February 2, 2012 § 3 Comments
#6. Taking donations earmarked specifically for “reducing the number of blacks in society”: http://liveaction.org/planned-parenthood-racism-project
This makes sense, though, since your founder, Margaret Sanger, was a well-known eugenicist who was lauded by the Ku Klux Klan and believed that the greatest mercy a poor mother could show her child was death. Here are a few additional sites that illustrate the great advances PP has made in implementing the racist agenda of its founder: http://www.maafa21.com/, http://margaretsanger.blogspot.com/, http://www.klanparenthood.com/History_of_Abortion_Statistics/
#5. Taking donations and federal funds for providing services like mammograms, even though you don’t provide mammograms in your clinics: http://youtu.be/aq0kBkUZbvQ
#4. Aiding rapists by repeatedly violating mandatory reporting laws for statutory rape — you’ve actually been caught by undercover cameras 8 times for this! Great job! See all the exciting footage here: http://liveaction.org/monalisa
#3. Claiming to be a medical service while giving out unscientific and fabricated medical information to persuade women to have abortions, thus violating the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, which states, “The physician’s obligation is to present the medical facts accurately to the patient.” Again, watch these pros in action: http://liveaction.org/rosaacuna
#2. Covering up sex trafficking and underage prostitution. One of your greatest triumphs! You’ve been caught on tape 7 times doing this! Way to go! http://liveaction.org/traffick
#1. And, finally, your “bread and butter”: the service you provide to 93% of the pregnant women who enter one of your clinics, abortion. You have excelled in this area so superiorly that you are considered the top abortion provider in the United States. Let’s take a look at the service you provide: http://www.abortioninstruments.com/
Incidentally, this service seems to conflict with your claims to help women avoid breast cancer, since numerous medical studies have shown a strong connection between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer: http://abortionbreastcancer.ca/theresearch.htm#4
Oh, and you push birth control pills, which, according to the World Health Organization (and other sources like the American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/GeneralInformationaboutCarcinogens/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens) is a Class 1 Carcinogen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_IARC_Group_1_carcinogens
Here’s one woman in particular who would like to thank you for the “services” you rendered to her family.
For all of these crucial services to women: Planned Parenthood, we thank you!
What kind of world would we have without you …
December 26, 2011 § 6 Comments
A Quick Review and Recommendation of David Berlinksi’s The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” – Albert Einstein
As David Berlinski’s book illustrates with meticulous detail, science is impartial, but scientists are a whole other matter.
Berlinski, a Ph.D. from Princeton University, is a mathematician and self-declared secular Jew. It is from within the folds of academia that he levels his attack against some of his more bemused colleagues: colleagues who believe they have escaped the narrow-minded and fanatical realm of religious thought by fleeing to the narrow-minded and fanatical realm of secular atheism. Upon looking closely at this realm, as Berlinski does in his unflinching analysis, one will see how zealous these academics really are — not in serving science but in proving that there is no God (probably one of the most unscientific claims a scientist could ever make).
As he states in the introduction, “if science stands opposed to religion, it is not because of anything contained in either the premises or the conclusions of the great scientific theories. They do not mention a word about God. They do not treat of any faith beyond the one that they themselves demand. They compel no ritual beyond the usual rituals of academic life […] Confident assertions by scientists that in the privacy of their chambers they have demonstrated that God does not exist have nothing to do with science, and even less to do with God’s existence” (xiv). Science itself says nothing about God; indeed, it cannot, as the existence or nonexistence of God cannot be empirically proven in a scientific manner. Scientists without an agenda respect this fact, and it is why theological matters are absent from their work.
Scientists with an agenda are not silent about this, and they foray clumsily into the realm of theological dispute armed with nothing but their own prejudices.
One of the most memorable aspects of Berlinski’s analysis is how adamantly scientific atheists will cling to any theory that dismisses the existence of a divine creator regardless of its lack of evidence or even common sense. These theories exist largely as a way to avoid the acknowledgement of a creator, which the Big Bang Theory (the most popular and scientifically sound theory of the beginning of the universe) necessitates. After all, ex nihilo nihil fit is a principle not easily dismissed by science.
Much of his analysis centers on the many theories regarding the creation of the universe. The scientific material can sometimes be dense and a little difficult for non-scientists (like me) to understand. However, I never felt overwhelmed by the ideas he surveyed, as his writing is concise and avoids unnecessary jargon.
In his survey, he shows how the Big Bang Theory stands as the greatest threat to scientific atheism because the need for a first causer is undeniable: again, nothing comes from nothing. These so-call “new atheists,” however, have made it their professional goal to show how something comes from nothing.
This goal is not limited to the field of theoretic physics, however, as biologists (of course) have their own favorite theory to deny the necessity of a creator.
Evolution is one of the most tenuous theories that exist, but it has had amazing PR. It’s a common belief largely because it is so easy to understand and, indeed, master. As Berlinski asserts, “Darwin’s theory of evolution is virtually the only part of [atheist theology] commonly understood. It may be grasped by anyone in an afternoon, and often is. A week suffices to make a man a specialist” (219). It is also promulgated as fact rather than as theory (again, a very unscientific trend) by virtually everyone in the popular media and general (as in, non-scientific) academia — most especially by people who are not trained to determine the scientific soundness of its tenets.
Apparently, sitcom writers have the greatest stake in this argument, as evolutionist vs. creationist debates seem to form the butt of a number of jokes whenever Christianity is presented or mentioned. There’s no stronger medium than popular culture to train “the masses” to dismiss a theory before they’ve even thought about it. But do social trends suggest that evolution is widely accepted? Berlinski suggests that it is not: “‘Two-thirds of Americans,’ the New York Times reported, ‘say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.’ But even among those quite persuaded of Darwin’s theory, ’18 percent said that evolution was ‘guided by a supreme being’” (219). I guess we can still retain hope.
And there is good reason to hope, as even a cursory review of the holes in evolutionary theory will make one wonder why it is so popularly believed amongst scientists. But, again, is it? Berlinski gives us our answer: “The facts are what they have always been: They are unforthcoming. And the theory is what it always was: It is unpersuasive. Among evolutionary biologists, these matters are well known. In the privacy of the Susan B. Anthony faculty lounge, they often tell one another with relief that it is a very good thing the public has no idea what the research literature really suggests. ‘Darwin?’ a Nobel laureate in biology once remarked to me over his bifocals. ‘That’s just the party line’” (192).
Berlinski analyzes the many flaws and holes in the theory over the course of several pages, citing about a dozen scientific sources.
What is remarkable about scientists who continue to tout evolution as fact rather than theory is how hostile they are to anyone who questions their fanaticism. And they are not merely bullying to those on the outside of the scientific community, but even against those who speak out against it within academia. Peer-reviewed journals have made it a clear rule to blackball any and all papers that challenge their supreme dogma. The advice of Eugenie Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, says it all: “Avoid debates.” As Berlinski quips, “there is nothing surprising in any of this. I myself believe that the world would be suitably improved if those with whom I disagree were to lapse into silence” (220). This would explain why such a flawed theory has been allowed to continue for so long.
Aside from presenting a solid case against the scientific dogmas of the new atheists, Berlinski also addresses another major tenet: the effect of religion on society.
The idea that religion makes society worse is one that Dawkins, Hitchens, and the rest of their ilk love to harp on, often relying on their misreading and sometimes deliberate misrepresentation of the middle ages to make their case. However, as Berlinksi demonstrates, and as anyone with a modicum of common sense can see, society without God is much worse.
At a conference in 2007 titled “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival,” physicist Steven Weinberg declared in his address that, “religion […] is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil things. In speaking thus, Weinberg was warmly applauded, not one member of his audience asking the question one might have thought pertinent: Just who has imposed on the suffering human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in eugenics, the formula for Zyklon B, heavy artillery, pseudo-scientific justifications for mass murder, cluster bombs, attack submarines, napalm, intercontinental ballistic missiles, military space platforms, and nuclear weapons? If memory serves, it was not the Vatican” (21).
Moreover, Berlinski argues, “The facts about the twentieth century are an inconvenience for scientific atheism, suitably informed thought may always find a way to deny them. The psychologist Steven Pinker has thus introduced into the discussion the remarkable claim that ‘something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.’ The good news is unrelenting: ‘On the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture’” (21). Berlinksi does a wonderful job of showing just what that “shockingly happy picture” looks like when he includes two and a half pages of charts detailing the unspeakable number of human beings slaughtered by secular governments/societies in the twentieth century. After citing the millions of people killed (a figure that would have been almost double this tally had he included the number of human beings slaughtered worldwide by abortion**), he says with characteristic bluntness: “In considering Pinker’s assessment of the times in which we live, the only conclusion one can profitably draw is that such an excess of stupidity is not often found in nature” (25). You’ll be glad to know that Berlinski’s wit and humor always accompany his meticulous dismemberment of atheist claims (see below).
He concludes this section by saying that, “One might think that in the dark panorama of wickedness, the Holocaust would above all other events give the scientific community pause. Hitler’s Germany was a technologically sophisticated secular society, and Nazism itself, as party propagandists never tired of stressing, was ‘motivated by an ethic that prided itself on being scientific […] A sinister current of influence ran from Darwin’s theory of evolution to Hitler’s policy of extermination. A generation of German biologists had read Darwin and concluded that competition between species was reflected in human affairs by competition between races. These observations find no echo at all in the literature of scientific atheism” (27).
In the end, The Devil’s Delusion provides a compelling survey and analysis of the many flaws, prejudices, and assumptions of scientific atheism. It’s a fairly quick read, and one that is well worth the time.
Before I end, I wanted to readdress one of my favorite aspects of the book: Berlinski’s humor.
When I was debating my purchase of the book, I spent some time reading the preview pages on Amazon.com’s listing. Reading the following passage convinced me that this was a book I would enjoy:
“A little philosophy, as Francis Bacon observed, ‘inclineth man’s mind to atheism.’ A very little philosophy is all that is needed. In a recent BBC program entitled A Brief History of Unbelief the host, Jonathan Miller, and his guest, the philosopher Colin McGinn, engaged in a veritable orgy of competitive skepticism, so much so that in the end, the viewer was left wondering whether either man believed sincerely in the existence of the other” (3).
This passage is very characteristic of the type of witty and deprecating humor you will find in this book.
**He does, however, list abortion amongst the greatest horrors of the twentieth century later in the book (31): “The moral concerns that are prompted by biology? The list is already long: abortion, [human embryonic] stem-cell research, euthanasia, infanticide, cloning, animal-human hybrids, sexual deviancy. It will get longer, as scientists with no discernible sense of responsibility to human nature come extravagantly to interfere in human life.”
Further Reading (similar titles that I’ve also read and highly recommend):
Hitchens, Peter (brother of the late Christopher Hitchens). The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Michigan: Zondervan, 2010.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God. Michigan: Zondervan, 2004.
Weikart, Richard. From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Website of Interest:
The Discovery Institute
October 10, 2011 § 2 Comments
With Halloween right around the corner, our public domain is inundated with images of witches, devils, mass murderers, ghosts, ghouls, zombies, and all other sorts of macabre tormentors; these dominate the television, our stores, and just about any other public place we visit during the month of October, and they ensure that we think of and either fear or celebrate the occult.
Now, I am not one of those Catholics who decry Halloween as anathema. As someone who was born and spent much of my early childhood in Salem, MA — the so-called “Witch City” — the holiday is part of my life and still holds a special place in my heart. My family and I still celebrate it, though I’ve toned down the occult-ish aspects of the celebration since becoming Catholic, making it more a celebration of the fall and make believe than anything sinister or devilish.
When I was an atheist, my favorite way to spend Halloween was to pop a lot of corn, gather some candy and beer, and indulge in a horror movie marathon. I couldn’t get enough horror movies, so I’ve seen quite a few of them.
Even as an atheist, though, by far the scariest of these movies were those that dealt with the devil. Though I didn’t believe in God, I was somewhat afraid of the prospect of being possessed or tormented by devils or ghosts. (Isn’t it odd that it’s easier to believe in evil than it is to believe in something purely good like Jesus? Perhaps it has something to do with atheists being separated from God in their lifestyles, thus being closer to Satan than to God — it’s easier, then, to only recognize the bad and evil in the world than it is to recognize the good.)**
Though I’ve been scared by a variety of devil-themed films, The Exorcist was, and still is, the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Though I didn’t believe in God, and I didn’t quite believe in the devil, the possibility of a demon possessing my body (which, as a staunch feminist, I felt I had such control over) was terrifying to me. It was almost enough to make me Catholic if only to prevent such a possibility from happening.
Indeed, there is a popular anecdote about the film that any amateur enthusiast will hear at some point: it reports that when it was released in 1973, audiences were so terrified by the events it portrayed that they “poured” from the theater to nearby churches looking for reconciliation with God. Indeed, the story goes that this movie created more believers than any biblical-themed movie ever has. This is “the legend,” anyway. Whether it is true or not is another matter.
But, I can see how it could be true. Fear is a powerful motivator. When confronted with utter darkness and evil, the natural response is to run in the other direction: seeking out what is the source of light and goodness. This fear, I believe, is what keeps many people in the faith. And this is not necessarily a bad thing because the danger of the alternative is real.
However, when we look at the great saints and Christian thinkers of the past, we notice a general lack of fear. Even when confronted with visions of hell itself, some of our most venerated saints remained unafraid (Faustina, Theresa of Avila, John Bosco, among others). Theirs seems to be a courage that comes only when one completely trusts in Christ for guidance and protection.
Indeed, if one remembers who ultimately wins in the end, the folly of the devil becomes pathetic. A number of writers have capitalized on this recognition. Most notably, for me, is the portrayal of Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).
Satan and his army of demons have just lost the war in heaven and are cast out. They wake up chained to a lake of fire.
[Satan] Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the Fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warr’d on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the Den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that Sea-beast [ 200 ]
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th’ Ocean stream:
Him haply slumbring on the Norway foam
The Pilot of some small night-founder’d Skiff,
Deeming some Island, oft, as Sea-men tell, [ 205 ]
With fixed Anchor in his skaly rind
Moors by his side under the Lee, while Night
Invests the Sea, and wished Morn delayes:
So stretcht out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay
Chain’d on the burning Lake, nor ever thence [ 210 ]
Had ris’n or heav’d his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought [ 215 ]
Evil to others, and enrag’d might see
How all his malice serv’d but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace and mercy shewn
On Man by him seduc’t, but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath and vengeance pour’d. [ 220 ]
-Paradise Lost, Book One
I’ve highlighted the ending lines because they demonstrate the utter impotence of Satan. The opening lines emphasize his size, which is both enormous and horrifying. Clearly his physical appearance would inspire fear in the viewer. But, as Milton explains, Satan is, on his own, completely powerless. He would not have even been able to move his head if it were not for the will of God. Thus, nothing he does is by his own volition, and nothing he does can help him escape his final defeat. Moreover, every form of evil he causes is used by God in His own divine plans to bring about more good.
Essentially, Satan is a fool.
He is a fool because he believes he has escaped the sovereignty of God and is winning the war against him because he damns the weak and the proud. He is a fool because everything he does only brings more damnation upon himself.
As such, the believer in Christ should have no cause to really fear the devil. He should not inspire fear but contempt.
Consider what Saint Therese says:
“It is very often that these damned spirits come to torment me; but they inspire very little fear in me, because I know them well and they cannot even stir without God’s permission […] This should be well known by all: every time we show our contempt for the demons, they lose their strength and the soul acquires more predominance upon them […] To see themselves despised by weaker beings is, in fact, a severe humiliation for these arrogant beings. Well, as we said before, humbly supported by God, we have the right and the obligation of showing our contempt: if God is with us, who will be against us? They can bark, but they cannot bite, unless in the cases that — by imprudence, or pride — we place ourselves in their power.”
We must have caution here, though. We must not have contempt for the devil because we believe we are immune to his persuasions by any merit or power of our own. Alone, we are slaves to the devil: slaves to our own corrupt nature. It is only with God that we have any power over him.
As Luis Solimeo asserts in his book Angels and Demons, “By our nature, we have no power whatsoever over them; on the contrary, by their superior nature, they are far more powerful than us. Therefore, the foundation of this healthy contempt for the infernal enemies must not be based on a rash disregard of danger. Rather, it must be supported by the most perfect humility and true confidence in the Creator and in the Most Holy Virgin. If these cares are taken, it is befitting to do what the great Saint Therese indicates with such propriety.”
If we trust in God, if we recognize his guidance over our lives and the entire world, then we should not fear the devil. We should be wary of him, as we are wary of temptation and sin itself, but we should not allow him to have any sway over our emotions or our lives.
The greatest weapon against the devil, of course, is Christ: the closer we are to Christ, the farther we are from the devil. We get close to Christ through prayer, through personal discipline, through reconciliation (Confession), and — most importantly — through the Eucharist.
If we live lives of serious and sincere devotion to Christ, we can live the words of Blessed John Paul II: “Be not afraid.”
… but The Exorcist still scares me.
For further consideration:
My favorite prayer against the devil; indeed, I can literally feel the power of this prayer when I recite it:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..
Can you picture the archangel’s foot on the devil’s head, sword drawn above him, when you read this? I can.
**This makes me think of the sixteenth-century play by Christopher Marlowe Doctor Faustus. Faustus is a scholar and an atheist. He rejects a belief in God because he cannot comprehend such an existence intellectually. Yet, he willingly sells his soul to the devil in return for gaining supreme earthly knowledge. One would think that a scholar as smart as Faustus would recognize that if the devil exists, then God must exist as well; but he doesn’t. Indeed, even when speaking to Mephistopheles, an emissary from hell, he refuses to acknowledge that hell even exists.
“Faustus: First will I question with thee about Hell.
Tell me, where is the place that men call Hell?
Mephistopheles: Under the Heavens.
Faustus: Ay, but whereabout?
Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain for ever:
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib’d
In one self place; for where we are is Hell,
And where Hell is, there must we ever be:
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be Hell that are not heaven.
Faustus: Come, I think, Hell’s a fable.
Mephistopheles: Ay, think so still, till experience change thy mind.
Faustus: Why, think’st thou, then, that Faustus should be damned?
Mephistopheles: Ay, of necessity, for here’s the scroll wherein thou has given thy soul to Lucifer.
Faustus: Ay, and body too: but what of that?
Think’s thou that Faustus is so fond to imagine
That, after this life, there is any pain?
Tush, these are trifles and mere old wives’ tales.”
The utter ridiculousness of Faustus in this scene has always astounded me. Here is a man so blinded by his own arrogance that he cannot even recognize reality when it is staring at — and talking to! — him directly. He is so mired in a secularist view of the world that he cannot accept the notion of hell or eternal damnation even when speaking with someone who is suffering both.
He recognizes the devil and the power he has, but he refuses to recognize anything about the devil that relates to his own soul. Indeed, it seems the tragedy of Faustus is the tragedy of the modern atheist. He may be fearful of evil, but his own blindness prevents him from doing anything to save his soul from it.
August 25, 2011 § 8 Comments
I spent most of my life as an atheist, got most of my education — both secondary and post-secondary — at secular schools, and spent much of my free time watching whatever was popular in the media. I’m guessing this describes most people’s background as well, even those who were not atheists.
Such a background will, inevitably, lead someone to have some profound misunderstandings about the Catholic Church: about its history, its beliefs, and the reality of its current state. Chief amongst these misunderstandings are the following:
-the Middle Ages were a dark time of ignorance and superstition because the Church refused to educate people and shackled them with ridiculous rules that led to suffering and a loss of personal freedom
(because Hollywood and biased — or ignorant — educators told me so)
-the Crusades were evil because they were perpetuated by brutal religious zealots who slaughtered millions of innocent Muslims
(because Hollywood and biased — or ignorant — educators told me so)
-the Church is against abortion because it hates women and/or
the Church is against female priests because it hates women and/or
the Church is against contraception because it hates women
(because angry feminists tell me so)
-the Church encourages idolatry because Catholics worship statues, the Virgin Mary, the saints, and believe in “magic charms” like rosary beads
(because I don’t understand the nuances of these beliefs and practices)
-most priests in the Church today are pedophiles or there are many pedophile priests in the Church today
(because the New York Times tells me so, and this publication is the paragon of journalistic excellence and impartiality)
… and most priests are pedophiles because they are forced to remain celibate by an evil Church that view sex as dirty and bad
(because my baser impulses and a degraded society that views sex as a “need” — paramount to the need for food, air, and water — tell me so)
When I became Catholic, many of these misconceptions, myths, and outright lies remained with me. I just accepted that they were things I would need to apologize for and accept as an inevitable aspect of a Church as old and as big as the Catholic Church.* But as I continued reading and studying Church history, theology, and current events, the lies of my secularist upbringing slowly began to deteriorate.
I’m still studying, but I thought that I would be doing everyone a service if I provided a list of books that will help you overcome the secular brainwashing you’ve probably received at the hands of public education, the media, and people who just don’t know any better.
The list is not at all comprehensive, but it is a good start.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MIDDLE AGES
(she covers almost all the major themes here, plus a few more: Galileo, the Inquisition, the “need” for the Reformation, the Church’s cruelty to Native Americans, and the so-called “Nazi Pope” — that last one really should have its own category, but I haven’t done much reading on it yet)
-Regine Pernoud’s Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths
-Christopher Dawson’s The Dividing of Christendom
-Thomas E. Woods’ How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CRUSADES
-Rodney Stark’s God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades
-Diane Moczar’s Islam at the Gates: How Christendom Defeated the Ottoman Turks
THE TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN AND THE CHURCH
-Alice von Hildebrand’s The Privilege of Being a Woman
-Peter Kreeft and Alice Von Hildebrand’s Women and the Priesthood
(two of my favorite writers)
-Erika Bachiochi’s Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching
-John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body
(or Christopher’s West’s commentary and guide on the book, since it is rather long)
THE TRUTH ABOUT CATHOLIC WORSHIP
-Michael Coren’s Why Catholics are Right
-Dwight Longenecker’s More Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith
-Mark P. Shea’s By What Authority? an Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SO-CALLED “PEDOPHILIA CRISIS” IN THE CHURCH
-David F. Pierre, Jr.’s Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church
-(Article) Tim Drake’s “A Brief History of Abuse — And the Response to It.” National Catholic Register, April 25-May 8, 2010 issue
These texts should help you arm yourself against the onslaught of secularist thinking — a form of thinking that has even infected many people within the Church. But, as always, the most important thing one can do to gain wisdom is to pray and have faith. These two things will, more than any book, lead you to the understanding you need to fully love and defend our Mother Church!
*This is still something that must be kept in mind when confronted with the individual evils or misdeeds of Church representatives and members (as not everyone practices the faith the way it is intended to be practiced — if they did, the world would be a much better place).
June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
I admit it … I am guilty of the sin of pride.
Like so many women of this generation, I have — to my great astonishment — fallen into the popular mentality of the day when it comes to reproduction.
As Americans living in the 21st century, and in a relatively wealthy country, we are often tempted to think we have control over our lives and, especially, our bodies. We regard ourselves as autonomous beings, whose lives and bodies do not need God for survival or assistance. It’s a form of arrogance fostered by a society that lives in comfort: a society with technological innovations of every kind at its fingertips, which make life easier and more manageable.
Pregnancy, however, is a reminder to women (and to men) that our bodies are not completely in our control. The baby in the belly grows, and so does our body, whether we want it to or not. And that baby is coming out, by whatever means necessary, whether we want it to or not! This feeling of being out of control of our bodies is terrifying to so many people. Indeed, it is this fear that causes some women to do the unthinkable (but we all know how I feel about that!).
But before the baby is even created, most women in society have found a way to reclaim their illusions of control. Most find it by using artificial forms of birth control; another portion of society, to which I am a part, use a natural means of control.
Despite their radical differences, Natural Family Planning (NFP) and artificial contraceptives can both foster an identical assumption: that we have control over when our bodies accept new life.*
For the NFP user, knowledge is our greatest asset. We observe, study, and learn about our personal reproductive cycles. We use this knowledge to determine when we want to be open to life and when we want to limit our openness. If pregnancy is not desired, NFP couples practice self-control and abstain during fertile periods. It’s really a beautiful gift, as it fosters chastity and dialogue in marriage. In our household, my husband charts my “biomarkers” for me at the end of every day, so he actually knows my cycle better than I do! (Contrast this to the elementary-school reaction most men have when the word “menstrual” is used!)
In short, I am a BIG fan!
However, I must admit that I am guilty of abusing this wonderful gift from God by indulging in a certain way of thinking about reproduction.
I know that NFP should not be abused and that pregnancy should only be avoided only when the users have a really good reason to abstain. As someone with Cystic Fibrosis, I usually have a very good reason to avoid pregnancy for the first 9-12 months after a previous pregnancy (or, if I’m following my doctors’ — yes, I have more than one — advice to the letter: to abstain from pregnancy for the next twenty years or whenever I hit menopause).
In short, wanting to lose more weight or wanting to run a half-marathon probably do not count as good reasons for delaying pregnancy! I accepted this distinction when, in March, my husband and I were planning a trip to a resort in April. It was a free vacation for us (paid for by his company); it was meant to be a sort of “second honeymoon” (since the children would be left with my sister); and it was going to take place during my fertile time of the month. In March, I was still running 25-30 miles a week and was planning to compete in a half marathon in the fall. I wanted to get down to my wedding weight and wear cute (non-maternity) outfits in the summer. As such, I was not completely thrilled by the prospect of getting pregnant in the spring.
Despite the fact that it went against my (rather narcissistic) plans, my husband and I accepted that this was — perhaps — God’s way of forcing us to get pregnant before my planned date (which was, incidentally, sometime in November). So, on our trip, we were very open to life.
When we returned, I assumed I was pregnant for the next two or so weeks. Science, after all, confirmed by assumptions.
I was shocked when I discovered I was not.
Because I had mentally prepared myself for pregnancy (and had stopped dieting and running), the question now was, “do we want to remain open to life?” We decided that while we would not actively “try” for a baby, we would no longer abstain during the fertile weeks of my cycle.
April, May, and early June: each month I assumed I was pregnant. After all, the chart does not lie! But all three months ended the same way. No baby.
In May, conditions changed even more. I was offered a college teaching position at a nearby school, which I enthusiastically accepted.
Prior to accepting this position, we had decided to start “trying” for baby #3. But after the acceptance, the new question was “do we still want to try?”
I agonized over this question, charting the due dates and trying to judge them based on the school schedule. If I had gotten pregnant in May, the due date would have been February — right in the middle of the spring semester. “How would that work?” I asked myself. If I get pregnant in late June, the due date would be in March — still no good when it comes to the college schedule.
I kept asking Nick and giving him the options.
One night, I was sitting with an online due date calculator (courtesy of Babycenter.com) on my laptop screen in front of me and my NFP chart on the seat cushion next to me. With a look of consternation, I laid out my propositions to my husband. “If we wait until August to conceive, at least the due date will be in May and the semester will be over. September may actually be better because then she/he would be due in June, so it would be close to Amelia’s birthday. Though, this may be a problem when they get older … Perhaps we should wait on actively ‘trying’ until October …”
On and on I went, until my husband finally said, “You know … it’s really not up to us.”
My knee-jerk reaction was a quick nod of agreement, more as a form of dismissal than a genuine approval. “Oh, yes … yes, of course. But we up our chances whenever we follow the days and the techniques, so we do have control over this.”
In his usual subdued manner, he looked at me seriously and said with emphasis, “No, we don’t.”
And that’s when it hit me — really hit me. We don’t have control over this. God chooses when and whether a new life is created.
No matter how much we know about the manner by which and the science of how new life is created, ultimately we have no control over it.
Scientifically, according to the rules of reproductive biology, we should have been pregnant months ago. But the creation of new life is not just about science. It is not just a matter of cells and genetics. It is a divine process. Each conception marks a moment when God himself reaches down and blesses a human being with the gift of carrying and delivering a new human being.
After almost four years of using NFP, I finally understood.
No, we don’t control this … and we shouldn’t want to.
*NOTE: of course, there are major ethical and theological differences between the two! Don’t mistake my little ramble as a critique of NFP; it’s a critique of a certain mindset I find myself falling into.
May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
Someone once said that “Euphemism is a euphemism for lying” … I thought of this quote as I read the following at the Raving Theist blog. Now, this is old news, but it’s new to me. You should read the Theist’s post on it before you read mine:
I’m not sure what I’m more disgusted by here: Michels’ assault on morality, ethics, and science, or her abuse of the English language to whitewash her abhorrent mentality.
Let’s take a look at some of her rhetorical “gems.”
She begins by asserting that Planned Parenthood’s decision to encourage — I mean, offer opportunities for these widows to get abortions, may seem “insensitive.” But she assures her listeners that the corporation’s main goal is “to bring closure to economically unfeasible pregnancies.” She speaks as though the pregnancy is the thing for which these widows need to find closure. Yeah, the pregnancy is the tragedy here.
Of course, she trots out the ridiculous and clumsy euphemism favored by most proponents of abortion when she refers to these “economically” unwanted children as, “the products of conception.” (Why have I never seen that phrase on an invitation to a baby shower?)
But, oops, she messes up at one point and actually calls the unborn baby a “child.” However, she redeems herself in the eyes of her fellow ghouls by couching her accidentally humanizing language in an incredibly selfish display of warped values and inverted morals: “the financial pressures […] should not be compounded by the burden of another child.” There you go, Michels, get right back to the bottomline, which is (of course) money. There’s no way these children could possibly bring happiness or healing to these women; all they bring are more burdens, more tragedy.
Absolutely the coldest moment in her sterilized rhetoric occurs when she says, “We understand the confusion of women who might imagine a resemblance to a departed spouse in an ultrasound of a second trimester fetus [italics mine].” Yes, because women who see their spouse in the human form of their unborn children must be “confus[ed]” and only “imagin[ing]” such a connection.
Someone needs to tell Michels, and everyone else like her, to keep her forked tongue behind her teeth … Her words are the worst kind of poison.
Ugh! After reading that, I need a shower.
May 12, 2011 § 3 Comments
Have you ever had one of those moments when someone says or writes something that so perfectly expresses what you’ve always thought but have never fully articulated? Well, I have these moments at least a dozen times a day (seriously). And I had one of those moments a few seconds ago while reading — of all things — a footnote in Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic.
You may find it humorous that I was most impressed by a short footnote after reading pages of his brilliant exposition on human understanding. This is not to say that the body of his text is not interesting — far from it. However, it may be because the footnote has to do with grammar — or, more precisely, the politics of grammar — that I liked it enough to feel inspired to jump on my blog and share it with the blogosphere.
The sentence to which the footnote is attached is, “A baby often goes around pointing to everything he sees, asking ‘What’s that?’ The baby is a philosopher.” The footnote is placed next to “he,” and this is what it says:
The use of the traditional inclusive generic pronoun “he” is a decision of language, not of gender justice. [I can’t express how much I love that pithy statement!] There are only six alternatives. (1) We could use the grammatically misleading and numerically incorrect “they.” But when we say “one baby was healthier than the others because they didn’t drink that milk,” we do not know whether the antecedent of “they” is “one” or “others,” so we don’t know whether to give or take away the milk. Such language codes could be dangerous to baby’s health. [I love Kreeft’s frequent, unexpected moments of humor.] (2) Another alternative is the politically intrusive “in-your-face” generic “she,” which I would probably use if I were an angry, politically intrusive, in-your-face woman [or a college Freshman at an all-woman’s college minoring in Womyn’s Studies … but I digress], but I am not any of those things. (3) Changing “he” to “he or she” refutes itself in such comically clumsy and ugly revisions as the following: “What does it profit a man or woman if he or she gains the whole world but loses his or her own soul? Or what shall a man or woman give in exchange for his or her soul?” The answer is: “he or she will give up his or her linguistic sanity. [I swear, I almost died laughing reading that last sentence!] (4) We could also be both intrusive and clumsy by saying “she or he.” (5) Or we could use the neuter “it,” which is both dehumanizing and inaccurate. (6) Or we could combine all the linguistic garbage together and use “she or he or it,” which, abbreviated, would sound like “sh … it.” [Ha!]
He ends his footnote with the following disclaimer:
I believe in the equal intelligence and value of women, but not in the intelligence or value of “political correctness” [AMEN to that!], linguistic ugliness [PREACH it brother!], grammatical inaccuracy [THAT’s what I’m talking about!], conceptual confusion, or dehumanizing pronouns [Can I get an AMEN?].
… That’s all I’m saying.