Friday, May 29, 2009

The Moral of the Story: Jon and Kate Plus 8, Part 1

I have never watched the reality show J&K+8 nor given the show a moment's thought in the last five years. Yet, now I think something's changed at the moment of their critical mass. Coincidence? Hardly. At just the right juncture, I’m interested and perhaps providentially so. At least, that is how it seems to me.

Jon and Kate Gosselin, the parents and main "characters" of the show, set themselves up as a Christian couple trying to raise a big family on TV. Their verbal commitment to God and faith linger somewhere above their heads throughout the show’s current four-plus seasons. Kate regularly goes on speaking engagements to mostly Christian audiences, and her name is splashed on many Christian magazine covers announcing interviews inside. A family photo graces the cover of a new book, titled Multiple Bles8ings. But right here, right now, Jon and Kate’s marriage is imploding on national television.

And I'm thinking, ‘Is there anything about this family situation that is healthy at all?’

Fertility is a god
I wrote about the idea of fertility treatment on a previous blogpost, particularly as it concerns Christian couples struggling with infertility. The Gosselins’ situation, unknown to me at the time, perfectly mirrors the situation I talk about right down to the issue of suddenly having many more babies than expected. Their first success using technology gave them twins. Kate wanted a third child, but they cancelled a potential adoption midway through the process in favor of returning to fertility treatments. This time, the sextuplets that caught the attention of a cable TV network were born. Nowhere online did I read that they questioned whether their choices and consequences were aligned with God’s wisdom, yet Kate claims “It’s what God wants for us.*” Even’s editorial review (from Publishers Weekly) of their book states that “she and Jon…decided to accept the extreme challenge God had handed them.”

What God handed them? I believe the conventional understanding of providence involves considerable less control and knowledge over an outcome than what the Gosselins have experienced. Knowing the risks and potential consequences, they circumvented infertility (infertility being a circumstance uncaused by them) to have multiples by artificial means (a circumstance caused by them). How else does an infertile couple go from zero to twins to sextuplets in such short order when they only wanted just one more baby?

The answer is that fertility is a god. Today, instead of erecting physical idols that might grant the next generation of children, livestock, and crops, many go to a clinic where its practices often result in too much of what was wanted (along with consequent “reductions”--ahem, abortions--as remedies). For couples that find themselves unable to have children naturally, the quest to change that through any means necessary can be all consuming, driving even the most well intentioned wannabe parents to take measures beyond godly limits. As Christians, we are most often sensitive to the pro-life position regarding the end of life, but rarely have we thought carefully about the pro-life side of the creation of life. Kate acknowledged the probability of multiples the second time around. We were told that there was a possibility of four, but we were truly unaware that there were seven on the day that our procedure was done, or we would not have gone through with it,**" she states in an interview. With the potential for a minimum of four more children, did they stop to ask themselves if they were crossing into recklessness by creating more lives than was their intent? If human life is as precious as we say, then we do harm to the children conceived in numbers beyond parents’ normal ability to handle. One thing is true about the use of infertility treatments: many couples may be stamping Jesus’ approval of decisions made without Him retroactively based on the results rather than on principle and responsibility.

Even in the one of the cheesiest near-foreign movies ever made (Bruce Lee’s The Game of Death), the plea to respect life stands out as a universal, objective good; in particular, it is a good that is found within the whole counsel of God. It is about time we apply the whole counsel of God to the subject of infertility and its treatments and realize the bioethical limitations that must exist. To want children is blessed. To avoid ethical pitfalls surrounding the issue of fulfilling this want is equally blessed, if not more.


(Next: The Morals of Jon and Kate Plus 8 Story, Part 2)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome to the New 'Elle: Et elle

After a bit of a scramble, the next generation of Intellectuelle is up and running, renamed Et elle! This will be a co-ed effort featuring a number of fresh voices and blogging styles. Please don't hesitate to give it a whirl.

Many, many thanks to Bonnie Lindblom and Sarah Flashing for making this happen.

How did you prepare for a second child?

Dana Loesch at Mamalogues asked this question to her blogophytes last week. I felt like sharing, so this was my answer:

After "OMG, am I PREGNANT...AGAIN?!" it was like "whoa, family of four, here we come."

To make a long story short, I determined to have this child drug-free, which was the single biggest change from having my first baby. We got out the baby stuff and ordered some new diapers. I made my OB visits and counted down to D-Day. I delivered him on the day I was supposed to have the shower. Two days later, my daughter went to preschool and announced "He's out!" Then it was mounds of paperwork (wills, life insurance, college savings plan, employee benefits adjustments, etc. etc. etc...).

Ever since, my little boy blessing has been the Tasmanian Devil for the past three years. My husband and I both think that if he came first, and not our daughter, he would be an only child now and forever more. Hah!

Now, before anyone goes off thinking that I hate my son, I couldn't love him more if he were covered in chocolate (oh wait, he is). He's so cute when he's defiant, and he's cute a lot. :)

If you are a parent, how did preparing for a second (or third or fourth...) child differ from the first?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ouroboros 5: "What if" = "What now?"

UPDATE 5/26/09: Life Training Institute's latest podcast deals with this very issue. Well worth the listen.

Orignially posted on 5/24/09:
From The Washington Times, the Hot Button article last week is about Sweden's public approval of gender abortion. In Sweden, women may legally use abortion as a method of sex selection. Yep--kill the unborn baby because the she is the wrong gender. Just to make things clear, Sweden has never had a law prohibiting abortion for sex selection. It's just now the issue has become public, and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare has decided that it will not be made illegal.

According to the article, the difficulty started with a woman who aborted twice, because she wanted a boy but conceived girls instead, citing that she already had daughters. This is eerily similar to a reasoning exercised in India and China and current purveyors of biotechnology, that of "too many girls." Gendercide.

I'm skipping the whole discussion about Sweden's philosophical consistency to the pro-abortion stance. Sorry--too callous; too disturbing.

Instead, I want to know what so-called pro-choice people think about this. I want to know why abortion rights are more important than nondiscrimination based on race, faith or gender. I want to know why having the baby you want is more important than just having a baby. I want to know how dehumanizing the unborn doesn't undermine the basic humanity of the born. I want to know at what point pro-abortion feminists will realize that an unfettered right to abortion is a key to feminism's own implosion.

Feminism implodes when feminists approve of gendercide, because gendercide can only be used to hurt women. Historically and globally, females are the undervalued and easily discarded. Feminism argues for the intrinsic worth of women--it only makes sense if it means irrespective of age--and equality of the sexes. How unfortunate that gendercide undermines intrinsic worth and equality in the human community. Metaphysically, gender is a second-tier property, essential to the individual identity, but not foundational to being human. In other words, gender is an accidental property. What does it say about feminists if they choose to support such consumerized death based on the metaphysically nonessential? Oh yes, if you haven't realized it already, abortion is a retail consumer service.

Again and again, the pro-abortion rights movement and its defenses of abortion on-demand shows that the movement rests on nothing other than the exercise of power over the powerless; no other rationale supporting abortion is ever stated without it having been said about another group for the exact same purpose and reasoning. If gendercide is a future reality that we must endure, I hope abortion rights supporters who are women realize that they can never justifiably fight for equality in any arena (equal rights, equal moral standing, equal pay, etc.) outside of the womb if they are willing to deny equality to females who are in the womb.

Ouroboros, the art of self-destruction.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Memorial Day

I think of the 100,000+ Americans buried in Great Britain, France, Germany, Okinawa, and other countries. We here on American soil have much to be grateful for in light of their sacrifice and service to not only our freedom, but the freedom of the world today.

Memorial Day Laugh In

At first, I was afraid of what this spoof might have in it. It's as ridiculous as the actual infomercial, only funny. Happy Memorial Day to all our men and women of the Armed Forces, and to the Pentagon and the DOD. And especially to Donald Rumsfeld, who only got criticized for all the wrong things. Cheers!

Credit YouTube user boomaga.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Therefore, I Am Pro-Choice

c/o First Things (1994), Killing Abortionists: A Symposium gave serious thought and reflection from notable pro-life respondents to the ethical nature of the termination of abortionists. I found Dr. Robert P. George's contribution so consise and so strong, I am persuaded by the sheer genius of his brevity to

Here is what tipped the scales for me:

"I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice."


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Woe to You, Hypocrites!"

An excerpt from the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Geisler/Turek) that I found very...interesting:

The United States Congress was in a rare joint session. All 435 representatives and 100 senators were in attendance, and the C-SPAN-TV cameras were rolling. The members were gathered together to hear a speech by a descendant of George Washington. But what they thought would be a polite speech of patriotic historical reflections quickly turned into a televised tongue-lashing. With a wagging finger and stern looks, Washington's seventh-generation grandson declared,

"Woe to you, egotistical hypocrites! You are full of greed and self-indulgence. Everything you do is done for appearances: You make pompous speeches and grandstand before these TV cameras. You demand the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats wherever you go. You love to be greeted in your districts and have everyone call you "Senator" or "Congressman." On the outside, you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness! You say you want to clean up Washington, but as soon as you get here you become twice as much a son of hell as the one you replaced!

"Woe to you, makers of the law, you hypocrites! You do not practice what you preach. You put heavy burdens on the citizens, but then opt out of your own laws!

"Woe to you, federal fools! You take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, but then you nullify the Constitution by allowing judges to make up their own laws.

"Woe to you, blind hypocrites! You say that if you had lived in the days of the Founding Fathers, you never would have taken part with them in slavery. You say you never would have agreed that slaves were the property of their masters but would have insisted that they were human beings with unalienable rights. But you testify against yourselves because today you say that unborn children are the property of their mothers and have no rights at all! Upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed in this country. You snakes! You brood of vipers! You have left this great chamber desolate! How will you escape being condemned to hell!"
Of course such an address never really took place (if it had, you certainly would have heard about it!). Who would be so blunt and rude to address the nation's leaders that way? Certainly no one claiming to be a Christian! Are you sure?

Monday, May 11, 2009

When "I hate you" Is a Compliment

Disclaimer: this is NOT an endorsment for Quiznos.

Credit: YouTube user Oceanic890

There's something innate in every woman that allows us to understand this commercial perfectly. No, not the sandwiches--the jealousy, of course! In the average female mind, that some other woman is jealous of her (for any of a variety of reasons) is something of a compliment.

Yes, the spot is an amusing and witty celebration of two halves of the breaking of the 10th Commandment. Sadly, women live in the spirit of this commercial everyday, and there's nothing healthy about it. Particularly for women, "thou shall not covet" doesn't exist simply to show us that coveting/envy/jealousy are bad. It exists to show us that we have no need to be jealous of another for anything. Christian women have a secure and liberated identity in Jesus Christ, free from the race for material matters and comparative identity (the constant comparison of yourself with others in order to dwell on what's missing in your own life). In a world that over-glorifies supermodels and trendy handbags and sunglasses, we are saved from living in this skin-deep insignificance.

"I hate you" is sometimes a compliment, but it shouldn't be.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Interview: Matthew Lee Anderson

There is no doubt that electronic media in the form of Internet communications is the ultimate revolution of life on earth. Ever since the first century AD, Christians in particular have been eager to use whatever medium readily available to make the Christian message public. Perhaps Paul the Apostle is our greatest example, meeting people in the marketplaces, institutions of higher learning, and the open air "chat room" of the Greek Areopagus. Today, our Areopagus is the blogosphere, webzines, and YouTube (and GodTube too maybe...maybe not).

The blogosphere in particular, as big and wide as it is, has made it possible for many bright people to contribute to the intellectual life of the thoughtful Christian. A few months ago, my friend Matthew Lee Anderson, organizer of the original GodBlogCon, graciously gave me a few precious moments of his time to let me peek into his literary forays. Amongst his online on goings are his blog, Mere Orthodoxy, a smattering of articles on popular Christian websites, and a chapter in the book, The New Media Frontier. So what is up with this guy, certainly a young man at 26, having so much to say?

LW: Blogging, particularly Christian blogging, has, as far as I have seen, really taken off in the last five years. There are numerous apologetics, commentary, and devotional-style blogs out there right now (including mine!). Tell me about the blog you contribute to, Mere Orthodoxy, and what role it plays in the blogosphere.

MA: Mere Orthodoxy, or just Mere-O, started as a joint venture with college friends. We wanted it to be a haven for reasonable conversations about faith and culture from the standpoint of mere orthodoxy, the classical, conservative Christian tradition.

LW: What role does your blog play in the blogosphere?

MA: It’s a small role; I wouldn’t say that it is a major stopping point in the Christian blogging community. We at Mere-O try to aim at more substantive analysis about events happening in church and culture, and sometimes that doesn’t play well online. Politics are what always draws traffic, and there were so many issues were related to faith and politics in the last election cycle.

LW: What are the issues that you personally like to emphasize?

MA: I don’t really have a specific area. It depends on what I’m reading at the time. Life and death issues are always an interest for me; so are theological issues particularly from a historical angle. Of particular interest is the state of the church in North America and how we can make it thrive, specifically with young people.

LW: The book, The New Media Frontier, contains a chapter by you. Briefly tell me about the purpose of the book and what your thoughts are in it.

MA: [Jokingly] That was a mistake by the publisher. They should not have had me in there. The purpose of the book is to equip those who are unfamiliar with new media (particularly blogging). For Christians, it is a valuable resource. I was at a Family Research Council meeting recently and the room was full of laypeople who were aware enough to come to a blogging conference, but they didn’t understand how to blog, how to comment, or what to write about. Those who do blog seem to be culturally aware Christians. The book seeks to provide laypeople with a greater cultural awareness on a practical level. It contains chapters on using the new media within church settings, apologetics, and bioethics. The day-to-day Christian life has to be carried over to your online neighbor with the goal of being a winsome witness for the Gospel.

LW: Now, you've also written a couple of other things that have gotten some attention lately. The first is your article, titled The New Evangelical Scandal, in which you point out that political allegiances in younger evangelicals have shifted because of shifting priorities. It has drawn some criticism but a lot of agreement as well. I perceive that those who disagree that they ought to be thought of negatively in this way. Rather, they see it as a positive. How do you respond to that?

MA: I understand the rationale behind the leftward shift in thinking (having a greater affection for social justice, big government accommodation, and repudiation of the religious right). However, I have a difficult time sympathizing with a lot of it, because much of it is a failure of them to understand the issues well. For younger evangelicals to say there are other things that Republicans need to address is correct. But to then say that we should campaign for and support someone who misses the abortion issue but supports others is misguided. Abortion and marriage are still among the most important issues that come to my mind.

LW: How serious is this situation, in your opinion?

MA: Well, I’ve taken a lot of grief for the article, being pigeonholed as the typical right-wing nut. My tone towards the younger evangelical liberalization was critical, but a lot of their conclusions I’m okay with. I employ many of the things they emphasize, like [open dialogue and] conversation, which is always desirable. My criticisms are primarily about their reasons for using them. I don’t think the situation is all that serious, because most people who really love Jesus can also be persuaded to think more clearly about Jesus as well.

LW: The criticism I see from "younger evangelicals" against, to make a contrast, "older evangelicals" is a lack of cultural engagement and anti-intellectualism. Yet, I can see that younger evangelicals are also guilty of those same things, only in different ways. For example, I don't see much sympathy for poor, disenfranchised Southern white people. I also don't see any more interest in pursuing Christianity intellectually than in previous decades proportionally to the available information out there. How do you view the criticism?

MA: The second criticism is spot on. We should persuade Christian evangelicals that reading hard books is something we should be doing with our time. It is true that there is as much anti-intellectualism with the younger crowd as with the older. Most younger, white evangelicals tend to be more intellectual in part because their parents put them through college. We're using what our parents provided and berating them for what most of them had no opportunity to have at the same level. Let’s check the criticisms we are making and the plank in our own eyes first.

Regarding cultural engagement, our parents’ generation did engage in culture but differently. Beating up on the evangelical ghetto is an easy thing to do. [But let’s consider that] the Jewish people preserved their culture in a hostile world by living in a ghetto. Sometimes that is a good cultural strategy to have. Our parents saw their world as hostile, so that may have been a good strategy. For us, the new engagement may end up being consumption. A lot of the mantra of cultural engagement may be an excuse to consume the culture without asking, “is this antithetical [to Christianity]?” We don’t need to consume culture in order to witness to it.

LW: So, you're twenty-six years of age and fit into the age group that typically encompasses "younger evangelical," as do I. Why do you think differently than the evangelicals you describe?

MA: I’m not sure that I do think differently; I do, after all, identify with the ethos of the young evangelical. If I do think differently, it is due to my own education and adherence to [the ideas of] G.K. Chesterton. We need to cultivate Chestertonian patriotism with respect to evangelicalism, which loves it while working to reform it. That’s what I’d like to do.

LW: You also wrote an online series about dating and marriage. A lot of people are going to wonder how does a twenty-something young man who's still technically a newlywed himself know anything about marriage! Tell me what this book does.

MA: People forget that Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye when he was 18. I think there is something to be said for saying what needs to be said. I think I am writing as one who has made a lot of mistakes, all the mistakes (though I’m not making a comparison between me and Josh Harris). The insights into marriage and dating are fundamentally from my own experiences in dating, both painful and joyful. I came to realize that no one in the Christian world has any idea how young people are supposed to navigate dating. The confusion and the decay of the social fabric place an immense responsibility on the individual to make good decisions themselves, because no institution is helping them along the way. My writing tries to address how thoughts about God and relationships affect their romantic life. Then I move into the practical as to how they should behave. I really want to push off the “what should I do?” questions and ask instead “what do I think about marriage and God?” If you’re on your own, you are going to do well or do badly based on who you are. [It’s a call] to make sure you’re a good person and understand the Gospel.

LW: Please share an example of what you’ve learned.

MA: I’ve learned that we talk a very good game about marriage in the evangelical world, but few people actually commit to the principles [of Christian marriage]. Personally, I was getting the emotional benefits of marriage without being married, which is a common occurrence, both in the evangelical world as well as the world in general. Ask 90% of evangelicals about marriage [and they’ll say] “yes, I believe in marriage,” but in reality that belief doesn’t affect their day-to-day romantic life. That’s really a problem. I reached a point where I realized that even though I affirmed marriage in some abstract way, I didn’t really have any reasons why it was better than any of the alternatives. People don’t have a robust vision of why they should get married.

LW: What can the church do to correct this perception?

MA: The misperception of marriage is that whatever it is, it is in the eye of the beholder. We do funny things at weddings, and we don’t know why. Helping young evangelicals to understand the traditions surrounding weddings and marriage would be a good start--for example, cutting the cake and serving each other—the idea behind it is that this is the first act of mutual service, which is at the heart of Christian marriage. The [joke of] shoving of cake [into the face] is a perversion of that. We need to recover the [meaning of] traditions and grasp the deeper ideas of marriage. These are fundamentally Chesterton’s views; he says it a lot better than I.

We spent the last few minutes talking about church and moving to St. Louis. I am thankful that we have both found The Journey the church we call home. Matt is a great interviewee; I found his prefacing every answer to my questions with “That’s a great question” to be flatteringly complimentary.

As to what I think, I feel particularly refreshed to hear a young Christian articulate the way he does about how he thinks faith should be lived out in everyday life. Our pastor often says we are “living in the tension,” which, in this case, would be the tension between expressing Christian truth to an often unreceptive audience and reserving it for the sake of interpersonal diplomacy, both of which are crucial to the advancement of the Gospel. Christians in every generation should keep this tension in mind and ask for the godly wisdom that determines when and how liberally we should express both.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Atheism, the Cure for Inalienable Rights

A few months ago, I was kicking the euthanasia question around with a few of my fellow churchgoers at Theology at the Bottleworks. The issue of rights, specifically the right to legalized euthanasia became part of the topic. Underlying that question was the question, "what does God have to say about it?" was not directly discussed, but I could sense the strain that many of the attenders were under keeping it out of the discussion. Philosophically, the question of euthanasia comes down to the classic premise, 'If God does not exist, then all things are permissible.' In this case, if God does not exist, then euthanasia is permissible.

At face value, I agree, but does that give anyone the right to commit suicide, the right to euthanize someone else, or the right to legalization? If it is a question of rights, I don't think so. The consequence of the idea that God does not exist is that objective judgments (neither morals nor rights nor any claims to truth) do not exist.

My argument caches out like so:
1. If God does not exist, then objective moral rights do not exist.
2. The claim that anyone has an objective moral right to euthanasia is a claim to an objective reality that does not exist if God does not exist.
3. Therefore, a claim to an objective moral right to euthanasia does not exist.

Any atheist rallying to legalize euthanasia has two problems here. In terms of legalization, it's a non-starter. Atheism negates any objective right to anything (i.e. euthanasia), which means no one can make it incumbent upon other people to allow or approve of euthanasia. Second, the atheist is guilty of a philosophical incoherence at this point between atheism (to justify the non-objectivity of morals) and the claim to an objective moral right to euthanasia. If anyone wants the argument for legalized euthanasia to go forward, then the argument must reach beyond the limits of atheism for something else, and God only knows what that is. /smirk

One woman there, I think, captured the essense of the issue perfectly. She said in effect, if you want to end your own life, why do you need a law and a mechanism (vis-a-vis a lethal drug) to permit you to do that? Very simply, stop eating and drinking.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vote For Me!

My Tea Party sign is one of the top five in the Mother of All Conservatives contest, and the grand prize is a Wii. Please do me a huge HUGE favor and go to the website and vote for my sign!