Tag Archives: culture war

Christian Stars vs. the Forces of Evil

There’s a movie coming out soon that–from a Gospel perspective–has an awesome story of love:

…love that does not judge based on the outward appearance but looks into the heart… 

…love that sacrifices, that willingly leaves comfort and wealth behind, accepting separation and lowered status… 

…love that is powerful enough to break a curse and redeem the soul everyone thought lost….

What an opportunity to point out the parallels to Christ and the Good News. 

But two minutes of questionable content can ruin all of that, if someone is so inclined.

If you haven’t heard all the hooplah, there’s a scene in the new live-action Beauty and the Beast which shows a man having feelings for another man, thus inviting a firestorm of judgment by concerned Christians on social media. Some are even going so far as to say that Belle’s love for Beast is an encouragement toward bestiality, further proof of the Magic Kingdom’s depravity! (/sarcasm)

Numerous Christian leaders have come forward to condemn the inclusion of a gay man having a romantic interest in another male character. It doesn’t help Disney’s cause that this news broke alongside another boundary-pushing moment, this time in a cartoon on Disney XD.


During a scene depicting a school dance, at one point all the pairs of students kiss. If you look away from the main characters and pay attention to all the shaded characters included as props for the scene, you’ll see that there are some same-sex couples mixed in with all the heterosexual couples. 

This didn’t escape the Religious Right’s notice, and–coupled with the scene from Beauty and the Beast–a number of big-name leaders are calling for a boycott of all things Disney. (Good luck. Run down the list of all their affiliates and companies they’ve absorbed, and there’s a high chance you’re enjoying some Disney entertainment without realizing it.)

The biggest fear all these leaders have? We can’t have Disney pushing an agenda of “normalizing” homosexuality. 

Here’s the thing: When we’re talking about between 2% and 10% of the population, it may sound small, but that’s a pretty sizeable group. That’s between 7 and 35 million people in the US.  (Here’s a good break-down on that controversial 10% number.) 

Not good enough? Not a big enough population to deserve any sort of attention?

Imagine someone claiming that every leftie on TV or in a movie was part of an agenda to “normalize” being left-handed. Picture a public figure claiming we should boycott a company because of their agenda of normalizing red hair. The population demographics are roughly the same. (2% average for red-heads, with some populations like Scotland and Ireland boasting 13% and 10% respectively. 10% for left-handed people across the board.)

Including a group, putting a token character or token couples into a scene–that’s not an agenda of normalization, that’s recognizing their existence.

Do we consider Uhura and Sulu in Star Trek as part of some aggressive agenda? African-Americans make up ~12% of the US population, and Asian-Americans make up ~5%. 

I think rationally we can look back and say, yes, Gene Roddenberry was pushing boundaries. But he was displaying the reality that yes, there are people who are black or Asian. At the time, it may have riled some viewers, but now we generally look back and applaud his forward vision and inclusive casting. 

I can already hear the argument coming: “Well, it’s different with homosexuality, because I believe it’s a choice.”

Let’s go with that. A lot of things are choices, and we see them normalized if not glorified all across media, yet there’s little outcry against it.

Sexualized characters? Heterosexual relationships outside of marriage? Infidelity? Promiscuity? Where are all the boycotts for all the companies that engage in “normalizing” this behavior?

Greed? Jealousy? Pride? All of these character traits are constantly on display–quite often it’s the hero or heroine who engages in these sins. Sometimes there’s a moral to the story and the downside is shown, but quite often, there are no consequences to this kind of behavior. Is that the good Christian message we want?

What about overweight characters? Perhaps we let the “agenda of gluttony” slip by under the radar because most often, fat characters are used solely as comic relief–an issue that merits its own post. Or perhaps we can look at the congregation filling the pews in real life and so we shy away from this one… it hits too close to home, or too near to the all-you-can-eat place we’re going to after the service.

Violence is the biggest one of the bunch. Some movies make it a point to display the horrors of war or the cruelty and heartlessness of criminals or villains, and maybe there’s an argument for why those depictions matter in the context of those stories. (Saving Private Ryan, for example, would probably not be as hard-hitting without the hyper-graphic rendition of the Normandy landing on D-Day.)

But how often do we watch entertainment that includes graphic violence? How often are our children exposed to such movies or TV shows? Some studios avoid all the gore and blood, or present enemies that are probably more tolerable, like armies of Ultrons or robotic aliens. But having visited the theater for a number of recent movie releases that fall under the Disney umbrella, I can say that our culture sees no serious problem with kids watching a ton of violent content. 

Why aren’t we protesting the normalization of violence–something we all hope our children will never witness in their entire lives? And yet a movie with positive messages and powerful potential allegory is subject to boycott because “oh dear, it has one of the gays in it, and I wouldn’t want my kids to think that’s normal even though they’ll likely encounter actual gay people all throughout their lives.”

It’s a fact. Redheads exist. So do lefties. And so do homosexuals. Pretending they don’t is a foolish plan. Actively protesting anything that acknowledges their existence or recognizes them as fellow human beings?

The only agenda we’ll impact that way is our own.

Fair is Fair

A familiar image popped up on my Facebook feed, shared by a reasonable conservative friend, sourced from a page of patriots dedicated to opposing “Jihad.”

So I wasn’t surprised to find a misleading story:

Post whatever you like on a political issue. You're practically guaranteed no one will look it up.
Post whatever you like on a political issue. You’re practically guaranteed no one will look it up.

I knew I’d seen this image before, and had even responded to the panicked fear-mongering, the dire sense of impending doom, the overwrought feeling of “what has our country come to?”

Yet here it was again.

Out of a foolhardy need to correct people on the Internet, I clicked “Show all comments” on the thread. The reactions were explosive. A few, in bold, are presented below, along with my thoughts on their points:

Anyone who didn’t walk out is a traitor to the oath they swore when they were elected.

Actually, they’re upholding the importance of pluralism and diversity, and ensuring that our government isn’t misunderstood to be promoting or respecting a particular religion over all others. By supporting this, they’re doing exactly what they swore to do. And to be fair, selection of pray-ers is probably pretty transparent and unrelated to almost everyone in either body of Congress.

How can they say separation of church and state about schools and government offices when they’re forcing the Islamic ideology on the House of Representatives?

Because the prayer fits that gray area where no religion is being forced or pushed upon any individual, no one is being forced to participate in a religious act, and no implication of government respect or disrespect is shown for a particular religion in relation to all others.

If Obama wants them to have an Islamic prayer, then he has to let them have Christian prayers too. He never will, but he should. Fair is fair. 

If fair is fair, then we probably owe Islamic clerics far more opportunities to conduct the prayers, not less. 

The timing seems highly suspect, coming right off the heels of the tragedy in Orlando. It’s pretty obvious what Obama’s trying to say here.

Well, the video is actually from late 2014–note the presence of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, which, by the way, is a Legislative body controlled by Republicans at that point, and not part of President Obama’s Executive branch.  So the President had nothing to do with it now, nor did he back then. But for whatever reason this page decided to post it like it happened yesterday. You’re right, the timing is suspect… but not in the way you think.

This post highlights a level of ignorance many Americans may have about what happens every time our representatives meet. I didn’t know all this until looking into a similar post a few months back, so I assume maybe others also don’t know.

The House of Representatives has a chaplain who conducts an invocation or prayer at the start of every session, and this practice has taken place since 1789. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of prayers offered are Christian in nature.

The first Islamic invocation was conducted in 1991, and several have occurred since then, once every couple years or on some occasions twice in one year.

Other religions have also been represented, but sparsely. Jewish prayers account for 2.7% of all invocations in the last fifteen years. Hindus have occasionally offered prayers (once every six years or so since 2000, near as I can tell).  Islam and Hinduism are tied at about 0.5% of the invocations in that 15 year period.

That data came from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who pointed out that 97% of prayers in Congress in the last 15 years  are Christian in nature. And yet no form of atheism, secularism or humanism has been given a chance to conduct anything resembling an invocation. “Of course not,” one might say, “they’re not a religion.” But there are values which most atheists or humanists espouse, and there are options that would permit inclusion and participation of a group that is currently excluded, without putting down religious beliefs or pushing a non-faith ideology on anyone–in the same way that Christian prayers can be offered without violating the separation of church and state. (But when someone tried to nominate a secular person to perform the invocation, that request was denied.)

Back to the original point.

The problem is, a page with an agenda can depict this subject in a frightening or conspiratorial light. President Obama is blamed for this as though he directly scheduled this cleric to pray and as if he has banned any other forms of prayer–neither of which are true.

Simply put, a little bit of research goes a long way to defusing tensions, enlightening minds, broadening perspectives, and understanding differences. Taking the time to dig a little deeper and discover the truth keeps us from going off the deep end or responding in fear toward someone we don’t agree with. It helps unite us in a time when our culture and country is starkly divided.

Instead of seeing the worst, we can seek and discover the best about others. Instead of presuming or pre-judging, we can come to know others as they are, just like we’d hope to be treated if the roles were reversed.

That seems pretty fair.

Under Illusion

I saw this political image making the rounds on my Facebook feed this week, and it got me thinking. Or rather some of the responses did.


One pastor seemed quite incensed that “under God” wasn’t in this version. To that individual, this image shouldn’t be shared as a result… despite the image caption making clear the intent of showing the Pledge as originally written.

In fact, the original Pledge by Francis Bellamy is even more different: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

I thought about the power of those two words, “under God.”

In Supreme Court decisions on the subject, the Chief Justice argued that “under God” is an acknowledgement of the religious heritage of the nation but is at this point essentially a secular declaration.  

The ‘God’ referred to is generic and devoid of any religious context. You can say it’s a monotheistic God, so it’s probably tied to an Abrahamic religion. But I don’t think that’s the Court’s intent or point.

I think they recognize, like we should, that two words in a pledge do absolutely nothing to impose any religious standard of behavior or belief upon anyone. No one draws nearer to God in a spiritual experience by reciting the Pledge. It’s not a hymn or worship song, it’s not a prayer to say by rote like Our Father Who art in Heaven or Hail Mary.

Yet the Righr, ever fearing that War on Christianity, focuses attention on those two words in the pledge, as though they constitute some magic cute to social ills that concern us.

Maybe if kids say “under God” then it’ll show what a good, Christian nation we are–regardless of the immorality we approve, condone, or even actively participate in.

I don’t think it works that way. Not on a national level, where we claim some divine favored status–spiritual immunity perhaps?

I’m positive it doesn’t work this way on an individual level, where so long as I say the right words now and then, all my faults and failures get a wink and an understanding grin before being brushed aside. 

After all, I’m part of the good Christian club, right? I ‘liked’ that image that 93% wouldn’t, and shared that poem about footprints in the sand. I voted for the guy who quoted the Bible in his speeches. And I totally got behind defending “under God” from those atheist social justice warriors. 

To paraphrase Jesus, perhaps today He’d tell us, “On that day, many will say, ‘Lord, did we not post in Your Name? And did we not block the atheists on social media, and fight against the growth of Islam in Your favorite nation? Did we not defend the Christ in Christmas, and stand up for the massive cross monuments on public property?’ 

And I will say to them, ‘Depart from Me. I never knew you.'”

It’s easy for me to sit and criticize. So I’ll be honest and admit that I’m just as in danger of missing the whole point as those whose opinions I decry here. I just don’t want to be content flailing about in a cloud of religious / cultural chaff and controversy. 

If I really believe what I claim, then it’s too important to get hung up quibbling and griping over minor details, caught under some illusion that I’m fighting the good fight for the faith.

Innocent Because You're Guilty

There’s a response by Senator Elizabeth Warren to all the graphic Planned Parenthood videos going around–or rather, it’s a response to those who condemn PP and the abortion industry for contributing to a devaluing of human life in our culture. It basically boils down to, “You all are pretty bad about valuing life too, so there.” 

It’s the standard trope that goes like this:

“Well, if the GOP and these so-called ‘pro-life’ people are so concerned about life, then they’d be more motivated to help people in need, like immigrants and refugees, instead of trying to kick them out and build a wall. They’d be more supportive of funding those living in poverty, providing for basic care, helping that new mother out after she gives birth to the baby they’re all worried about. They’d care about the children who are the same lump of cells and tissue after birth that they were so defensive about when that was a fetus in some mother’s womb. 

“This is how you know they’re not really pro-life, they’re just anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-freedom to choose. And so, just disregard all this evidence and all these allegations, because who wants to listen to those anti-abortion types anyway?”

That’s not an exact quote. That’s just the gist of the argument, as summarized by someone else. It’s also the same stuff I’ve heard over and over from abortion defenders. 

ostrich_head_in_sand
“You’re better off not thinking about what they say. Trust us. Everything’s fine.”

Some good Left-leaning friends taught me long ago (by pointing out when the GOP did it) that “when people don’t have any defense for their position and ideas, they attack the opposition and ignore the facts.”

That’s what you see here: Distraction and misdirection.

I think Warren and others make great and valid criticisms about the GOP, or the pro-life movement, or the Religious Right, or whatever group we want to call out. We’ll talk a lot of Jesus, go after what we claim are moral and societal ills, and sing the praises of personal charity. But when it’s obvious that personal charity isn’t on the scale required to address the overwhelming need, we’re still quick to condemn government intervention and support to the poor.

Yes, those critiques are valid, deserving of not just discussion but also action. We have to practice what we preach. We haven’t always fully lived up to the moniker “pro-life.”

That doesn’t sweep arguably immoral and allegedly criminal actions under the rug.

If fetuses are being accidentally born too quickly then they’re not fetuses, they’re infants. If they’re being harvested for parts after that point, then tissue isn’t being collected for medical research, human beings are being murdered. If everything is so kosher, then explain the myriad attempts by PP officials to distance themselves in the unedited videos from public backlash or government scrutiny. All of that still matters, even if you’re right and I’m wrong about some other political issue like welfare or immigration. 

My ignorant position on that subject doesn’t cancel out your intentional ignorance of allegations of murder.

If you get pulled over for drunk driving, you can’t point at a bunch of speeding cars and say, “What about them?” expecting to avoid the consequences of your actions.

But it’s okay. “Everyone knows pro-lifers are hypocrites… so just trust us, there’s nothing to see here.”

Except there is. 

I guess maybe the eleventh video might finally drive the point home. 

Tolerating Questions

If anyone had any doubts about Ben Affleck getting into the role of Batman, those fears can be allayed. He goes after what he views as justice like the Caped Crusader pursuing the Joker.

Too bad the real joke is his viewpoint.

What am I talking about?

It’s been my experience that we in the Right-wing Christian community love to see militant Islam called out for its sins.

Sometimes that makes people uncomfortable, as it may come across like we’re judging every Muslim by the bad apples… something we hate to see done to Christians. Comparisons might be made to Westboro Baptist Church, for example, or to the most recent televangelist or big name involved in a scandal. And we say, “But we’re not like that.”

What if the available data show that we are?

Recently I watched a portion of a Bill Maher show about Islam, and what (and to what extent) it motivates its adherents to do or support.

I’m not exactly a fan of Bill Maher or Sam Harris. But facts are facts, and statistical data are statistical data. We use these tools for a reason–they more accurately reflect reality than our biases and assumptions do.

For example, one person might be afraid of every Muslim that crosses their path, because “you never know.” Another might assume any Muslim encountered in the West is likely a moderate, friendly person willing to live peaceably with others, because why else would they be here?

But Bill Maher and Sam Harris address certain inclinations among a broad range of Muslims, based on surveys and poll data. And they get called out rather vehemently by Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof for their “racism” and their “bigotry.”

Here’s the video to that part of the show:

In a lengthy blog post, Sam Harris addresses his concerns. It’s worth a read. His overall point is: If one cannot discuss or question a belief or idea without being accused of judging an individual or espousing bigotry, then where is the room for discourse?

He states:

 My criticism of Islam is a criticism of beliefs and their consequences—but my fellow liberals reflexively view it as an expression of intolerance toward people.

He writes his concerns about how the discussion was framed as “racism” and “bigotry” as a question of whether Liberalism can be saved from itself.

I daresay the question applies to us in the Christian community just as much. I’ve seen honest questions about theology or discussions of how beliefs impact action descend into accusations of hatred, intolerance, bias, and willful ignorance–and these claims come from Christians towards non-believers.

Questions and discussions don’t weaken us; they make us stronger. Hiding from questions, shutting down discussion, eliminating any possibility of debate or dissension in the ranks–this just shows we have weaknesses to hide, vulnerabilities we dare not reveal to the world.

We read that we are to “always be ready to give a defense for the faith” (1 Pet 3:15). That means we have to be willing and open to hear questions people ask. We can’t take everything as a personal attack, a restriction on our freedom of religious expression, or an example of hateful intolerance.

When we hide behind name-calling and assumptions about the other person’s motivations, we’re doing ourselves no favors.

We may not have a perfect answer at the tip of our tongues. But do we at least have a listening ear?

SaluteGate Seriously?

Maybe there are other things worth noting.
Maybe there are other things worth noting.

If you’ve seen a video or picture of the “Latte Salute” a.k.a. Semper Venti, or if you’ve heard (or participated in) the rambling cries of how much our President supposedly hates the military and disrespects them by this action, I invite you to check this link,

Warning: there’s some language in the article, and the comments section as always should be avoided as the bane of rational thought.

But the writer absolutely KILLS it on this subject.

Let’s give our thought and attention to that which is deserving.

So Help Me God

An atheist Airman was denied the right to reenlist in the United States Air Force recently. It’s been my experience that everyone had the option to say the phrase if desired, or omit the phrase if desired. But that changed late last year.

The Air Force cites US law that supersedes its previous guidance on the matter as the reason for a change in Oct 2013 that took out the option to say – or not say – “so help me God.” Title 10 Section 502 covers the oath of enlistment, and it makes no provision for omitting the phrase in question. So the Air Force has a justifiable position for its argument, which boils down to “We have to follow the law. If the law needs to be changed, then Congress has to change Title 10 Section 502 so that we can then change our regulations which fall under it.”

My experience has been that most people say it or omit it as applicable to their personal stance, and no one really cares. But the case, linked above, is proof that if someone wants to fight on this issue, the religious language is clearly going to win.

But that doesn’t make it right.

There’s a petition in the works to change the code to the very reasonable, already-done-in-practice-for-years method of “say this part if you want, and don’t say it if you don’t want.” I hope you’ll support it.

Everyone loves Top 10 lists, so I thought I’d toss one in.

Top Ten Reasons to Change Section 502 of Title 10:

10. Yes, there are atheists in foxholes. I’ve served alongside many atheists who were among the hardest-working and most skilled in my almost 20 years of military experience. I count it an honor to have served beside them, and denigrating their choice to reject a religious belief is actually unlawful, just as it is unlawful for someone to discriminate against me based on my Christian faith. I mean, the whole “unlawful” part should be enough to require no other reason. Article VI of the Constitution states: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” While this clause at the end of the oath might not exactly meet the standard of a “religious test” it certainly sits in a very grey area. But since this point is clearly not enough, let’s move on:

9. There are plenty of other faiths in foxholes too. The military needs bodies, and so we take all kinds. That means that we’ve got Buddhists, Catholics, Druids, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Protestants, Sikhs, Wiccans… to name a few off the top of my head. Half of those belief systems – to my knowledge – don’t recognize a monotheistic God. So the “so help me God” doesn’t work for them. Yes, they may be a small minority, but the law has to protect the rights of everyone, not just the special people.

8. This would take us back to our roots. Now, some of my Christian friends and many of the inane comments on the Interweb talk about going back to our identity or roots as a Christian nation by keeping this phrase mandatory. News flash: much like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, this “so help me God” was a recent addition. Prior to 1962, you wouldn’t be prompted to say any such thing if enlisting into the Armed Forces. And honestly, I hope going back to the 60s is not what the Christians have in mind. (Side note: the Internet, it turns out, is a wonderful source of information. Using it before stating opinions and misinformation as fact is a very considerate course of action.)

7. This is not a Christian nation. Again, contrary to many comments on social media declaring it so, America is a secular nation by design, with a Judeo-Christian culture making up an arguably large part of past influences, along with deism and humanist philosophy. God didn’t pen the Constitution on stone tablets that George Washington brought down from Mount Vernon. However, many of the colonials were inspired to come to the New World to escape persecution and mistreatment on the basis of holding minority religious beliefs. That helps explain why American law and government was designed to ensure no requirement for religion would be enforced upon the people. Yes, there are quotes from Founding Fathers who speak about the need for faith in God. But they clearly didn’t intend an enforcement of one religion over every other.

6. We can use all the proud, honorable service we can get. I’ve served with atheists who are quite honorable and some who are jerks… just like there are Christians who are quite honorable and Christians that I wouldn’t trust to hold my Bible outside of my sight. Our nation has a large number of military commitments and missions, and we are striving to keep up that pace (if not increase it) while reducing the number of people in uniform available to execute the mission. If an atheist Airman is volunteering to serve, I’m happy to stand beside him. Because what matters on the flightline or the frontline is that we both swore to defend the Constitution of the United States.

5. This doesn’t take God out of anything at all. Some Christians worry that this is a case of persecution, or an instance of taking God out of the public sphere. But the language of the petition is clear: If you want to keep “so help me God” in your oath, do so. If you don’t want to say it, don’t. Nothing is lost for the believers, but the same level of equality and freedom to choose would be granted to those of other faiths or no faith.

4. This upholds equality. We don’t want to live in an American version of an Orwellian fable. “Everyone is equal but some are more equal than others” can’t be permitted or upheld here. That’s not what our servicemembers–religious or atheist–are fighting to protect and defend. How can some people rejoice that Hobby Lobby gets to stand on its religious beliefs, and then rejoice just as loud when someone else’s freedom is tread upon? Well… I know how they can do so. But it’s still vile and wrong.

3. Yes, it is a big deal to “just say it.” Imagine showing up to work on Monday and being told unless you deny your faith, you’re fired. Just a few words. No big deal, right? Just say it, and keep earning a paycheck. Who would stand for this? I can’t. So if I’m not okay with the hypothetical, then I can’t accept when it is really happening to someone else.

2. Defending the rights of the atheist means defending my own right as well. If the government can mandate someone to swear an oath contrary to their belief, then that has far-reaching implications. I cannot be okay with that so long as it’s done to “them” without realizing that the government then has the same power to someday inflict such a requirement upon me. Call it the Golden Rule, call it common sense, call it sticking up for the underdog, or whatever you want. Sadly, I saw hundreds of comments of “Amen!” “Praise God!” and other passionate expressions of joy on this subject. If that’s your initial reaction, take a moment to think about how it would feel to be told you must deny your faith, or swear to Allah or something similar in order to serve your country. Why would anyone be okay with this?

And finally, my overall reason to change Title 10 and do away with this enforcement of “so help me God” in the oath is:

1. Nothing is gained but hypocrisy. The atheist has no faith in this God we are demanding he or she call upon. It forces the enlistee to lie while swearing or affirming a solemn oath. I’m not accusing the atheist here; I’m accusing the enforcers and defenders of such a requirement. Those four words mean nothing at all if forced upon someone who doesn’t believe. This serves no purpose. It is wasted breath. What should matter to a Christian isn’t whether these four words are said, but rather are they being lived out? Plenty of people, Christians and atheists and whatever else, have said “so help me God.” But apart from sincere faith informing and motivating devout action, who cares? It’s empty. No one’s life has been transformed to emulate Christ by the addition of “so help me God” in their oath of enlistment. Instead, we have a vast majority of people saying something that means absolutely nothing to them, and the political Christians will call it a victory. “We defended God in public,” they’ll say. “We kept God in the oath!”

No, all you did was create hypocrisy, forcing lips to say what hearts don’t believe.

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.'” (Mark 7:6 NASB)

'Murica! If only we could remember what that stands for...
‘Murica! If only we could remember what that stands for…

So, please, whether you’re a believer or not, go to Whitehouse.gov and sign this petition. You’re not just defending the freedoms of others, but also your own.

If you think I’ve missed a key point in my top ten, or if you think I’m way off base on this one, I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know in a comment below! Thanks for taking the time to read, and even more so if you’ve signed.

Pro-Choicers, Please Stop

I know, I know, another abortion post. And who cares about my opinion on this matter, anyway? I’m sure you all have your own, for or against. After seeing some very poor arguments on the subject, I just have to get some things off my chest.

If you’re pro-choice, you should care about my opinion, because I am here to help you, even though we disagree.

The fact is, a lot of you sound like tools. Stop it, for your sake and mine.

I hear a lot of arguments supporting the right of a woman to choose. Unfortunately, many of them are nonsense. I thought I’d be helpful and make a list.

1. Being a man, who are you to think you have a useful opinion on this?

Well, I thought I was a human being possessed (like most of us) of the capability for rational thought that allows me to observe evidence, consider facts, develop conclusions, and make value judgments about various things like we all do every day. It is both ludicrous and illogical to say that because I have not experienced a thing, I am incapable of making any judgment about that thing.

I have murdered exactly zero people in my life. Yet I am capable of coming to a conclusion about murder. I don’t want to do it. I don’t believe it is acceptable to murder people in cold blood.

Besides, I am able to speak to women who have had children and who have terminated pregnancies. I am able to consider medical procedures and their implications. How do we debate or establish medical ethics for as-yet-untried procedures or technologies if only those who have experienced them already get to weigh in on the matter? We use past evidence, past observations, past precedents, and we make a judgment, then evaluate whether that judgment holds true moving forward. We engage in healthy debate.

So stop stifling it by saying half of humanity has nothing to say on the matter.

2. It’s just a lump of tissue.

I suppose that’s accurate. I mean, so am I, and so are you, if that’s how you want to see things.

You’re also a human being, probably somewhere in the adult phase of development. That thing in the mother’s womb is also a human being. It’s a scientific fact that a zygote or embryo or fetus is a human being at an early stage. Those cells are alive and growing. They are living tissue that makes up a human being. Understand that part of why abortion supporters sound so callous to the opposition is because – to the opposition – you are talking about terminating a developing human being, not just removing an unsightly mole.

The debate becomes about when life begins, and how much do we value life. And we can have a reasonable debate about such things, so long as we still permit discussion of ethics in medicine.

But it’s not as simplistic a subject as some would like, and treating it as such does disservice to your arguments.

3. You just want to control women.

Honestly I don’t give any thought to what women (or men) are doing in the bedroom. Choices have consequences. That’s life. Risk STDs, risk pregnancies, risk emotional pain, live it up, enjoy physical pleasures, experience heights of ecstasy. Whatever.

But you’re still defending terminating a human being. I don’t want to control women (or men). I want to defend the women (and men) who don’t have a voice or the strength to defend themselves. This is why I break ties with some traditional Pro-Lifers who will say that contraception and sex education are bad things. I’d rather someone learn to use a condom than learn to choose a Dilation and Extraction.

4. You pro-Lifers don’t really value life. Look at the death penalty.

You actually make our case for us here, while revealing the flaws in your own. First, we do value life. We value it so dearly that when someone chooses to commit a pattern of crimes endangering or ending the lives of others, we feel that the threat they pose to the life of another is too great to justify the risk of further criminal activity. When actions establish a threat to society, we believe – due to the value we place on the lives of others – that the threat should be eliminated. Choices have consequences.

Almost every pro-choice person I know feels the same way about eliminating threats when life is in danger. One of the key provisions pro-choice advocates demand is that exception to abortion restrictions must be made if the pregnancy is a threat to the life of the mother. In other words, if that fetus is a risk, we have the right to eliminate that risk.

Pro-choice advocates are talking about possibilities and chances of danger based on past evidence. Supporters of the death penalty are operating on the same concern. There’s plenty of room for debate about the effectiveness of the police, legal, and judicial systems, and due caution must be made to ensure only those proven guilty are punished.
But please stop pretending that we don’t value life. We advocate eliminating the threat posed by the guilty, not the innocent

5. You pro-lifers don’t really value life. Look at guns.

Guns are a means of self-defense that we support based again on the value of life. My life and the lives of my family members are valuable to me, and I am eager to eliminate immediate threats to my loved ones. Guns are a tool to serve that purpose. We advocate legal ownership because it’s a Constitutionally-protected right and because it’s a way of protecting those we care about. We resist attempts to make guns illegal or place undue restrictions on ownership because gun control laws are demonstrable failures.

You don’t even believe in gun control, so stop acting like you do. If you believed in gun control, then you wouldn’t bring out the old saw about coat-hanger back-alley abortions. “If you make it illegal, it’s still going to happen, it’ll just be worse than before.” Sorry, are you shooting down your gun control argument or are you defending legal abortion? I forget, because there’s an obvious logical contradiction.

Certainly there’s a place in our society for reasoned debate. Nobody needs a rocket launcher or .50 caliber machine gun mounted on their minivan. Maybe handguns aren’t 100% evil too. Let’s talk and find a middle ground.

6. Like euthanasia, the individual mother’s choice deserves respect. No one else should choose for another.

We Pro-Lifers go nuts about cases like Terri Schiavo because we value life. Pro-Choice advocates reasonably argue that, when facing terminal illness or the ravages of old age, if an individual wants to die, why should we deny them that right? And they think us mad when we disagree, because that individual had the opportunity to choose, and choice is inviolate. Who are we to choose for them?

Again, the Pro-Choice position is inconsistent. The mother gets to choose for the fetus all the time, and we treat that decision as sacred. If the individual’s choice is so important then why doesn’t the developing human get a choice in the matter? Hey, maybe we should wait and get his or her take on whether they want to be prematurely euthanized.

7. What about cases of rape and incest?

Before I make a point on this, let me refer you to #1. Even though I’m not a woman, I get to talk about this because like you, I have a brain and the ability to process information and make judgments.

Rape is horrific and unacceptable. Incest is terrible. I do not condone these things or defend them in any way. No one should be subjected to such abuse.

Still, based on that debate about what constitutes life and what life is worth protecting, some Pro-Lifers are going to advocate for abortion to be illegal even in these cases. Is that ballsy? Is that hateful? Is that “rare chutzpah,” as a friend put it? Do the math. If I think that a living human being is about to be terminated solely for the crime of existing, then I’m going to oppose that. If I think that we’re talking about killing innocent human beings, I will believe we are compounding a tragedy. It would be rare chutzpah for me to stand by and say nothing.

There are some arguably good ways and many obviously wrong ways to make these cases. These subjects are tremendously sensitive and merit every ounce of compassion one can muster. I want to smack Pro-Lifers who get aggressive in the face of a victim of rape or incest. Their tactics can be vile and hateful, doing far more harm than any supposed good.

Still, meaningful discussions can and should take place, based on the assumptions we all bring to the table about the beginning and the value of life.

8. Abortion should be legal – if not up to birth then at least up until the fetus is viable on its own. It’s just a parasite until then.

Yes, I know (thank you, science) that the developing human being receives resources from the mother during gestation, and can’t survive outside the womb on its own until… well, what is it, a 50% chance of survival at 24 weeks now? We keep getting better at saving the lives of babies born prematurely. Yay technology!

But I’ll tell you what. Just because a newborn comes out of the womb, that doesn’t mean it’s “viable on its own.” Try leaving an infant on the table right after birth (I mean, if that’s not already common practice at the local clinic). Is that baby going to survive? My eight year old is still a parasite on my resources and his mother’s sanity. My soon-to-be 15 year old is even worse, if that’s possible. The same folks talking about when a fetus is or isn’t naturally viable on its own are the ones telling me all about how it takes a village to raise a child.

So long as it’s a fetus up to a point, it can be terminated and that’s fine, I’m told. Actually, left alone in the womb, the fetus is generally going to be naturally viable. Let nature run its course, and in nine months, most likely, you’ll have a baby. It’s such a natural process that we see news stories of new mothers who had no idea they were pregnant.

It’s not some invader stealing from the mother. It’s a developing human doing exactly what nature intends it to do, in the only place it could possibly be at that stage, the part of a mother’s body that is designed or evolved expressly for the purpose of protecting and sheltering the unborn human being until birth.

9. Keep your religion out of my body.

Well I kept religion out of this whole series of arguments, so we have a deal. How about you likewise keep your dogmatic views about your personal freedom out of that developing human individual’s body?

H Words

On Thursday, I sat in the presence of an apparent hate-monger. Worse, I listened to her advice on illustrating, collaborating with writers, and marketing.

I might never have known, without the intervention of the Huffington Post on my google search. The day has been saved, if “saved” is not a word too charged with religious meaning.

The local Christian writers’ group I joined two years ago, the Omaha WordSowers meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month. They have a guest speaker who provides information or personal experience about some aspect of the writer’s journey from creative idea to published work.

Yesterday’s guest speakers were Lori Schulz and Hannah Segura, who talked about the process of publishing Papa’s Plan for Buddy Bee, which Lori wrote and Hannah illustrated.

Papa's Plan for Buddy Bee
A 100% Hate-Free Children’s Book

Lori gave her blog site link, but Hannah only mentioned an online following where she posts some of her art. I searched in hopes of finding her blog or site, since I hope to stay connected with the friends and fellow writers I’ve made here.

Hannah is one of many home-schooled young people I’ve met that challenge old stereotypes of that method of education. She is (like they are) full of vigor and joy, polite, socially at ease, well-spoken, and most of all just plain nice to everyone.

So the first few sites I found surprised me, because Hannah was equated with hate. Some time ago, she illustrated another book written by a different Christian author, on the subject of God’s design for families. A Bible-believing author wrote a kids’ book about marriage being one man and one woman for life, and a Bible-believing illustrator drew pictures to match the story. This came as no surprise to me. It should come as no surprise to anyone else.

That word choice, hate, really bothers me.

Maybe it’s because I am a linguist by profession and a writer by passion, so words and their definitions matter.

Maybe it’s because I know Hannah as an acquaintance, and as trite as it may sound, she doesn’t appear to have a hate-filled cell in her body.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard the same term used to accuse me of feeling a way I’ve never felt about someone else.

And maybe it’s because I’m sick of rhetorical guerilla tactics, using evocative words to provoke a reaction and “win” a cultural battle without any reasonable discussion.

People throw hate and homophobe (among other terms) around at anyone who bucks current public opinion, regardless of motivation, regardless of personality. It’s equivalent to creating a minefield around the discussion table. Anyone who tries to say something gets blown up before they can speak their mind. Nobody wants to be affiliated with hate. No one wants to be associated with a homophobe.

The target changes from discussing a cultural, political, or religious position to attacking an individual person.

Worse yet, if one’s intended purpose is to convince the opposition to reconsider their view, attacking them as individuals shuts them down.

“You’re full of hate.” If I don’t feel hatred toward anyone, this makes me defensive, eager to absolve myself of crimes I don’t think I’ve committed. It doesn’t help me hear opposing views.

“You’re a homophobe.” If I am not afraid of homosexuals, if I’m not one of those who says, “Eww they’re icky” and acts all disgusted, then once again I will feel the need to object instead of open up to a different point of view.

“You’re too close-minded,” I’ve heard people say when confronting so-called “hate.” Yes, I think, because you’re closing them down by attacking instead of opening them up by connecting.

That sword definitely cuts both sides of this cultural debate. I hope we all want to be above that sort of thing, whichever side we’re on.

Nobody gains anything from a discussion that never happens.

I’m a fan of understanding, of seeing from the perspective of the other. I have said and done many things out of ignorance, and my responses over the years on the subject of homosexuality are no exception. Thankfully, I’ve had the benefit of friends and even rational opponents who take the time to open my eyes to their point of view while demonstrating willingness to listen to mine.

So what helps that take place?

First, avoid assumptions.

Some hate and fear is obvious, but not all. Jumping to conclusions about what motivates an individual gets us nowhere but angry at each other. If I can’t know that someone hates another person, then ‘hate’ isn’t the right word. If I don’t know that someone actually fears another, then ‘homophobe’ is a poor choice. Build bridges, not walls.

Second, use accurate terms.

Maybe “ignorant” or “unfamiliar” is more appropriate. It’s hard to walk in the shoes of another, and we all pretty much suck at it. So instead of declaring “I know what your kind is like,” how about “Can I tell you what it’s like from my point of view?” Speak to flesh-and-blood people, not emotionless positions.

Let’s trade some hate for harmony.

Frozen: Love Worth Dying For

Yesterday I posted (link) this blog about the hidden message some religious people see in Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen. When we see culture changing all around us, it can be scary. And when we’re scared, we start looking for what we fear, and see it around every corner. Like I said yesterday, I don’t think “homophobia” is the right word. We don’t fear homosexuals. We fear change.

At the end, I promised to share my take on the positive message of the movie. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet (and why haven’t you?) then you can expect some spoilers ahead.

Quick recap if you haven’t seen it:

The gist of the story is that Princess Elsa was born with a magic ability to manipulate ice. As a child she uses this to bring joy to her little sister, Princess Anna. (pronounced ‘Ah-na,’ mind you. My kids correct me all the time.)

Elsa accidentally injures Anna, and everyone decides it would be best to hide these powers away until Elsa can control them. So she grows up repeating a mantra of “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show.” Her powers grow stronger, and her fears rise accordingly. To protect others, she keeps everyone away, including young Anna, who doesn’t understand why “we used to be best buddies, and now we’re not.”

At Queen Elsa’s coronation, her powers are revealed and she flees. When everything goes wrong, the whole kingdom falls under a bitter winter, buried in snow and ice. Villains attempt to kill Elsa to end the crisis. And Elsa once again injures Anna by accident, putting a shard of ice into Anna’s heart that will eventually freeze her solid.

Only an act of true love can thaw the ice and save Anna, so she chases after the man she loves, hoping a kiss from him will save the day.

This leads to a climax, where Anna is stumbling through a storm to reach Kristof (her beau) and Elsa is being stalked by the villain who stands ready to kill her. Suddenly Anna sees Elsa in danger, and jumps in the way of the villain’s blade, freezing solid in the process. Everyone is sad, until Anna’s heart thaws out. “An act of true love will thaw the frozen heart,” they recall.

The kingdom is saved, the sisters bond, everyone’s happy except the villains, and credits roll.

A lot of people note that this movie is not the typical Disney “Prince Charming saves the Princess” story. No princes save the day here. Even Kristof, Anna’s love interest, is not a pivotal hero but more her faithful companion and support. In other words, the whole movie seems to say to young girls, “You don’t need a man to complete you.” I think that’s a wholesome message in a culture that loves to emphasize the need for romantic and sexual relationships.

Elsa has powers and puts them to use for good. Anna has the power of determination and love, and she overcomes adversity in pursuit of her goals. Both characters are depicted as strong, resourceful women who face their difficulties and imperfections with fierce devotion and integrity. That’s also a great message for our young women (and men).

There’s also the “Let It Go” theme of not hiding away our creativity or passion. Someone (see yesterday’s blog post) might think it’s “the homosexual agenda” encouraging people to come out of the closet, and I suppose that’s a valid application. But it’s only one of many. I have writer friends who have hidden away their work, afraid of critique or even being open enough to share it with another. I know artists who draw amazing things you’d never see because they’ll never show you. Musicians and vocalists with skills to blow me away often hide their talents in the ground. Young people sometimes conceal their hobbies, interests, and exceptional abilities, because their passion is something their peers might deride. Frozen is a film that says “We need you to let that go and let everyone see it, because we need your talents in the world.”

And that’s not even the main thrust of the movie. Let’s look for a moment at the conflict at the climax.

The first thing I see is sacrificial love. Anna leaps in front of the villain’s sword, an action that will almost certainly result in great injury if not death. Anna does this without hesitation. The only thing that protects her is that she freezes solid at that very moment, something she couldn’t anticipate.

Second, Anna’s actions reveal selfless love. At this point, Anna and Olaf are convinced she needs a kiss from Kristof, the guy that truly loves her, to cure the freezing condition Elsa’s ice shard caused. Anna is mere steps away from Kristof when she sees Elsa in danger. Anna gives up her kiss to come to her sister’s defense.

Third, this is arguably an expression of undeserved love. Elsa is an icy witch to Anna throughout the majority of the movie, and Anna doesn’t know why. Their bond is broken. The sisterly love seems one-sided. On top of that, Elsa’s the one who accidentally shot Anna in the heart. Anna has every reason to be distant, but instead hurls herself into the path of the sword.

Olaf, unlikely Christ figure.
Olaf, unlikely Christ figure.

Oddly enough, it’s Olaf the Snowman who speaks this theme aloud. When Anna is shivering in the castle, Olaf starts the fire in the fireplace to warm Anna and keep her alive, even though it means he might melt. Anna sees this and panics for her friend, who responds, “Some people are worth melting for.”

That’s my take on Frozen. It’s a message of sacrificial, selfless love to the undeserving. Reminds me of a story about Someone else I hold dear.

Tomorrow, I have some thoughts about the supposed need for a romantic relationship in a story, and why the non-troversy about Elsa is so frustrating to me.