Sunday, September 16, 2012

Can You Dialogue?

Is it your Biblical conviction to spank your child(ren)?  Would you be willing to dialogue with a scholar who believes spanking is not mandated, but wants a "pro-spanker" to point out any errors he has accepted in coming to his conclusion?

Samuel Martin has actually asked several well-known proponents of corporal punishment to dialogue with him, but they have either declined or wanted to base the debate on something other than the Bible.

If you would be willing to help Samuel Martin understand how you (and ostensibly other proponents of corporal punishment) base your decision on your comprehension of Scripture, please click the link above to contact him.

Thank you for your help!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Authentic Worship

In the New Testament book of Mark, Jesus speaks to the life-worship of a widow:

Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money.

One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who's been putting money in the treasury.

All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on." (Mark 12:41-43)

This has always been portrayed by preachers I’ve heard as some giant act of faith, some huge and positive decision that the widow rejoiced in doing.  Maybe she did rejoice in putting her last two cents into God’s coffers.  But I wonder...

Did she give out of obligation and God honored her anyway?  I was taught growing up that anything done without a happy heart didn’t earn treasure in heaven.  Doing the right thing without the right attitude would result in the billowing smoke of burning wood, hay, and stubble on judgment day.

But what matters more: our feelings or our actions?

Sometimes (ok, a lot of times), I don’t feel like sweeping or mopping.  I don’t feel like folding laundry.  I don’t feel like (yet again) taking 30 minutes to an hour to prepare a nutritionally balanced meal that will be simultaneously complained over and devoured in 15 minutes or less, leaving a massive amount of dirty pots, pans, plates, and utensils in its wake.

But I do those things.  I know the consequences if I don’t.  I have obligations as a wife and mother to ensure my family has a comfortable home, clean clothes, nutritious food.

Do my feelings negate my actions?  I don’t think so.

Back to the widow.  What was she feeling?  Thinking?  I sincerely doubt she was overjoyed to drop all she had into the Temple coffers.  She probably had doubts and fears regarding her life and health.  I’ve discovered one can simultaneously trust God and feel trepidation about having daily needs met.  Trust does not eradicate doubt.  Doubt does not bury trust.  One does not obliterate the other in some sort of cosmic, quasi-spiritual duel.

In fact, I believe the very act of doubting can be counted as worship.

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.  Psalm 103:12-13

God knows who we are.  There is no need to pretend with the Almighty.  True worship means being authentic with our feelings, our doubts and fears, then following God anyway.

In reality, Scripture says nothing about the mindset or emotions of the widow giving her last mites.  It was her act of giving that was recorded and lauded.

So when I don’t feel like listening to what God is telling me to do, when I don’t feel like I have anything left to give to my church or community, when I don’t feel like being genuine and want to pretend my faith is rock-solid instead of the gossamer web it has become, but I respond to God’s leading, give of my time and self, share my doubts...that is worship.

Whether I give from a place of peace or a place of doubt, the choice to act is what God deems important.

What will I give today?  Will it be life-worship -all that I have- or will it be something that looks good to others but comes from my wealth of perception? 

Friday, September 7, 2012

How a Home Birth Changed My View on Abortion pt. 3

So here I am.  Conflicted.  

You see, I firmly believe morality cannot be legislated.  John Calvin tried, and all he succeeded in doing was creating a lot of unnecessary laws.  The hearts of the people weren’t changed because they obeyed the laws (or didn’t).  The USA tried to legislate morality by enacting Prohibition.  By all accounts, immorality thrived beneath the law.  Obviously, Prohibition was an abject failure, hence its repeal.

I also believe my rights end where another person’s rights begin.  That means, although I have strongly held personal religious and political beliefs, I do not have the right to impose my beliefs on others.  

If we look at abortion as a moral issue (as pro-lifers tend to do), we do not have the right to impose our moral beliefs on others.  To do so would be tyrannical.

If abortion is a religious issue, we still do not have the right to impose our beliefs on others.  The Crusades and the Inquisition are accurate examples of what happens when a particular interpretation of religion or another is imposed wholesale on large groups of people.

That leaves abortion in the realm of politics.  A lot of pro-life individuals believe that pro-choice equals pro-abortion.  This is absolutely false.   Most pro-choice persons do not advocate mandatory blanket abortions for all unplanned pregnancies.  Instead, the pro-choice belief is that each woman has the right to decide whether she is willing to accept the health risks inherent to pregnancy and the responsibility of parenthood.  No one is better suited to make such a life-altering decision than she.  Thus, the issue is one of personal choice, not morality or religion.

Let me put it this way.  I do not smoke.  I believe the health risks associated with smoking outweigh any benefits.  I have family members who do smoke.  I wish they wouldn’t, because I am concerned for their future quality of life.  However, I do not ostracize or condemn these individuals.  They are adults who are making their own choices and accepting the associated risks.  I do have the right to ask them not to smoke in my home.  I do not have the right to ask them not to smoke in their homes.

Likewise, abortion is not something I would choose for myself.  However, I do not have the right to invade another woman’s private medical condition and demand she follow my moral compass. 

Where does that leave me in the abortion arena?

Currently, I am personally pro-life - I cannot think of any circumstance where I would choose abortion. 

BUT I am politically pro-choice - I cannot think of any circumstance where another woman’s body or medical condition and the associated risk or benefit is my business.

Frankly, it’s a scary place to be.  I’m in uncharted territory.  And I’m looking at political candidates with fresh eyes.  I do not want another woman -any woman- to feel the helplessness I felt in being forced to follow protocols against my will.  I never want any woman, regardless of youth, race, color, or socioeconomic status, to be without a voice in decisions regarding her own health, her own body, and her own well-being.  I want her to have a choice.

And I have my choice -an empowering home birth- to thank.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How a Home Birth Changed My View on Abortion pt. 2

I knew why I was pro-life, but what was the reasoning behind the movement?  Why did pro-choice people believe in their side so much?  So I researched.  I didn’t simply look at pro-choice and pro-life propaganda.  I read scientific articles detailing whether or not (and how early) a fetus feels pain.  I studied the concept of life and the soul from various religious points of view.  I looked at abortion philosophically.  Does anyone have an obligation to save another life, regardless of the consequences to him/herself?  Does a potential life take priority over a life already in existence?  If life is a gift, is it still a gift when coerced from an unwilling party?  

To my shame, I had never considered the mental trauma of rape and incest victims having to carry a very physical reminder of their anguish for the better part of a year.  The undesired internal exams at the hospital had felt extremely violating to me; how much more so to a rape survivor forced to endure those same exams while experiencing equally traumatic childbirth as the result of invidious sexual intercourse?  

The other thing I learned in my research was that each side tends to vilify the other.  Pro-choice groups look at pro-lifers as anti-abortionists who care more for a group of human cells with the potential for life than the woman carrying the cells and her current medical, physical, and psychological state.  Pro-lifers see pro-choice individuals as heartless fiends who want the right to murder innocent babies, because a child would slow their wild, free-love ways.  Look at the names they call each other.  Anti-choice. Baby killer.  

Ironically, pro-choicers are also more likely to support welfare programs that provide help for young, single mothers who choose to carry their babies to term.  Conversely, pro-lifers tend to oppose those programs on the grounds that a free ride from the government will simply make it easier for women to have more children in order to “work the system.”   

I had always been pro-life because, I thought, two wrongs don’t make a right.  In my thinking, the slaughter of an innocent life does not make a rape resulting in pregnancy any easier to handle.  But in actually listening to the pro-choice side, I realized they were also trying to do right.  They believed it was wrong to, in essence, commit a second rape by forcing a victim to carry a child against her will.

The following thought experiment really helped put things in perspective for me.  Let’s say a young couple, the woman in the first trimester of pregnancy, are in a horrific car accident.  The man is in a coma for several weeks, and when he finally awakens, he discovers his love has died.  As he weeps over his loss, the medical staff informs him that a radical medical procedure has allowed them to surgically alter him while he was in the coma.  He now has an artificial uterus and his unborn child has been successfully transplanted inside.  What he needs to decide soon is whether or not he will bring the pregnancy to term.  Obviously, carrying to term will put the man’s health at risk.  The dangers of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy-related complications are very real.  Also, the baby would have to be delivered by c-section, a surgery which carries its own set of possible life-threatening complications.

The man did not ask to have the uterus implanted.  Neither do females who are born with them.  The man did not ask to have the fetus implanted.  Neither do women who have unplanned pregnancies.  Does the man now have the obligation to carry the fetus to term, even though it was put there without his consent?  Do women have that obligation? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

How a Home Birth Changed My View on Abortion pt. 1

If you had asked me a year ago where I stood on women’s reproductive rights, I was adamantly, militantly on the pro-life/anti-abortion side.  I am adopted, the product of a sexual predator grooming a teen, waiting until she was statutorily legal before coercing sex from her.  I am Christian, believing life begins at conception.  There was no argument, no wiggle room.  To me, abortion under any circumstance was murder, and murder should be stopped.

Until I, together with my husband, planned a home birth.  We had done our research.  We had selected an extremely competent and experienced midwife who had also delivered most of her own offspring at home.  I had undergone medical tests to ascertain whether I would be a good candidate for home birth, and I had 4 previous vaginal births.  My husband and I felt the topic had been thoroughly analyzed and we had made the best decision for me, for us.

But then, well-meaning, concerned, opposing voices began speaking to our personal choice.  “Isn’t it dangerous?”  “Why don’t you want a doctor present?”  “Why wouldn’t you want the safety of a hospital?”  “What if something goes wrong during labor?”  “What if something is wrong with the baby?”  “I’m scared to death for you; I really wish you’d reconsider giving birth in a hospital.”

Frankly, I found it insulting.  Did these people actually believe we had just decided on a whim to give birth at home without doing any research?  Did these people actually believe they had a right to decide where and how I was to give birth?  Shrouding their criticism under the guise of concern honestly made it worse for me;  my loved ones apparently did not trust me to make a choice that so profoundly affected not only my life, but the lives of my husband and children. 

The absolute worst, most hurtful comment I received was when someone told me she had been unsupportive until she found out my husband was committed to a home birth, too.  In her words, "You come up with some crazy ideas, but your husband is so level-headed.  If he's on board, I know it's probably safe."   To be honest, the attitude that someone other than me knows best and should have the right to decide for me still hurts.

Had the previous four hospital birth experiences been satisfactory for me, I would never have considered a home birth in the first place.  But all the protocols hospitals have to follow, things like 

  • mandatory hep lock/IV
  • denying me food (and water!) during labor
  • mandatory monitoring
  • nurses randomly coming in and out
  • strangers poking their fingers into my most private of places to measure my progress
  • being told when to push (as if I’m a dolt and can’t figure out the vise-like pain combined with pressure on my pelvic floor means my baby is coming out!)
  • what position to push in (flat on my back - with back labor, no less)

were counter-productive for my birth experience.  Not to mention, the first person to touch my baby was a relative stranger and then my baby was taken away from me at random intervals for this test or that, to who-knows-where in the hospital, only to be returned up to an hour later sound asleep, when my breasts were telling me it was long past time for a feed.

All that to say, I was fed up with being told how to handle my body.  I was sick and tired of strangers making choices that weren’t best for me and my life.  No one knows me, or my body and its needs like I do.  How dare these people make such important choices for me!

Hmm.  That sounds an awful lot like pro-choice rhetoric, doesn’t it?  My body, my choice.

The process had begun...