Tag Archives: abortion

Abortion, the Environment and the Exile of Autonomy


How is it that our society can collectively agree that an unborn life lost to a miscarriage is something to lament but the loss of millions of unborn lives each year from abortion is not? Karen Swallow Prior pondered this question recently, calling out the contradictory yet widely held idea that unborn children are babies whose lives matter when they are desired but disposable (or sellable) fetal tissue when they are not desired. By this logic the definition (let alone value) of an unborn life rests solely on the intent of mom and dad: a baby’s life matters insofar as it fits into the timing and plans of its parents.

In this way we can see how Planned Parenthood is the perfect name for an organization that is mostly known for abortion. Ending a life because its timing doesn’t line up with our plans and preferences assumes a God-like right to power that the name “Planned Parenthood” implies. It casually asserts that the greatest, most mysterious reality of existence – the creation of a new life – is something that can be planned, manipulated, defined and controlled according to our convenience. It celebrates our sovereign autonomy and refuses sacrifice, symptomatic of man’s worst tendencies going all the way back to Eden. Back then we didn’t like to be told that we can’t have everything on our terms, and we still don’t.

An arrogant assumption of control is at the root of most evil, and it goes far beyond the issue of reproduction.

The same fallen impulse that leads us to assert the right to abort an “unplanned” pregnancy also leads us to assert the right to use and abuse creation as befits our lifestyle, regardless of its longterm consequences.

Many of the same Christian politicians who push for legislation restricting abortion are also those who never vote for legislation restricting environmental pollutants. But isn’t there at least some logical link between protecting the created beings of unborn life and protecting the created world that declares God’s glory?

As Pope Francis recently pointed out in his sprawling encyclical on a Christian ethic of environmental stewardship (“On Care for Our Common Home”), care for the unborn and care for the natural world are both essential outgrowths of a consistent theology of life:

“Concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”

The Pope is right to connect the two issues, which both deal with man’s tendency to exert his dominion in careless and life-devaluing ways:

“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble.”

Though a small-but-vocal minority of evangelicals see this connection and support the passing of clean energy legislation, most pro-life Americans throw the eco-friendly baby out with the liberal bathwater. This is unfortunate, because it undermines what could be a powerful and consistent articulation of a deeply Christian ethic of life – an ethic that says the rightly ordered miracle of God’s creation must be respected and valued even when it is inconvenient, costly or in conflict with our “plans.”

It is this same ethic that also insists that God knew what he was doing when he created gender and marriage. Here is Pope Francis, again from “Laudato Si,” making the connection:

“Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.”

We should decry Bruce Jenner asserting his dominion over creation by claiming he has absolute power to choose his gender; and we should lament the tragedy of a woman who claims she has absolute power to end her unborn child’s life; but we should also take offense at those who claim an absolute power to consume resources selfishly and wastefully, with no regard for the flourishing and sustainability of creation. The man who drives a needlessly fuel-inefficient car, disregards watering restrictions and takes long showers in the midst of a drought is just another version of the arrogant assumption of control that leads to lunchtime discussions of fetal tissue commerce over wine and salad.

All of these postures stem from man’s resistance to accepting God as God and fully respecting the way He created things to be. When push comes to shove, we want things our way, and we want God to respect that.

How childish. We grow up only insofar as we learn to be OK with not getting what we want, however and whenever we want it. As Carl Trueman recently pointed out, one hallmark of childishness is “an ethic built upon personal pleasure and convenience.” By that measure our society is about as childish as they come.

I love Psalm 131’s picture of David having “calmed and quieted” his soul “like a weaned child with its mother.” He does not dwell on his fickle wishes or desires for “things too great and too marvelous for me.” He is satisfied with his Lord, where his hope resides. A lesson for human flourishing if ever there was one.

Contentment is the antidote to our sinful propensity to desire control. Contentment with parenthood even when it isn’t planned. Contentment with unrealized sexual and relational longings even when it’s painfully lonely. Contentment with restrictions on pollution even if it costs us profits or convenience.

“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

That’s what English Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote in his 17th century work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. It’s a radical idea for people today, suspicious as we are of submitting to any authority outside the self. And yet it’s so needed.

But how is contentment like this achieved, especially in a world where “have it your way!” and “gimme more” are the dominant slogans of success?

Burroughs says a “Christian comes to contentment, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction.” He rightly describes the world as being “infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.”

Indeed. And it is this “grass is always greener” consumerist mentality, so present in our culture and even in Christianity (e.g. church “shopping”), that perpetuates our control obsession. If we are constantly told we can dispose of unborn life or change our sex on demand, or that we can eat whatever food we want at any time of year, or that we should just “let go” of any restrictions placed on us (“No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free!”), then of course we are going to begin to believe that we are master and God is not.

But living in this way is not as freeing as Elsa might think. On the contrary, an embrace of limits and “less is more” simplicity is what really frees us up to experience joy.

This is something Pope Francis mentions in “Laudato Si” as he describes Christian growth in terms of “moderation and the capacity to be happy with little,” as well as the avoidance of “the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.” This is “not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity,” he notes:

“On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full. In reality, those who enjoy more and live better each moment are those who have given up dipping here and there, always on the lookout for what they do not have. They experience what it means to appreciate each person and each thing, learning familiarity with the simplest things and how to enjoy them. So they are able to shed unsatisfied needs, reducing their obsessiveness and weariness…”

The reality is a life of sacrifice and simplicity is a more satisfying life. A life of relinquishing our obsession with control and getting over our resistance to authority is more free. It’s the life we were meant to live.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25)

As Joshua Ryan Butler argues in The Skeletons in God’s Closet, “The cost of union with Christ is the death of our independence; the cost of true worship is the exile of our autonomy.”

May the exile of our autonomy always be a cost we’re willing to bear.

Five Reasons Why I’m Voting for Romney

My vote won’t matter at all in California, but I sent in my ballot last week anyway, voting for Mitt Romney. Am I super excited about everything Romney stands for? Not at all. I’m uncomfortable with his Mormon faith, regret that he supports drone strikes & the use of torture, and absolutely wince when he says things like “America is the hope of the earth.”

I’m also not one of those people who thinks Obama is an unqualified disaster of a president. I like a lot of things about him and had high hopes for his presidency four years ago. I think he’s a good guy, a family man, and not the villain the Ann Coulter Fox News crazies would label him.

But for this moment in America, I think it’s wise to switch course and give Romney a chance. Here are a few of my personal reasons for voting for him:

Abortion. I’m pro-life and this will always be a deal-breaker for me. Fighting for the “reproductive right” to destroy a living being will always be sickening to me, and I’ve been particularly sickened this year with the Democrats’ tactic of equating the pro-life cause with some sort of “war against women.” That’s just silly and makes disturbing light of the real issue: the war on unborn children, which takes more than 1.2 million lives a year in America.

The Economy: I have real concerns about the U.S. economy, both in its current state and its long-term viability. And so much else depends on a solid, growing economy: national security, the effectiveness of our foreign policy, our education system, the plight of the poor, and so on. The federal government is addicted to accumulating debt and spending money that isn’t there. On the track of spending and debt-accumulation we’re currently on, the world my children will inherit will look something like the landscape of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Dire. I have hopes that Mitt Romney’s business-savvy and focus on private-sector growth and job creation will prove much more effective for America’s economic recovery and long-term fiscal stability.

Religious Liberty. The HHS mandate, which went into effect this year as part of Obamacare and which forces religious institutions to cover contraceptives (including abortifacients such as the morning-after pill and the week-after pill), represents a disturbing narrowing of the government’s understanding of religious liberty. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed (including by my own employer, Biola University) by religious organizations of various stripe, including both Protestant and Catholic Christian schools, nonprofits and companies fighting to retain their religious classification/exemption. What’s frightening is the extent to which Obama’s administration has narrowed the understanding of who qualifies for a religious exemption: apparently a Bible-focused Christian university like Biola and a Bible-publisher like Tyndale House are not “religious” enough to qualify. Only churches are. In what universe does that make sense? I agree with Alan Jacobs when he notes that the government’s position “suggests a move to confine freedom of religion to freedom of worship… to confine religion to a disembodied, Gnostic realm of private worship and thought. Even those who support abortion and contraception should not want to see the government defining religion maximally as private thought and belief. The social costs of that restriction will, in the long run and perhaps even in the short, be catastrophic, because churches and other religious institutions have long been attentive to ‘the least of these’ — the ones that government habitually neglects or even tramples underfoot.”

“The Least of These”: As a Christian, I want to vote for the president who I believe will be better for the most vulnerable and suffering in the world, the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40). I believe that person is Mitt Romney, because of the abortion issue but also because I believe he will get the American economy back on track and will help create a more jobs-friendly business environment, where real opportunity is created and government dependency (which only perpetuates cycles of suffering) is reduced. I also have hopes that Romney will empower religious institutions and faith-based charities where Obama alienated them, allowing them to do the humanitarian work they already do and want to continue doing. Meanwhile, on Obama’s watch, the welfare state has grown substantially and spending on means-tested welfare programs has increased by a third in just four years, to an all time high cost of $1 trillion a year. Obama’s own budget plans estimate this cost to rise to $1.56 trillion by 2022. Where is this money going to come from? Also, food stamps have surged, with 71 percent more spending on the program in 2011 than in 2008. This explosion in federal spending on welfare is simply not a sustainable solution. Furthermore, government handouts do not address the systemic issues and underlying economic woes that are the true scourge of the poor and low-income in America. Building a stronger economy and creating jobs is a much better long-term solution to helping bring people out of poverty.

Bipartisan Efficacy: I thought one of Romney’s most encouraging lines in the third debate came in his closing moments, when he pledged to work across the aisle and help facilitate cooperation in a divided, broken Washington. Of course Obama made this a big talking point in his 2008 election as well, and look how that turned out. But Romney actually has a history of doing it, having successfully governed Massachusetts as a Republican when the state legislature was 87% Democrat. People often criticize Romney for being vague or flip-flopping, which is a valid critique; but when it comes to Washington and fostering a cooperative, productive government, inflexibility (on both sides) is disastrous. We need a leader who can build consensus in a climate where political divisiveness and belligerence lead to fiscal negligence (see the 2011 debt ceiling crisis). Maybe its naive, but I sense that Romney will be a better politician and dealmaker as president than Obama was, and I think we need someone new to perhaps break the stalemate.

Will Romney win? Probably not. But that’s democracy, and that’s OK. My hopes are not pinned on either candidate, nor on any political party or government. My hopes are fixed on Jesus Christ, who reigns supreme over all things, now and forevermore, regardless of who is in the White House.

Why I Cannot Vote for Obama

I really want to vote for Obama. There are a myriad of reasons why it would thrill me to cast my vote for him on November 4. He is such an attractive and inspiring figure, and I’m not just saying that because it’s the standard line about Obama. It’s true.

It would be so nice to have a president who is smart, articulate, even-keeled, poised, intellectual, and (it seems) genuinely passionate about helping downtrodden people.

I’ve been impressed with the way he’s handled himself on the campaign trail (certainly moreso than I have been with McCain), and I’ve more than once considered the possibility of voting for him.

At the end of the day, though, we have to look past all the promises and rhetoric of a presidential candidate and look at their record. In Obama’s case, it’s not all that extensive or especially committal (it’s clear that Obama was planning for the presidency from his very first days in the Illinois legislature). But there are things about his record that really frighten me, and chief among them is his far-left stances on abortion.

Based on his record, Obama is the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in history. If you don’t believe that, read this article.

In it, Robert George, Princeton professor and renowned ethicist, summarizes Obama’s abortion record, and it is ugly. He begins by stating:

“Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress…”

The full article is truly eye-opening and disturbing, and I urge all of you to read it. If there is any part of you that is convicted about abortion and would like to see it lessened in America, you must consider Obama’s record carefully before you consider voting him into office.

I know, I know, people will retort that George W. Bush—possibly the most pro-life president in history—didn’t really do much to advance the pro-life cause. So why should I expect any different from McCain?

Well, it’s not about what McCain will or will not achieve on abortion. It’s about what an Obama administration would do to scale back abortion restriction laws and undo years of pro-life advances. If the democrats win a super majority in congress and Obama is elected president, we could be in for the biggest step back for the pro-life movement in history.

This may make me a “single-issue” voter, but so be it. I agree that “pro-life” goes beyond abortion—encompassing issues of poverty, the death penalty, even the environment… But abortion is a huge and important part of what it means to affirm the sanctity of life, and Obama’s cavalier legislative approach to it truly disturbs me.

I will not be crushed if Obama becomes the president; in some ways I’ll be very happy. But I’ll be praying that his tenure as president does not even go near abortion issues. It is that fear—that Obama will in his presidency be the pro-abortion extremist he has been as an Illinois legislator and U.S. Senator—that prevents me from voting for him.

Instances of Inappropriate Censorship

Ever since Sarah Palin mania started a month ago, the media has whined and whined about the prospective Veep’s reluctance to allow them access to her life and thoughts at every second of the day. Just this week, many members of the media threw a fit because they couldn’t be in the room with Palin as she met with world leaders in New York. The press increasingly loathe Palin because she dares to scoff at their self-endowed prerogative to be “in on” whatever “story” they want. Just read this bitter rant from Campbell “Obama’s biggest fan” Brown.

Resentful members of the press claim that Palin’s avoidance is harming the free flow of information, of “truth.” As journalists, they are all about the freedom of information. But the unspoken truth of most journalists is that they are the biggest censors of all. They get the facts, then selectively report them. They hear and see the story, then re-tell it in the way they would like it to be.

Of course, it is not just journalists who do this. All of us believe in free speech in theory. But when that speech is dangerous or threatens something we hold dear, we don’t really shy away from trying to stifle it.

Two recent examples of the suspicious suppression of free speech:

YouTube Removes Obama Abortion Video
YouTube is increasingly showing its partisan colors this election cycle, as evidenced in the removal of a video produced by The Kansas Coalition for Life, called “Obama: WRONG Change for Children.” Sure, the video contains a few brief images of aborted fetuses, but there is far worse elsewhere on YouTube. Apparently YouTube’s only explanation for the video’s removal is that it did not meet a “Community Guideline.” This seems a nebulous reason to remove the video, which—as you can see if you watch below—may be creepily over-the-top, but is not really deserving of censorship.

Southern Baptist bookstore chain hides magazine with female pastors on cover

Bookstores have the right to carry and sell whatever they want, but when you have a deal to distribute a magazine and then take it off shelves because you disagree with the image on the cover, that is a little suspect. Such was the case when Lifeway Christian Stores, a chain of 100+ bookstores owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, took this month’s issue of GospelToday off its shelves and hid it behind the counter. Why? Because the cover of the magazine featured a photo of five female pastors—an idea that is evidently too hot to handle for the SBC.

Alas, these are just two current events that showcase the widespread practice of censorship in America today. Of course the argument could be made that censorship isn’t such a bad thing, in which case I’m totally fine with YouTube and the SBC censoring whatever they wish. But the problem is when these institutions feign protection of the free flow of thought and ideas—branding themselves as “open-minded” but then closing off discourse to the ideas they dislike. This is hypocrisy, which is even more annoying than censorship.

Abortion as Art? (Critical Theory Gone Berserk)

By now you’ve all probably heard about Yale Abortion Girl, right? Her name is Aliza Shvarts, and she’s a senior art student at the esteemed Ivy League school. She made international news last week when her outrageous senior art project was made public.

According to Shvarts, her project is a documentation of a nine-month process in which she artificially inseminated herself (from a number of sperm donors) “as often as possible” and then took herbal abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. The actual project was to be an installation of a large cube suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition hall, filled with the menstrual blood from her supposed litany of miscarriages. Recorded video of her experiencing the miscarriages in her bathtub was to be projected on each side of the cube.

Schvarts initially defended the project by saying, “I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity… I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be… It was a private and personal endeavor, but also a transparent one for the most part… This isn’t something I’ve been hiding.”

But as news circulated beyond Yale and outraged criticism came pouring in, Yale put a kibosh on the project, which was supposed to be installed for the senior art show last week.

“I am appalled,” said Yale College Dean Peter Salovey. “This piece of performance art as reported in the press bears no relation to what I consider appropriate for an undergraduate senior project.”

School of Art Dean Robert Storr also denounced Schvarts’ project, saying that while Yale “has a profound commitment to freedom of expression,” the University “does not encourage or condone projects that would involve unknown health risks to the student.”

Soon after the initial hubbub, however, the University officials announced to the press that Shvarts had privately denied actually committing the acts in question, and that the whole project was nothing more than an elaborate hoax—a “creative fiction” meant to highlight the ambiguity of the relationship between art and the human body.

Shvarts responded by calling the University’s claims “ultimately inaccurate,” and refused to sign a written confession saying that the whole thing was a hoax. Instead, Shvarts began a “no one knows the truth except me” campaign of meta-meta-meta critique. And arguably, this is when her “project” kicked in to high gear.

Shvarts told the press that throughout the nine months she never knew if she was ever really pregnant or not (she never took a pregnancy test), and in a column for the Yale Daily News, Shvarts wrote that “The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.”

Huh? Being pregnant is a matter of reading? This is where it becomes clear what Schvarts is really up to—an amped-up deconstructionist exercise in sexual semiotics.

“The part most meaningful in [the project’s] political agenda … is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood,” Shvarts wrote in the same column. “Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether there was ever a fertilized ovum or not.”

“This piece — in its textual and sculptural forms — is meant to call into question the relationship between form and function as they converge on the body,” she wrote. “…To protect myself and others, only I know the number of fabricators who participated, the frequency and accuracy with which I inseminated and the specific abortifacient I used. Because of these measures of privacy, the piece exists only in its telling.”

Ahh, the crux: the piece exists only in its telling. With no more metanarratives, no external “Truth,” we can only trust individual perceptions, personalized accounts of experiential contingencies. What a wonderful world.

There is a lot to be disturbed by in this little viral provocation. Of course, the cavalier treatment of pregnancy and abortion (as mere tools in an artistic creation—even if just on the conceptual level) is one thing; and the notion that anything so disgusting (a cube of menstrual blood from self-induced abortions?) could be considered art is another…

But the most frightening aspect of this whole thing, for me, is that it shows just how inaccessible (and out of fashion) truth is in the academy today. When someone like Shvarts can blatantly lie to the press and write it off as part an academic project, what does that say about our academic standards? Where would she get the idea that education (formerly known as the search for truth) can be founded on lies and the privileging of ambiguity?

Hmmm, well, she can get that idea from at least 20 years of critical theory, for starters. This is the strain of scholarly thought that puts truth on the backburner (if it doesn’t dispose of it entirely) in favor of a view of reality as a contested space in which nothing is certain, everything has to do with power imbalances, and ambiguity (re: “complicating, problematizing…”) is the end of all academic pursuit. She also gets this idea from radical feminism, which in saying “the personal is the political” situates the human body in a discursive battleground of contextual ideologies that laughs off the idea of transcendent morality or gender.

Shvarts’ project shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, and Yale should look no further than their own professors if they want someone to blame. If we teach our students that all reality is perceptual, all morality personal, and all truth a narrativized fiction, “Abortion Girl” is the least we should expect.