as a prominent national figure in the political arena, but did not will him to be our next president. Perhaps one of those reasons is that God wanted to expose the interior nastiness and rottenness of our radically secularist mainstream media and political establishment and to show us how easily we good folks are awed, taken in, and deceived by the gleaming exterior of that omnipresent establishment. On the positive side, I would also suggest that God willed to clearly show us, through the beautiful witness of Dr. Carson's words and actions, the path we must tread as a nation if we wish to reclaim our former greatness in the years to come. There may be other reasons as well. At any rate, I continue to trust that God, in his infinite wisdom and providence, has a plan for this beleaguered country of ours, and that Carson's tragic political demise—which guarantees a continued absence of principled leadership in the White House, at least in the near term—is somehow a part of that mysterious plan.

With his amazing roller-coaster ten-month sojourn in presidential politics now behind him, the inimitable soft-spoken conservative genius Dr. Ben Carson is back where he prefers to be, living the quieter life of a private citizen, albeit a much better known one now. He may have lost his one and only bid for the presidency, but unlike his fellow contenders for that high office, at least he had his priorities straight: he would rather lose an election than lose his soul. He will undoubtedly spend his remaining years on this earth continuing to serve his beloved country in any way he can. He will remain and be remembered as a great American physician and speaker and writer and philanthropist, a tireless defender of Constitutional government and a fervent champion of liberty and justice for all, respected for his character and values and renowned for his abilities and accomplishments.

Although he never wanted to run for President of the United States, Dr. Carson did it on behalf of “we the people”, out of genuine love for us and genuine concern for our country, offering a noble and splendid example of both Christian servant leadership and authentic patriotism. For months on end during the height of his popularity, he calmly yet firmly stood his ground and steadfastly weathered the storm of unjustified political and media hostility and prejudice and indifference that beat mercilessly upon him, without becoming bitter or retaliating against his enemies. For that example of selfless service and that tranquil steadfastness in the face of adversity, he deserves our sincere admiration and our humble gratitude.

Unlike any of the other leading presidential candidates, Ben Carson was a true Christian gentleman and a true patriot, and his absence leaves our current political arena acutely impoverished. At a time of constantly deepening national crisis, Dr. Carson's definitive departure from the 2016 presidential contest exposes a yawning leadership vacuum within the American political system that no lesser candidate can possibly fill.

Copyright © 2016 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.