Archive for the ‘Social Concerns’ Category
I make no statement regarding the justness of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, but there is one aspect of the case that troubles me considerably: that Zimmerman instigated the confrontation. I have two questions: when did walking become a crime? And when did the pedestrian, a young, black teenager, forfeit his right to defend himself, first by running, and then (allegedly) by standing his ground?
Listen to Zimmerman’s call to police. At what point did Martin commit a crime that placed him at the mercy of an armed citizen?
What is more troubling about this case is that had Martin been a 43-year-old white male like me, Zimmerman probably would have been convicted. I often walk through neighborhoods, and I am sometimes stopped by citizens asking, “What are you doing?” They are perfectly within their rights to ask, but so am I in replying, “None of your damn business.” That, of course, would not be very friendly, so I generally reply with the obvious: “I’m taking a walk.” (No sense in starting a confrontation.)
Now, if I was being followed by a car, and if the person in that car got out and pursued me, I would probably fear for my safety. Not knowing the person’s intent, I might even run. If that person started to chase me, I would run really fast. Somehow, in Florida, this constitutes a “stand your ground” defense for the pursuer. This is unfathomable. Consider if the person being pursued had been a white female — would not anyone recommend that she run? Yet, her running constitutes a “stand your ground” defense in Florida.
Actually, probably not. The color or her skin (or mine) would tip the scales. The Zimmerman/Martin case would have been viewed differently had Zimmerman been a young black male and Martin an older white male. It is difficult not to notice such things.
President Barrack Obama lately stated: “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away” (link).
Indeed, it yet appears that the scales of justice tip against young blacks. As a white American, I am sadly more free.
Here is the scene: Young people gather in a home for a party. They are drinking. Some pass out. Later, an unconscious teenager is sexually assaulted. The deed is photographed. People watch. Photos and video are sent out. The event goes viral.
Such a scene played out in Saratoga, California in September, 2012. And also Steubenville, Ohio. And also elsewhere. And repeatedly.
The Saratoga case is especially grievous, as the young victim, Aurie Pott, committed suicide 10 days after the crime (see story here).
The common denominator in these cases is alcohol. While drunkenness cannot be accepted as an excuse, it must be examined as a contributing factor. Emerging studies show that alcohol doesn’t incapacitate ones mental faculties as is generally supposed — that people are unaware of the things they do — but that alcohol causes people simply not to care (see story here). Again, these studies don’t excuse the boys’ behavior, but such studies certainly expand our understanding of the problem, and we should arm ourselves with this knowledge.
Unfortunately, we do not.
The typical response to such cases is outrage. Boys are told to respect young women. (One college student even produced a viral YouTube video on the subject.) Schools implement anti-bullying policies. People proclaim the victim is not to blame. The problem with all of this activity is that people simply do not care, when they are intoxicated. All this outrage falls on deaf, uncaring ears once the keg is popped.
Now, it is possible that Pott’s assailants were not inebriated. It is possible that, sober, they simply did not care. And, frankly, it is obvious that an entire community of young people, those who shared images of the assault, did not care. But, alcohol was readily available at the party, and the victim was indeed so intoxicated that she passed out. Alcohol was a factor.
For my part, I would not discourage people’s attempts to address the social problem of bullying, but I would also not ignore the obvious issues, namely substance abuse among teens and the general decline of morality in our society.
Bono the humanitarian would almost be a cliche if his actions were not so extraordinarily generous. It may be said that Bono has a big ego, but he has a bigger heart. His work in famine relief, economic development and debt forgiveness is truly worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. His humanitarian efforts began quietly in 1985, when Bono and his wife Ali visited a relief camp in Africa. He wanted to do something to change world, not merely to sing about it. The video above is remarkable in that this “secret” mission has never really been documented, besides a few references in biographies, so it is a treasure to watch.
Nearly 100,000 people are protesting gay marriage in France. The media portrays such protests as “anti-gay,” but that is painfully one-sided. These people are championing traditional marriage and traditional families — institutions most of us have not abandoned. It may be that, as a society, we need to consider that “gay rights” is not an accomplished fact, that further dialog is needed. Framed as a “rights” movement, gay rights might seem compelling; but, framed in terms of reality, it might just be a bad idea.
Read about it here — NBC: Anti-gay marriage marchers take to streets in France
Oh, and in other news, San Francisco is considering a ban on public nudity. Except, “exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city’s annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sadomasochism and other sexual subcultures.” What a strange world.
A pure pro-life stance allows for no exemptions, but few politicians hold such a position. Republican Richard Mourdock, running for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, stirred a hornets nest when he avowed abortion should be permitted only to save the life of the mother, but not in instances of rape or incest.
“The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother,” Mourdock said in a debate recently (source). “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen.”
Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly derided Mourdock, alleging the COP candidate said rape was “something God intended to happen.” It’s fairly obvious Mourdock meant pregnancy, but either way, the statement is controversial.
We think it is, therefore it is… or not…
Americans have long debated whether life starts at conception or at some other point; most Christians assume it starts at conception. Whether or not it does, as determined by science or theology, one thing remains certain: it cannot simply be a matter of opinion. Yet, that is what it has become.
Consider a happy couple, preparing a room for an expected child and even reading to that child in the womb. The couple regards the unborn fetus as a person and a member of the family. Rarely have I met expectant parents who say they hope a biomass forming in her womb will turn into a person. Instead, I have been made to view photos — ultrasounds — of the unborn child, and I’ve been compelled to watch videos of the child moving, or sucking his or her thumb. Fact is, people treat unborn children as living and sentient beings.
Except if the child is unwanted.
Unwanted, the fetus is regarded as a mere biomass, and, in some instances, a “cancerous growth” or intruder. It becomes a thing to be removed. We do not prepare rooms for such children, nor read to them, nor include them in our families. Rather, we reason them out of existence. The definition of “being,” thus, is whatever a person wants it to be, and that surpasses the bounds of reason. A fetus cannot be a living, sentient being in one instance, and a non-living, non-sentient being in another. It’s one or the other.
In 1973 (Roe v. Wade) the Supreme Court dealt with the question by ignoring it:
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer (source).
The justices decided another factor, the right of a woman to choose, trumped the question of life. Nevertheless, Americans continue to speculate about life’s beginnings, demonstrating that the issue cannot be ignored.
Abortion stops a beating heart
Mourdock would not allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, but he would allow the procedure for the life of the mother. I am not arguing that such an exception is immoral, but I note that the life of an unborn fetus is ended. In a word, even that abortion stops a beating heart.
It does not matter the circumstances, whether the child is wanted or unwanted, or the product of rape or incest, the unborn child is a living, growing being. Such is the design of nature, and nature does not ask how a fetus came into being. It is simply compels the fetus into being.
And let us not forget that “abortion” means termination, i.e. that something is ended, destroyed.
I know personally of an instance when a Christian couple opted to abort the life of a child in order to save the mother’s life. They viewed the procedure as the termination of their unborn fetus. When the abortion was completed they viewed the child’s body. They did not view the fetus as a non-living being, but as their child. And they mourned the child’s loss.
Forging a pro-life stance that allows abortion?
The media portrays the debate over abortion as a battle between abortion-rights activists and anti-abortion foes. The media does not employ the term “pro-life,” and hasn’t done so since the early 1990s. This policy has unfortunate consequences, and chief among them is the denigration of a legitimate political idea. Pro-life advances the idea that life begins at conception, that life is sanctified, that life is a right, not a choice. The question remains, however, can a Christian formulate a pro-life stance and still allow for abortions in certain situations?
There hasn’t been much discussion about such things and the result is that religiously conservative politicians offer wildly contradictory positions. The Romney/Ryan team would allow abortions for rape, incest and the life of the mother; Mourdock for the life of the mother; and Rep. Joe Walsh would not allow abortion under any circumstances (see here). The GOP, incidentally, offers no stance on abortion, except that the Supreme Court should review Roe v. Wade. The party also opposes government funded and forced abortions.
Whatever position one crafts, faith demands an acknowledgement that life comes from God, and is thus sanctified. It won’t make the decisions we make easier, but more sincere.
I suppose the purest pro-life position does not allow for abortion under any circumstances, including when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. If you hold such a view, then Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois is your man: “With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance… There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing” (see story in Chicago Tribune).
Asked by reporters “if he was saying that it’s never medically necessary to conduct an abortion to save the life of a mother,” Walsh answered, “Absolutely.”
Polls show that Americans — and evangelicals — are about equally divided on the question of abortion. The same is true regarding specific situations. I know of women, Christians, who have had abortions because their lives were in jeopardy, and I know of women who refused abortions, despite their lives possibly being at risk. In the latter cases, the two women I’m personally acquainted with survived.
The Republican Party has long maintained three exceptions: rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan stated recently, “Mitt Romney’s going to be the president. The president sets the policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I’m comfortable with it because it’s a good step in the right direction. I’ll leave it at that” (source).
Oddly, I was not able to find a position statement regarding abortion on Mitt Romney’s website; in the party platform, the GOP is silent on the question of exemptions (link).
The question arises then, can one be pro-life yet allow abortions in certain situations? The simplest and quickest answer is, no — but if the mother dies because of serious complications relating to the pregnancy, is life truly preserved? And do evangelicals really support a ban on abortions in cases of rape or incest?
In framing a pro-life stance, it seems Christians run two risks:
- Becoming so rigid, the stance becomes callous.
- Becoming so flexible, the stance becomes indistinguishable from the pro-choice position.
One point to bear in mind is that, regardless of the circumstances, abortion does end the life of a child. Acknowledging this point, I believe it is possible to craft a pro-life stance that does allow for abortions in certain situations — much as Romney and Ryan have done, to some extent, in their statements. However, ignoring the issue, demurring, or hiding ones true beliefs does little to help the cause. I might not agree with Walsh, but I admire that he speaks plainly. The rest of us ought to do the same.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, the president of Focus on the Family acknowledged that the organization may have lost its focus. “It’s fair to say we have concentrated on some things that have distracted from the main thing, which is the Gospel of Christ,” Jim Daly told the Huffington Post. Daly was careful to note that the group has not changed its stance on homosexuality, abortion, or same-sex marriage, but that concern for these issues may have overshadowed the larger mission of the organization, which is to preach Christ.
The Huffington Post relates that in his new book, ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Heart, Daly writes that religious conservatives should be “careful to not create a ‘super sin’ out of homosexuality.” In other words, Christians should not lose their focus, which is proclaiming the gospel.
The Huffington Post’s characterization of Focus on the Family as an anti-gay, anti-abortion organization is provocative (NB: any person or organization adhering to Christian principals is anti-something, as the Post sees things), but also indicative of what the group has become: an advocacy group against specific behaviors — the organizations’s message is no longer about committing oneself to Christ (positive action), but abstaining from certain behaviors (negative action). Certainly one should not sin, but absent Christ in that person’s life, overcoming sin is impossible.
Ultimately, people’s views on homosexuality and abortion will not change until they are changed by Christ. The laws and dominant social mores of today’s society reflect what society is, not what it should be or could be in Christ. It will be interesting to see what emerges from this development at Focus on the Family.