The Immigration Crisis, Right to Life, and Birthdays.

Really, there are times in my life when I know better than to go on Facebook.  Lately I’ve been having to bite my lip and quickly scroll past angry screeds about the recent immigration crisis, followed by the usual pictures of aborted fetuses and cheery Right-to-Life posts that say things like “everyone deserves to have a birthday!  Vote for life!”

And I find my patience quickly dwindling down to nothing.  Let me tell you a story:  5 years ago now, I was the site supervisor for a homeless shelter.  One of our families had a child who had a birthday while they were still our guests.  Her parents, feeling horrible about the fact that she couldn’t really have friends over for a sleepover like other young girls, went all out.  They used their electronic benefits to buy cake and cookies and balloons and presents, and they treated her like a princess.  I was telling someone about this, thinking it was a touching story of finding hope in the midst of hopelessness, and that person responded:

“If they had money, why didn’t they use it to get out of there?”

Well, there are a few responses to that.  One is that the amount of money spent on that party, which couldn’t have amounted to much more than what I have in a coin jar on my dresser on any given day, wouldn’t have been enough to pay for an apartment.  The other, more important response, is:  doesn’t every child have a right to have some pleasant memories in their life?  Do you really want to give a child the memory of no party, no desert, no presents, simply because their parent was poor?  Do you want a child to have the memory of crying themselves to sleep in a homeless shelter?  Is that really what we want?

Every child deserves to celebrate a birthday, huh?

So this immigration crisis, or refugee crisis, or what have you.  These 50,000 young children here in America, parentless, because their countries are awash in crime and poverty and chaos- do they deserve birthdays?  Or are they, like the child of the homeless couple, doomed to be judge as worthy of experiencing pain because it is a just punishment for the wrongs of their forefathers?

Truly, I do not understand the overwhelming attitude of intolerance and rage that is being expressed by people who are otherwise caring individuals.  I do get the sentiment that every child deserves a birthday.  People imagine a sort of dream life that aborted babies are missing out on- a life that involves loving parents, birthday parties, being wanted and needed and celebrated.  To have that potential extinguished is certainly a painful conceit.  So I do understand, I do.  I find it hard to comprehend how such tender-hearted people cannot concieve of the fact that such potential was surely lost from the time the proverbial pee stick turned blue, as this child was neither wanted nor celebrated from the start, and simply being born is no guarantee of that sad fact changing.

Take the refugee children, for example.  Are they celebrated?  Wanted?  Needed?  Their parents loved them enough to face the fact that they may never again see them, but to at least risk the possibility of a secure future elsewhere, far away from their now empty arms.  But what future is that?

Given the fact that they are being deported back to homes which may now be empty as a result of the drug wars, it’s not a future of birthdays.

Now, back to the homeless girl’s birthday:  I’m sure that no one really wanted her to cry herself to sleep.  What anyone whom I asked said was that her parents should be more responsible.  “I want her to have the kind of parents who get her out of that life!”  Ah, yes, of course.  If only we could take the generations of poverty, distress, maltreatment, lack of education and societal disregard that landed her there in the first place, she’d have a proper birthday!  The sentiment, once picked apart, is that her birthday shouldn’t come at taxpayer expense.  Someone *else* needs to be responsible, am I right?

There’s a fundamental injustice, though.  We can’t have it both ways.  We can’t say, “every child deserves a life of being wanted and celebrated” and then say, “but if the people in their life are not providing that it’s not MY fault.”

If we truly believe that there is a baseline, a basic life of pleasure and comforts that every child should have, don’t we have a responsibility to secure that?  Even if it hurts our pocketbooks?

When I hear people saying that it is the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico that are to blame for the plight of children and THOSE people should be responsible for securing the children’s futures, I burn.

I burn.

I am consumed.

If there is a moral imperative of which WE are conscious which OTHERS ignore, guess whose responsibility it is to secure it?  Ours.  That is like watching an old lady walk into traffic blind, then pointing at the other onlookers and saying, “YOU should have known to give her your hand.”

NO.  NO.  NO.

If you believe every child deserves to be loved, every child deserves a future, every child deserves a birthday cake- don’t point your fingers elsewhere and say that it can’t be our responsibility to open our borders and our homes.  It has to be.

It just has to be.

If you want every child to have a birthday, you’d better start learning Spanish well enough to sing “Las Mañanitas” and get to baking cakes.

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what makes women objects?

The more the Miley Mania drags on, the more I want to throttle people.

I need to say this:  If you are implying  that Miley SHOULD NOT twerk all over the person of her choosing, you are taking away her freedom to explore her sexuality in whatever way she wants (however freakish and unsettling you may find it) and you are taking away her right to be the kind of performer she wants (however embarrassing and grotesque it may be) and trying to craft her into an object of your desiring.

Yes, it is fine and good and occasionally beneficial to talk about what kind of a society we live in and what kinds of examples we want our daughters to follow, but the Miley Mania has gone far beyond that.  I am starting to find it acutely disturbing.  People are saying, in not as many words, that Miley somehow owes something to their families and should remain the chaste, adorable teen idol she started out as.  As if, because she was thrust into the spotlight at a young age and profited from it, she now owes society back.

She’s not a person, she’s an object.

The objectification of Miley Cyrus as a sexual being started LONG before the VMAs.  It started with the blurred lines between her and Hannah Montana, the plastering of bedrooms with her face, and the parents who willingly told their daughters that she was someone worth becoming.

Which, I must point out, objectified their daughters, too.

Anyone who is shocked that such a journey would culminate in the show at the VMAs must not pay attention to how the world works.  Sexual imprisonment does tend to lead to sexual rebellion- and public sexual imprisonment does tend to lead to public sexual rebellion.

But let’s talk about objectification more, why don’t we?  Because it’s oh so tempting and oh so easy to blather on about objectification as if the only time it happens is on billboards and magazine covers and on TV, as if the only way women are ever objectified is as sexual objects that men control and consume.

Ha.

If only.  If only.

Women are also objectified as virgins and mothers and cohorts and workers and teachers and on, and on, and on.

Women are still treated as commodities that society controls.  Sometimes it’s the way Miley Cyrus has been, and sometimes it’s the way Marisa Mayer has been, or the way Michelle Obama has been, or the way my junior high English teacher was.  I mean, there are a million ways to make other people into objects.  It happens to men, too.  Men who are “supposed” to be strong when they want to lay down and cry and take a nap, but then society tells them their man card will be revoked.  Or kids who are told that they should be playing with toys instead of reading, or that they should play sports instead of music, or that science is for nerds only.

But I suppose women feel it the most strongly still- not because we’re objectified as sexual beings (although that sucks) but because we’re objectified as persons.  Women’s bodies, for instance, are legislated to an extent that men may never fully grasp.   Our reproductive organs are debated in the legislature routinely by people who don’t even possess them, as if by being born female we are born potentially guilty of crimes we must never be allowed to commit.  Crimes like, for instance, wanting to not have a baby.  God forbid the “naturally tendency to nurture” not kick in and we don’t rush to sacrifice our careers and marry the bad sexual choice who impregnated us.  And we’re objectified as workers- told we don’t have the “natural competitiveness” to take on the sorts of assignments that are given to men, so over time we earn less and less money.  BUT THAT’S OKAY.  Because, as the objects in need of protection and provision that we as women naturally are (that is sarcasm, in case it’s not clear) we will marry one of those “naturally competitive” men who can foot the bill for us, and the progeny we are legally obligated to some day provide for him, should we ever conceive.

And don’t get me started on the way that abused women are objectified.  First, by the guy that gives them the black eye.  Then, by society.

Our choices are debated as an entire subclass, as if all women are the same and can be held to the same standard.  And the women who do live up to the standard become objects of adulation.

God help them should they make the wrong choice the next time around.

“She should have known better.”

F***ing objectification, right there.

So stop objectifying Miley Cyrus.

Stop objectifying women.

Stop objectifying people.

Take your anger and your outrage and use it to change society.  Change yourself.  Change your need for puritanical teen idols for the girls in your life to adore, as if YOU, YOU cannot be the example they need to see of how a woman can be successful.  Change the rules that say that women can’t make good choices about their own body and their own reproduction- or bad choices, too.  Change the stupid standards of society that say that women can’t deal with difficult and demanding jobs and shouldn’t be paid well when they do, as if women are just beings that should have been born men but don’t have enough testosterone to function properly.

Just stop.

All of your outrage just fuels the idea that a woman needs society to tell her what to do.

 

Who I am and what I’m not.

Yes, I am a Christian.  For a long time I didn’t self-identify as a Christian because I hated the fact that people would always make certain assumptions about me.  One instance stands out particularly in my mind.  I saw a table that said “Friends of the GLBT” at the associations, groups, and clubs event my first week in college.  Something prompted me to go over and strike up a conversation with the handful of students sitting there.  At first the conversation was great, but then someone made a disparaging comment about the Evangelical group.  Even though I wasn’t sure about what I believed, I felt a chill.  I wanted to say “not every Christian is like that,” but I was worried that the moment I did I would paint myself as sleeping with the enemy.

That moment is iconic of the choice I’ve had to make every day since I came back to my faith.  Do I say I’m a Christian, and allow people to make false assumptions about what I believe?  Do I say I’m a Christian and try to create a new paradigm?  One in which someone who acts evangelical (as opposed to Is An Evangelical) isn’t a gay-bashing anti-choice gun-totin’ Bible-bangin’ war-lovin’ conservative-votin’ unimaginative non-intellectually-inquisitive probably secretly scared-of-everything uh…  you get the point.  The assumptions people make about someone who is vocally Christian aren’t always the kindest.  And in many ways, I’m the opposite of many of the stereotypes.  So, for the record, let me be clear about what I am and am not:

  • I don’t think gay people are the enemy of society.  I like my gay and lesbian friends, and only want them to change if they want to.  Honestly, the complexity of this one is way too much to fit into a single bullet point, so suffice it to say this:  I don’t think gay people are the problem, I think judgmental and legalistic attitudes are.
  • I’m politically pro-choice.  Personally, I’m pro-life.  I could never imagine a circumstance in which I would have an abortion.  But that doesn’t mean that I want to tell other women what to do with their bodies and their lives- there is no ethical argument to keep an unborn child that doesn’t rely on faith in God, so a secular society should allow women to have choice.
  • I’m a registered Democrat, mostly because I wanted to vote in the last Presidential Primaries.  In my time as a registered voter, I’ve actually voted for both Republicans and Democrats.  I believe in voting based off of who you’re voting for and what their record shows, not based off of party.  Just do not tell me I’m a Republican who’s afraid of change.  I will end you.
  • Guns scare me.
  • I don’t believe the Bible should be used as a weapon. It is for worship, for exhortation, for meditation, for the strengthening of the body…  not for destruction.
  • I don’t believe in quoting the Bible to people who don’t read it. Which is why I so rarely quote it on my blog, and why fellow Christians sometimes assume I don’t read it.  I do, I just think that Christians should be able to make logical arguments without spraying Bible verses into the fray like bird shot.
  • I’m a pacifist. I was raised in the Anabaptist tradition, which means I was raised with a keen awareness of the multitude of people who were martyred for the Faith.  Martyred, that is, at the hands of the Catholic church, which leads to:
  • I believe that people should be able to worship God as they wish- no matter how much you disagree with them.  Not everyone agrees on all the tenants of faith.  I don’t think I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m more likely to believbe that we are all wrong. 
  • I actually do have an imagination, really I do. In my other lives I am a novelist and a jewelry designer.  I have no fear of thinking creatively.
  • I have no fear of other religions.  In fact, I study Buddhism and live out some of it’s practices.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Dalhi Lama.  I respect anyone who practices their faith with compassion for others, regardless of what their faith is.  I think Christianity could learn an awful lot from other religions.
  • I have no fear of being questioned. Don’t believe me?  Question me.  Debate me.  If I can’t argue my faith rationally, I don’t want to have it.
  • I have no fear of being wrong. I’ve done it before and it didn’t hurt too badly.  If I am forced to examine a belief and find it lacking, so be it.  Better that I know now than go through my entire life mistaken.

My name is Lindsey.  I am a Christian.

And I may be a pacifist, but if I ever met Fred Phelps, I’d probably have to drop kick him in the balls.

Just so we’re clear on things.

Final thoughts on abortion

So we’re bumping down off of five days of mostly abortion talk most of the time.  And it’s been an interesting ride.

I’d like to wrap it all up now as tidily as possible when dealing with this kind of issue.  First, I’d like to state again that I am personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice.  My personal beliefs stem directly from my religion- and absent from that religion I would not have any reason to have the opinion I do.  Respecting that fact, I will make no attempt to force my beliefs on someone who does not have the religious convictions I do.  Because I could not expect a girl who was raped to carry that child to term without God to hold up her head.  I could not expect a mother of four or five who is facing having another child with no money to support it and no way to pull herself up to have that child without God and a community of believers to support her.  I do believe in what is best and what is holy- I believe in the honor one brings on oneself by choosing life.  But that honor is there because it is a choice.

I believe that we all need to under stand the ethical and “natural” arguments used to counter our religious beliefs if we want to have meaningful conversations about the issue.  We need to understand what the world at large believes and why.  We cannot hope to inform the decisions of others if we do not understand the logic and thought that precedes those decisions.  To put it flatly, it’s an issue of respect.  We cannot expect someone to respect the value of our religiously informed decisions if we discount the value of their ethically informed ones.  If you show courtesy and respect, if you seek knowledge and understanding, people will respond in kind.  If you simply say, “my way is better” without even understanding the concept of any other way, people will view you as arrogant and ignorant.  And rightly so.  I am sure my way is better because I understand all the other options- and Christ and God’s love is what I have returned to.  When I debate those who have secular beliefs or religious beliefs that stem from other traditions, I debate them understanding the value and logic of their own thinking- and they respect me, because they know that my faith doesn’t come from ignorance but from knowledge.

I pray that all Christians can seek knowledge without fear, trusting that if the God they love is the true one, they will return to him always.

And as the last lap of this rather circuitous road, let’s talk about our responsibility.  I believe that as Christians we have a moral obligation to share God’s love and mercy with all whom we meet.  I believe that we fail to do so at our own peril.  I believe that when we put ourselves in God’s place and judge others we are judged in kind- and all of these beliefs stem not from my own heart but the Bible.  I believe that the way in which Christians approach and handle the issue of abortion does far, far more harm than good.  We cry out God’s love for the unborn, but in doing so we distance ourselves from the born.  We seek to save the baby and we fail, and in that failure we lose any hope we may have had of caring for the mother.

We do so at our own peril.

I will say this once.  And I will say this with all sincerity and conviction.  If you choose to condemn a woman that has gotten an abortion, and your condemnation causes her to harden her heart towards God, and she dies and receives the punishment for her hard heart-  her blood is on your hands.

I reject the basic premise that we are called to convict others of their sins and their hard hearts are not our responsibility.  No.  We are called to soften their hearts so that God himself can bring the conviction.  We are going about it the wrong way.

I’ve heard the stories of women raped by relatives, raped by male friends, torn and bleeding and broken they go to get an abortion because they are suicidal and fear that if they attempt to bring the child to term they will end both their lives.  I’ve heard the stories of these same girls being screamed at from the sidelines, called sluts and murderers.

It’s no wonder that these girls cannot accept the fact that God loves them.  How could God love them if his family brings down such hatred in his name?

This is the cost of our stance on abortion.  We do not save the child, because it is legal to end it’s life.  No, all we do is throw away the mother like so many scraps, the collateral damage in our war on a legal and societally accepted procedure.

Shame on us.

Ethical Arguments, part two

Is an embryo the same thing as a baby?

This is an argument that has been going on for a long, long time.  The Christian argument resounds more or less along the lines of “in the eyes of God it is the same, and since an embryo left in it’s natural environment will become a baby, they are obviously the same thing.”

While religiously speaking the argument is sound, so long is that is what you truly believe- the argument doesn’t hold up to logical scrutiny.  Allow me to explain: I have a coupon for a free cheeseburger.  If I take it to Burger King, I can hand it to the cashier and recieve a cheeseburger.  Which is great.

But the coupon isn’t actually a cheeseburger.  If I eat the coupon, I won’t be consuming a cheeseburger.  While to me the coupon is of equal value and worth as an actual cheeseburger (because I’m hungry!) to someone else it may not be the same.  They will look at it, not being hungry, and throw it away.  Because they don’t want a cheeseburger.

Just because something has the potential to become something else doesn’t mean they are the same thing.  A seed is not a flower.  A pea is not a vine.  A head of corn is not a cornfield.  Potential does not equal worth- worth is determined in life largely by our own desires and perceptions.  If I want to plant a garden and recieve a bag of dried beans, I will plant them.  If someone else wants a bowl of soup and recieves a bag of dried beans, they will cook them.

Now, I will admit that an embryo isn’t a coupon or a bag of beans.  In a way those are unfair analogies.  An embryo is a living, growing entity and the only thing it needs to turn into a baby is nutrients, a womb, and time.  The question then becomes if an embryo is entitled to those things.  Some people say, “yes, after it is conceived.”  Other people say, “yes, period.”  Other people say, “cancer is a living, growing entity- but it doesn’t have rights.”

Yes, it is chilling to hear a fetus compared to cancer.  But the comparison is out there.

So the question remains.  Are the two the same?  Is an embryo a baby?  Or is it simply potential to become a baby?

Ethical arguments, part one

Let’s talk ethics.

But first, let me say this:  while there are some things that do get under my skin and make me strengthen my tone, I in no way regret the decision to post this series.  I do not grieve over the squabbles in the comments.  I see a bunch of people with strongly held views struggling with how to relate those to the content of posts, and that pleases me.  Because in fairly considering our values, we find challenge and growth.  That growth doesn’t have to align with my own value system for me to take pleasure in it.

Now, let’s talk about ethics.

I have rarely heard an argument made adainst first trimester abortions that wasn’t based off of religious belief.  I have heard ethical arguments against abortion beyond that point- for example, once the brain stem is fully formed and functioning, the fetus ought to be considered a human being; or that once the fetus would be considered viable should it be born, it should be considered equal in rights to a born child.

I have heard no such argument for a first trimester abortion.

Note that I am not saying that such an argument cannot rationally exist- just that I have never heard such an argument.

Let’s not have an unequal argument.  If one person says, “this is the code of medical ethics” and another says “this is the code of religious ethics”, they aren’t having a debate.  They are simply reiterating their own feelings without consideration for the point of the other.  And if I am the one with religious beliefs, it is MY cross to bear that I must lower myself to the level of the debate at hand, rationally evaluate the arguments of my peers, and try to discredit them on their own value, or accept them as the only rational truth to be observed in the absence of belief in God.

Yes, I realize this is a highly uncomfortable fact, but we cannot foist our religious beliefs on other people to save them from their own immorality.  That immorality is a choice afforded to them by God himself, and a state whose consequences they alone will bear.

Now, I understand that when it comes to abortion rationales such as my own become tenuous- because if it is to be believed that abortion is equal to murder, it’s not someone’s own immorality that we are condemning, but instead a life that we are attempting to save.

Then we must return to the question of proof.  How is one to prove that it is murder?

My challenge to you, today, is to make a rational argument that a fetus under the age of twenty two weeks gestation is equal in value to a born child, without the use of any religious or moral arguments or religious texts.

Parental Rights

This one is for Mssc54, who can get a little cranky about it’s never being mentioned.

So a woman wants to abort.  Should the father of the child be able to control her decision?

Let’s start somewhere other than where people expect us to.  Let’s talk about a (somewhat) happily married couple.  They already have five children together and live in a small house in a small town.  She works from home part time while the older kids are in school, and he did own his own business until the bottom fell out of their town’s economy and their business was forced to close.  They are considering pulling up roots and moving closer to where her parents live- her parents have offered her employment, and he can find some kind of part-time work until they can start a new business or he figures out what he wants to do with his life.

Their savings account is nearing zero- they don’t have much time to figure things out.  That’s when she finds out she’s pregnant- despite being on the pill and being responsible.  He immediately wants to keep the child, discounting the fact that it will “make things hard” for them for a while.  He wants six kids, and they have four boys and one girl.  He’d like another girl.

She is horrified, thinking of how is she going to be able to work at all with an infant?  Right after a move?  How is all of this stress going to affect the pregnancy?  Her husband is a bit of an emotional wreck- the roller coaster they are going to be on until all the pieces fall back together is hard enough without adding an infant.  They already have five happy kids- they never even considered having another one until it just happened.

So- should the father be able to force the mother to keep the child?  Keep in mind that both parties do want to stick together and work things out in their marriage- but if he is able to legally compel her that would totally change the ball game.  And while they may be able to make everything work having this baby- at this point in her life the woman isn’t exactly young any more and it could be really, really hard.  Yes- they could have it and put it up for adoption, but the older kids would likely be very confused and hurt by that.  If they have the baby, they’re keeping it- but if they keep it it’s at the expense of their entire family- a family already indebted to relatives to just make it through.

You might tell me that story is ridiculous- but keep in mind a not small percentage of abortions are performed on women who already have more than one child and cannot afford another baby.

Now- let’s keep avoiding the point everyone expects and talk about teenage boys.  Let’s imagine seventeen year old Rick knocks up fourteen year old Tammy.  Tammy’s parents encourage her to have an abortion.  Tammy herself is terrified and nearly incapable of making her own decisions.  Tammy’s doctor says that she is still a little young to be carrying this child to term, that it may affect her body more severly than would be expected with a normal pregnancy.  So Tammy’s parents and Tammy’s doctor are both “pro-abortion”- Tammy is young and scared and unsure- but Rick, Rick wants this baby.  Let’s say for the sake of argument that Rick didn’t use protection and Tammy was naive.  So let’s say that Rick is, in fact, responsible for this pregnancy.

Does a young kid have the right to force an even younger one to have a baby?  If her parents and her doctor all agree that abortion is the most sensible course of action, should the father be able to force the girl to have the child?

Now, legally speaking- if it became possible for the father in one of these cases to get an injunction to force the mother to bear the child- whose responsibility would it be to pay for the paternity test to insure that he really is the father?  Whose responsibility would it be to pay for expenses relating to the pregnancy?  Whose responsibility would it be to pay for the delivery of the child?  For housing for the mother, if she is booted out of her house?

How would we go about insuring that the father’s rights have not been neglected?  Will women then have to have some sort of legal form indicating that the father was informed and supports the abortion?

And that leads us where we’re going, so to speak.  Let’s talk about the fact that while “forcible rape” may be the stated reason for less than one percent of rapes, it’s the unstated reason for more.  Let’s talk about abusive relationships in which the girl simply isn’t able to stand up for herself, where sex is forced on her in a way that is an awful lot like rape, where she trades her will and loses control.  Let’s talk about incest and rape by a relative- things so shameful that a girl would rather lie and say she had unprotected sex with another kid than admit that a brother, cousin, or father was raping her.

There is no legal recourse for the father of the unborn child not because of the majority of the time when his feelings have (hopefully) been considered by the mother- but for the minority of the time when having legal recourse for the father would further hurt those who are already being abused.

The same is true of parental notifications- they would simply inflame situations in which girls are at very high risk of abuse, neglect, or endangerment from their parents.  One might flippantly say “then why don’t those girls leave?” but to say that shows an incredible lack of insight into what life is like for the abused.  There are numerous books on the subject, all outlining the amazing power that an abuser has over the abused, even after they are free.  The amount of control placed over a person’s mind, the loss of will, the acceptance of abuse and even torture…

So should the father have legal rights to the unborn?

To do so would give him legal control of the mother, perhaps even to the point that he could control what doctor she saw, where and what she ate, if she was allowed to have coffee or take her depression meds…  in this case the “slippery slope” argument makes sense to me, and I don’t like where it’s sliding.  As a woman I like to have control of my own body and uterus.  Woe be it to the man who tries to take that away from me!