Friday, June 29, 2007

My New Heroes

The men serving in SONrise Missions are committing themselves to preaching the gospel AND bettering the quality of life for the people in North Uganda. It's a beautiful endeavor for beautiful people who have far too long lived under the debris of war, disease, poverty, hunger, and tyranny.

This is a link to a full article about them and how you, if you feel so inclined, can support them. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Evan Almighty Review

Last night Will, Maura, and myself went to see Evan Almighty. To be honest, I was kind of predisposed to dislike the movie, because it's predecessor, Bruce Almighty, was hysterical and Jim Carrey played Bruce. As a rule of thumb, I usually despise movies that try to produce a sequel without the original character in it, especially when that original character is JIM CARREY (hence my epic boycott of Dumb and Dumberer).

However, I truly loved this movie. I thought it was WAY better than Bruce Almighty. It was extraordinarily clean: no sex, nudity, violence, or cursing (except one mention of the animal: "jackass"). Most importantly, considering the biblical undercurrents of the story, this movie is a COMEDY, not a MOCKERY--that's a vital distinction. While slapstick, wild animal antics, and embarrassing situations were rife, the movie did not mock God, The Bible, Christians, belief in miracles, divine intervention, faith etc. etc. The movie actually portrays God has all-knowing, wise, loving, and His authority as sovereign and deserved. Man's rebellion against God is portrayed as futile and unwise, to say the least.

For those with concerns, (there are some reviews out there that claim this movie is blasphemous because God promised to never flood the earth again and there is nothing comical about vast amounts of people being destroyed in God's wrath). Based on those objections, I would bet those individuals haven't bothered to actually watch the film. I hate when people ruin movies, so I will refrain from doing that. But to ease any concerns, I will outline the general premise.

THIS MOVIE IS NOT SUPPOSE TO BE THE ACTUAL STORY OF NOAH. It is a modern day FICTIONAL tale about a REGIONAL flood, not a worldwide flood. God {played by the loveable Morgan Freeman} calls upon a self-obsessed congressman who wants to change the world named Evan Baxter and commands him to build an ark to save the region.

Beneath the silliness exists some tender, wonderfully beautiful moments that capture the essence of family unity, sacrifice, obedience (even when it makes you look crazy), mercy, justice and God's superior wisdom, authority, and discipline motivated by His LOVE for mankind. Needless to say, Maura and I cried like the sentimental saps that we are. Obviously, I wouldn't look to a Hollywood comedy for perfect theology, but I found the message inspiring.

Anyway, I recommend it. I think kids and adults alike will enjoy this movie and possibly engage in meaningful dialogue as a result.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Environmentalism-A Dirty Word?

"The devil has two horns: the horn of pride that says there is nothing we ought to do, and the horn of despair that says there is nothing we can do."

Environmentalism. It's a term used to describe a broad and DIVERSE range of concerns, beliefs, and initiatives pertaining to the atmosphere, the earth, the earth's resources and creatures who inhabit it. As opposing views in America become more and more polarized (and thus more cliched and shallow), an increasing tension has emerged between evangelicalism and environmentalism. There are many factors that contribute to this tension, and being that I identify myself with Christianity, I will address the mindset and/or objections coming from SOME Christian camps.

1. Association.

SOME Christians deem environmentalism as a cause of democrats, liberals, New Agers, feminists, abortionists, gays (bit of a stretch), and atheists who refuse to worship God, so they worship nature instead. These stereotypes (yes, stereotypes) taint environmentalism for many believers. But I believe that we have unfairly lumped in or over-lapped environmentalism with separate issues, perhaps neglecting a divine call to godly environmentalism and stewardship. As far as people who devote themselves to environmentalism that are not Christians, I am not sure why they are met with such hostility or bewilderment from believers. Whether they know it or not, their desire to maintain God's creation is an act of obedience to the innate order God has set up-to be in awe of His glorious creation and treat it responsibly. It can also be a cry for God. Instead of branding them as tree-hugging hippies, we should recognize their appreciation for creation (even if it's misguided) and use it to reach out to them.

2. The Global Warming debate.

A good portion of believers dismiss the concern over global warming for a myriad of reasons. Some honestly believe there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove that mankind is causing global warming or that global warming is even an imminent threat. A valid position. I myself tend to lean towards that camp. Some speculate that the earth is just going through its natural cycle. Other believers reject global warming on the grounds that Revelation lays out the demise of the world, and global warming ain't it (although one might argue that just because global warming might not cause our demise, it could still do some horrendous damage). And yet, I fear that SOME others have confused their politics with the tenets of Christianity. Some leaders discourage belief in global warming under the guise of religion when it has more to do with the effects on big business regulations. I am no scientist, so I don't pretend to have the answers about global warming, but I can see how some Christians view the hype as alarmism, but I also see how godly people are concerned about global warming, and that in no way should diminish the validity of their faith. Rejection or acceptance of global warming should in no way serve as a barometer to measure whether or not someone is "Christian" enough. The evidence is viewed and interpreted differently, and neither side (if dealing with the facts honestly) should be scrutinized for their stance. Anyway, global warming (just one aspect of environmentalism) has pushed the Christian community further away from environmental movements.

3. End-Times Mentality.

SOME believers are so certain that Jesus' return will be SO VERY VERY SOON and the destruction of the earth is inevitable that environmentalism is deemed a useless waste of time and a deceiving distraction from "real moral issues." This mentality puts forth that the earth and our pilgrim-like earthly existence are temporary, so those who would put energy into a dying earth are "worldly" and in SOME VERY SMALL EXTREME circles, even the enemies of God.

This End-Times mentality is disturbing for a few reasons. One, because every generation of Christians since the time of Jesus have believed that Jesus would surely return in their time. Could Jesus come back today? Absolutely. If He will or not, is another story. And since NO ONE knows the when (no matter how badly people want to pretend to know the when and how), it is bad theology to use the return of Christ as an excuse to dismiss environmentalism. Two, our temporal earthly existence does not negate our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth while we are here.

Environmentalism, like anything, can be distorted and abused. It can be turned into a form of idolatry by placing the earth and its fullness OVER the well being of human beings and "worshipping" creation, instead of the Creator. But I would contend that the other extreme of raping the earth and opposing (sometimes demonizing) movements of environmental preservation is not only poor stewardship, but a violation of loving your neighbor AS YOURSELF. As long as God has placed precious life on this earth, we must do what we can to preserve and maintain the earth, temporary though it may be. Many preservation efforts are about keeping waters from being contaminated, keeping animals from extinction (which affects the balance in nature), keeping lands healthy and fertile, so they can harvest food, etc. etc. Those are all preservation efforts that, for a Christian, are just as much about loving our neighbor, as it is caring for creation. Without maintaining clean water, fertile lands, and animal life, many humans would needlessly suffer and die, as they already do. A "Jesus is coming back, so we don't have to do anything" kind of attitude, is not only lazy, but harmful. When millions of people (mainly children) die every year because they do not have access to clean water, or their land cannot produce food, or pollution corrupts the air (which spurs on all kinds of diseases), then environmentalism IS a MORAL issue. By neglecting the earth or abusing it, we harm our neighbors. It's easy to dismiss the efforts of those trying to preserve clean water as "worldly" when we have an abundant supply of it, but I bet environmentalism would be viewed as a Godsend, if we couldn't get clean water, or food from our lands. That is a reality for millions of people.

Currently, there are environmental movements within the evangelical community (The National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Environmental Network, Restoring Eden, etc.) that are coming under fierce criticism from many Christians. It saddens me to see their efforts belittled as a "lesser cause" or "a waste of time." If these faithful servants of God are caring for the environment because they desire to honor God's creation and better the quality of life for our neighbors, families, and future generations, then it's not a lesser distraction, but an act of obedience, a manifestation of loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and STRENGTH, and loving their neighbors as themselves. And it should not be so easily dismissed.

Here is the website for the terms of Creation Care signed by hundreds of evangelicals.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

American Idol Gives Back

These are my two favorite montages from American Idol Gives Back (the huge fundraiser concert that raised over $70 million dollars for AIDS and Malaria victims in Africa).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

European Jesus Vs. African Jesus

Recently, a painting portraying Jesus as black caused a bit of an uproar among traditional Christians on the grounds of accuracy. Jesus wasn't African or the product of a race that is black, therefore any portrayal of Jesus as black is inaccurate. Some claim even "dangerous," hence the attempt to get the paintings of black Jesus banned.

While I don't believe Jesus was black (based on his ethnicity and heritage), I do believe we Westerners need to hold the accuracy mirror up to our own faces. We can cry "inaccuracy!" all day long at the paintings of black Jesus, but what have we said about European Jesus? You know, fair-haired, light eyes, white-skinned Jesus? Isn't that the predominate picture of Jesus that hangs on the walls and minds of most Christians emmersed in Western Civilization? Where's the movement to ban Him? Jesus may not have been African, but He surely wasn't European either (and don't even get me started on American Jesus...OY). He probably had dark hair and eyes with dark olive-colored skin. You know, kind of like a 1st century Middle-Eastern Jew? Fancy that!

Now, why is our false western portrayal of Jesus' physical attributes any better than the false African version? Why is it acceptable to make Jesus white when He wasn't, but unacceptable to make Him black when He wasn't? It's a bit hypocritical. I don't like to play the race card, but such hostility aimed toward "Black Jesus" suggests a form of latent racism.

Racism aside, there is an even more significant issue that runs deep beneath a controversy as superficial as the skin color of Jesus. The deeper issue is the distortion of Jesus. There's an old saying that goes:

"God created man in His own image, and ever since, man has been trying to return the favor."

Whether it's manipulating Jesus' physical attributes to mirror our own or slanting His teachings to fit our politics and ideologies, mankind continues to try and control Jesus by making Him more like us, instead of submitting ourselves to making mankind more like Jesus.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Think I Have A Crush On Mike Huckabee

Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee appeared on Hannity and Colmes last night and was posed with some very direct questions about faith, Christ, and evolution. I found his response realistic, sincere, and well put. It's a shame his voice is not given more air time during the GOP debates and in the news. I would really love to hear more from him.

A Glimpse of Heaven

Today, I covered the best story ever! I went to the Amicalola Deer Park for a tour, so I could take some pictures and write a preview for their upcoming fundraiser/grand opening next weekend. It's 30 fenced acres devoted to "housing" rescued animals, primarily deer. They have 84 deer, 37 goats and sheep, fesants, pigs, llamas, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, aguanas, guinea pigs, and a few herding dogs. This non-profit organization takes in all kinds of neglected and abused animals and gives them a safe place to live. I'll tell you what, if this whole journalism/writer thing does not work out, I'm going to live there!

The best thing about the rescue facility is that since the animals they take in are not carnivores and they obtain most of the animals while they are still babies, all the animals coexist among each other. They are not segregated. It's so funny to watch them eat together: horses, deer, pigs, and fesants. It's hysterical when they chase each other. I got to hold a baby deer that nibbled on my chin and then promptly pooped on me--but I loved every second of it.

How the wild-life can develop relationships and trust with humans astounds me. I know most people just chalk it up to "domestication," but I really believe there is something spiritual in the bonds that can be cultivated between humans and animals. It's a beautiful thing.

If anyone is interested in donating time (they need volunteers to help build barns and such) or money just go to:

Next weekend, there will be a grand opening event, where there will be music, crafts, kid activities, and of course animals. It's going to be so fun. If anyone is interested in going with Will and me, let me know.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tribute to Brave Heart

It's no secret that I am a peace-loving hippie at heart. While I don't appreciate the romanticization of war, which far too many movies and people do, I just love the movie, Brave Heart. I hadn't seen it in a few years and Will had never seen it, so we watched it recently. I balled, of course. So, I just wanted post one of my favorite parts in the movie as a little tribute. Fear not, it's not a bloody battle scene.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Myth of "Avoiding the Appearance of Evil"

1 Thess. 5:22: "Abstain from all appearance of evil."

It is possibly the most misunderstood, misused verse in the entire bible. We've all had it said to us and we have probably said it to others. It's usually applied when we feel someone isn't actually sinning, but we believe that some unidentified lurking spy could misconstrue our behaviour as sin because it "looks bad."

However, this verse, as it appears in the KJV, is a poor translation, and has NOTHING to do with freedoms and liberties that could be misinterpreted as evil.

Here's the 1 Thess. 5:22 in Greek put into transliteration:

apo pantos eidous ponèrou apechesthe

The word eidos, based on meaning and context, is actually best translated as "forms" or "kind."

In every other widely used translation besides the OLD KING JAMES version, 1 Thess 5:22 reads something like this: "Abstain from all forms of evil." This has nothing to do with appearances. It's referring to actual evil, in whatever form it manifests: stealing, lying, fornication, adultery, greed, etc. Whatever form it comes in, avoid it!

Here's how the verse reads in the most used translations:

1 Thessalonians 5:22

New International Version: Avoid every kind of evil.
New American Standard: Avoid every form of evil.
New Living Translation: Avoid every kind of evil.
English Standard Version: Abstain from every form of evil.
Contemporary English: Don't have anything to do with evil.
New King James: Abstain from every form of evil. (NKJ remedied the older version's poor translation)
American Standard: Abstain from every form of evil.
Darby Translation: Hold aloof from every form of wickedness.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: Stay away from every form of evil.
New International Reader's Version: Stay away from every kind of evil.
Worldwide English: Have nothing to do with any wrong thing.

The Old King James isn't technically wrong, but being that most of us do not utilize old English, we misread it. It's use of the word appearance more accurately means..."avoid evil whenever it makes an appearance." The context of the word is as occurrence, not outward appearance.

Not only is the appearance of evil version misread, it's taken out of context. Read the verse within the context in which it's placed:

1 Thess. 5: 19-22
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

The Message puts this verse in even simpler terms.

19-22 Don't suppress the Spirit, and don't stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don't be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what's good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

Paul isn't even writing about specific lifestyles or what constitutes as grey areas or liberties for Christians. He's instructing on how to respond to prophecy. The text basically means: don't despise the gift of prophecy, but don't buy into everything either. Therefore, TEST ALL prophecy-keep what is good, and disregard what is evil (a valuable lesson to take heed to with today's abundant batch of false prophets). Clearly, this verse has nothing to do with how a believer may or may not appear to another person.

But for the sake of argument, let's pretend for a moment that "avoiding the appearance of evil" meant trying to avoid appearing evil to other people.

Exactly whose perspective of evil are we trying to cater to here? Believers, unbelievers, or both? How about the bezillion sects within believers: Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Calvinists, Charismatics, Mennonites, Amish, Seven Day Adventists? Are we trying to avoid appearing evil to people belonging to different religions: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Scientologists, Christian Scientists? How do we chose? Is it the ones that are most convenient for us? Is it all of them? You can see how this can quickly delve into legalism, the squelching of Christian freedom, and more obviously: IMPOSSIBILITY.

Eyes viewing life through the lens of perversion will undoubtedly pervert everything and anything. People who look for evil everywhere, find it, whether it exists or not. There are small pockets of Christians (the perverted pure) that taint nearly every activity, situation, scenario, and object.

Let's make a little list of just some of the things that appear evil to different groups, shall we?

Drums, guitars, dancing, swimming, co-ed colleges, co-ed anything, women in pants, women speaking in church, bright-colored clothing, worshipping on Sunday instead of the OT sabbath, playing cards, movies, plays, any other music beside hymns, alcohol, virgin drinks (because someone could think it's alcohol, gasp!), glass bottles (because they look like the same bottles alcohol is served in), guns, coffee, tattoos, piercings, spanking children, speaking in tongues (one could think you are demon possessed), home-schooling, chewing gum, beards, facial hair, long hair on men, jeans, bowling, eating at a restaurant with a bar in it, cigars, going into a Blockbuster or Movie Gallery, etc. etc.

The list is endless of objects and activities that appear evil to different denominations of believers. We all know it is completely impossible to abstain from the appearance of evil. We can't even abstain completely from that which is actually evil, let alone innocent liberties that could possibly appear evil if someone was walking by and squinting....

The real issue is that JESUS appeared evil ALL the time, especially to religious people. He ate and drank (wine, not grape juice, baptists), he turned water into wine to keep the festivities going for people who had been drinking all day, hence the accusations of being a wine-bibber and glutton. He hung around with tax collectors and prostitutes and went into places deemed "unclean." He didn't perform the ceremonious hand cleansing rituals. He didn't follow the man-made religious traditions of the sabbath. He was with the woman at the well all alone, a Samaritan no less. People accused Jesus of being demon possessed because of how he appeared.

The misused version of this verse only heightens our already unhealthy fixation on appearances and superficial piety instead of true substance. The terms of what appears evil are usually defined by those who are offended with a particular activity that can't be classified as real sin, thus it appears evil. The whole thing breeds suspicion, judgmentalism, and even idolatry. When we start assigning more power to inanimate objects or activities than they actually possess, it can turn to a form of idolatry. Drums are not evil in and of themselves. Can they be USED for evil? Absolutely. However, they can also be used for good. Is alcohol evil in and of itself? No. But when people abuse it by drinking too much of it, the sin is the person getting drunk, not the alcohol.

Most of the time, people unknowingly misuse this verse with the VERY BEST INTENTIONS, because they desire to appear their very best, so they can lead people to Christ. It's actually very admirable, but usually ineffective. One thing people in the world are good at is spotting phoniness, even good-intentioned phoniness. The Bible says people will know us by our love, not by our ideal personas (which are false representations, no matter how you spin it). In an attempt to show how separate we are from the world, we kill the common ground of humanity, which is essential for loving people to Christ. Totally abstaining (or pretending to abstain in public) from things that are harmless in moderation or completely innocent only strangle the joy out of Christianity, and the world can see that, too.

If someone has a personal conviction about an object or an activity, then they should ABSOLUTELY ABSTAIN, not because it may look bad to someone else, but because it tempts that person to actually sin. If you know someone has a drinking problem and cannot have a drink without getting drunk or wanting to get drunk and you have them over for dinner, don't serve alcohol, not because it looks bad, but out of respect and love for the other person. We shouldn't hide our liberties, if we drink with dinner, or go to a movie, or play cards, or whatever. The problem with always trying to cater to various people’s views of evil is that one, it is impossible and two, it usually backfires. We end up creating a disconnect between who we are in public and who we are in private, creating the plastic Christian image that makes us completely unrelatable to the very people we are trying to reach. Plus, secrecy gives birth to sin and can transform something innocent very easily into actual sin. The stumbling block warning is not a suggestion to keep our liberties a secret from one another, as if to lead others to believe that we never drink, dance, play cards, or whatever. We don’t have to cater to people’s judgmentalism, but to our brothers' and sisters' weaknesses and personal convictions-honestly and openly. Big difference. When we keep our liberties a secret in the name of “avoiding the appearance of evil,” we compromise the unity, transparency, and accountability (not to mention honesty) within the body of Christ and that isn't good for anyone.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Question About The Da Vinci Code

This might sound like a weird question, but I am curious, so I'll ask.

The DA Vinci Code, first a theory (or fable), then a novel, then a movie, stirred a huge commotion among Christians because of its assertion that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and she gave birth to His daughter after He was crucified.

I was watching a documentary about the DA Vinci Code on the History Channel, and it featured a few Evangelical leaders on the program. One of them said, "It is complete and utter blasphemy to even suggest Jesus was married," Another said, "Jesus being married is a lie created to take down the church."

Now, I do not believe for one second that Jesus was married. I don't believe there is any proof or reliable record of such a union. I don't think it served His purpose in coming to Earth, establishing the new covenant, and sacrificing Himself for the sins of the world.

That being said, why would it be blasphemy or take down the church, if it were somehow "proven" that Jesus was married? I can see if the premise was that Jesus was shacking up with Mary Magdalene. The assertion would be: Jesus sinned, thus exposing his divinity as a fraud, and negating his death on the cross. Now that would be blasphemy and threaten the legitimacy of the church.

But suppose for a moment that it could be "proven" that Jesus did marry Mary Magdalene. Would it really shake the foundations of Christianity? Or would it just be one more fact about Jesus' life in which He set an example of what a marriage should be like and another picture of the bride of Christ? If it had always been taught that Jesus was married, I don't think any of us would think it was weird. Again, I do not believe He was married at all. I just want to know if I am missing something. Why would it be so threatening if He was married? How would that negate His divinity? It wouldn't for me.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Worst Haircut EVER!

It's summer, in Georgia. It's hot and will only get hotter. Our little Alpha-male, Caspian, has a butt-load of thick fur and is therefore highly susceptible to heat exhaustion. Of course, he DESPISES haircuts. Forget a buzzer or clippers, he gets into a full on convulsing frenzy just at the sound. So scissors it is! But he still won't hold still, which resulted in the hack job Will did. It's pathetic looking, I know, but atleast Caspian won't be as hot. :)

My Non-Romantic Crush on Tony Campolo

There was a time in my life when I was becoming very disillusioned with American Christianity--a Christianity increasingly becoming more and more tainted by the pretenses of image, the compromises of politics (from both the Democratic and Republican parties), the making of homosexuals and other easy targets the scapegoats for everything that is wrong in the world, attempting to moralize the world instead reaching the world, and utilizing our power to rule instead of utilizing our power to serve.

Unfortunately, whether prominent voices arise from the political sphere, the entertainment sphere, or even the religious sphere, the most extreme and kookiest voices are always the loudest.

I held onto a memory of a sermon I heard that sparked something in me, a dim light vaguely revealing a path that I couldn't quite yet identify. I didn't know the name of the preacher who delivered the sermon. His words were controversial, but his point struck me as unabashedly true.

The message was given at the annual Creation Festival, which is like a Christian Woodstock-four days camping out, listening to bands and preachers from all over America. But behind all the music, messages, and outdoor activities, lies the real purpose of the gathering of thousands of believers--to give believers the opportunity to minister to the poor and oppressed through a magnificent organization, Compassion International.

That particular year, while Scripture-clad t-shirts, wrist bands, and Christian CDs were selling like hot-cakes, the Compassion International tent was the LEAST visited tent. The last night of the festival the preacher opened his message with these statements:

"Last night while you were sleeping, over 30,000 children died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition," the preacher said. The usual murmurs and rustling of a crowd composed of thousands of people could still be heard.

"This happens every single day," he went on. "And what makes me angry is that most of us, just don't give a shit." The crowd immediately fell silent.

"That's what makes me angry, but you know what makes God angry? The fact that most of you are more upset with the fact that I just said the word 'shit' than that 30,000 kids died last night."

Never in my life had I heard anything so uncomfortable, which is probably why it rang so true. Some chalked his statement up to nothing more than an attempt for shock value, but I knew this was not the case. If we as Christians cannot embrace the Jesus that is waiting to be loved in the least, the lost, and the last of this world, then we have missed the point. We can buy the WWJD bracelets, cover our virgin ears when a word like shit (that isn't even considered a curse in certain parts of the country)is spoken, plaster scripture all over our clothing, listen to only "Christian" music, believe all the right theology and still completely miss the point. I had missed the point, but it was at that moment it began to dawn on me.

Years later I started reading books by Tony Campolo and instantly fell in love with his words, ministry, and heart for the poor, the oppressed, and the underdogs in this world. He doesn't claim to have all the answers; he doesn't claim to be able to perform miracles; He doesn't convulse "in the spirit" or do any of the other showy stuff that seems to get preachers accolades: but he preaches the gospel and admonishes the church to start loving one another despite our differences and to live out God's will on earth, as it is heaven.

I continued listening to his sermons and reading his books, completely clueless that this was the man all those years ago who spoke at the Creation Festival. God used this man to guide my heart to the Jesus of the Scriptures--not Jesus the Hippie, not Jesus the Republican, but the Jesus of the Scriptures.

So, I wanted to post these video excerpts from his recent TV appearances on the Canadian broadcast "The Hour" and a sermon about a Christian's response to homosexuals.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

But Are We Really Pro-Life?

Abortion. It's the hot-button issue that has virtually transformed most Christians into "single issue voters." Whatever else a candidate may be about, if he/she is "pro-life," then he/she is our candidate! But are any of us getting the feeling that we've been duped? Are any of us catching on to the fact that far too many politicians on both sides of the coin use the issue of abortion as a political litmus test? Or use their "pro-lifeness" to deflect from their other stances that aren't very life-friendly? Just because a candidate is "pro-life," doesn't necessarily mean they are going to do anything about it. I'm against people having mullets, but that doesn't mean I'll pursue outlawing them.

If Christians are serious about being pro-life, then we have to ask better questions and require more than just a "pro-life" stance. We MUST abandon the prevailing mindset of all that matters is getting a "pro-life" President in the White House and that merely getting abortion outlawed on paper will stop abortions (however, it is imperative to get it outlawed to show as a nation we do not condone abortion, but I'm referring to actually solving the problem, not the mere condemnation of it). Legislation alone will not and cannot solve abortion.

Before abortion was legalized, 27% percent of American women were still getting abortions. When America had overwhelming "pro-life" leadership with Reagan as President and a Republican Congress, abortion was not eliminated. Not only was abortion not eliminated, but abortion rates went UP. During the Clinton Era (I know some of you will hate to hear this) abortion rates declined significantly. But why? Because Reagan was evil and Clinton was good? Not at all, but it's their policies on OTHER issues that played a part in increasing/decreasing abortion rates.

The problem with the abortion issue is precisely that we've made it a single issue. We've elevated it to such a high priority that we EXCLUDE and neglect an entire host of other moral issues that are connected to eradicating abortion (do not be mistaken, abortion should be top priority because it is so vile and damaging to the unborn, the women who get them, and the society that allows it, but it won't be achieved without tending to other issues).

Anyone who studies abortion rates will discover that they are intricately intertwined with poverty rates, unemployment rates, and prevailing social conditions. Over 2/3 of women who have abortions are living below the poverty line. Sometimes we like to paint the picture of women getting abortions as elite feminist Nazis who kill their unborn without a care in the world. But the reality is, the majority of women getting abortions are poor, backed into corners of desperation.

I contend that we cannot call ourselves pro-life until we start responding to the conditions that contribute to abortions. The pro-life stance needs to broaden, not because abortion is somehow irrelevant, but because it is SO important, SO vital that we must broaden our stances on other LIFE issues to ensure the elimination of abortion. We can't claim to be pro-life and only pursue the outlawing of abortion. We have to take on poverty reduction, education reform, job security, economic climates, and other life issues that don't necessarily affect the unborn, but do indeed affect life: such as war and caring for the environment, etc.

Joel C. Hunter, the pastor who left the Christian Coalition because they feared broadening their agenda to poverty-reduction and caring for the environment would make them seem "liberal," said,

"if we are going to care for the vulnerable, we ought to care as much about the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb."

This is vital, not because poverty and abortion are issues in competition with one another for our commitment, but because they are irreversibly connected. Both need to be dealt with to be truly pro-life.

I think actress Patricia Heaton has the right idea about the proper combination of speaking and acting on pro-life positions. She's not silent about her convictions, but also works to provide options for desperate pregnant women in the form of adequate housing, funds for education, job security, and community support; something the pro-life movement on a whole is lacking.

Presidential-hopeful Mike Huckabee once said

"I believe life starts at conception, but I don't believe it ends at birth. We've got to be concerned about a child's education, safe neighborhoods, health care, better schools, clean air and water, the access to a college education. To care about a child's entire life, that is pro-life."

There is a valid criticism of pro-lifers that care for the unborn and stop caring about their fate once they are born. Birth is not the finish line in the pro-life race. Let's be pro-life in a way that utilizes both talk and action, both individual and corporate responsibility, both justice and compassion.

Here's a site to a good article that connects the dots between abortion and social conditions.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Downside of Reporting

Today was a traumatic day. I was sent out to cover my first accident scene. On the way there, I only knew their had been a wreck. I did not know the extent of the damage. It seems a tractor trailor traveling east on a two-lane highway came around the curve too fast, side-swiping a mack truck in the opposite lane before flipping completely over onto a Ford Expedition. The male driver of the ford expedition was killed instantly. When I arrived at the scene, the young man's lifeless and mangled hand was sticking out from the heap of flattened metal and broken glass. The mack truck had collapsed on the gaurd rail, which completely caved in the driver's side of the windshield.

As I listened to all the EMT workers and police referring to the man as "the body," saying things like, "how do we extract the body from the vehicle," I couldn't help but think that "the body" was someone's son, someone's husband, someone's father, someone's friend. The man was probably driving down the road listening to the radio and contemplating what he was going to eat for lunch, completely clueless that his drive would be his last moments on earth. It's incredibly sad how life can end so abruptly without warning. While I was shocked and saddened by this tragic accident and feeling totally sheepish having to take photos for the paper, I understood that the men and women who deal with the fatalies on the highways have to compartmentalize to efficiently do their jobs: to treat those who surive, to properly handle those who died, and to accurately investigate the truth with a clear mind. It must be numbing to see so much sickness, inury, and death on a regular basis. And it was at this point that I realized the line of work I want to be in includes dealing with these unpleasant realities.

As I stared at the smoldering wreck with one solemn white sheet over the visible parts of the victim, I couldn't help but think of my own cousin who also died suddenly in a car crash only a few months ago. I know firsthand what sudden tragedy can do to a family, how all the elements of grief, despair, denial, resentment, anger, fear, and blame team up to emotionally paralyze the loved ones left on the side of the living. I felt for the people who were a part of that man's life and I pray that God gives them the strength and hope they'll need to get through it.

As much as I respect the news and realize its tremendous value to society when not abused-this is definitely the downside of the job.