Category Archives: politics / economics / news

Considering Hormonal “Birth-Control” from a Christian Ethic…

a sight all-too-familiar to most "evangelical" Christians

a sight all-too-familiar to most “evangelical” Christians

I’ve considered doing so for quite some time — years, really.  Of late, I’ve grown more concerned: “I should, but what might the reaction be?”  Upon listening to a BreakPoint commentary yesterday (from the previous day), I was struck by the title: “The Epidemic of not Looking” [sic].

Please note well:

  • I am not (nor have I ever claimed to be) a medical/scientific professional.
  • I wrote this paper over six years ago, so I concede that some of the research could probably use some updating.
  • I haven’t read it since the night I submitted it for grading.

My overall concern is that most of us would generally just prefer not to know the details of matters which might call for serious change in behavior or priorities — especially those of us who call ourselves Christians.  With that concern in mind, here’s a paper I wrote a few years back.  Conjuring C. S. Lewis, let me simply say, “They asked for a paper.” Conjuring Headmaster Dumbledore, let me simply add, “Let the feast begin.”

—  —  —

AN ETHICAL LOOK AT BIRTH CONTROL

It is quite plainly obvious that a larger bulk of American society generally accepts birth control as a viable option for females – typically of all applicable ages – who wish to avoid pregnancy. This rather widespread acceptance is unquestionably evident in society in general, but it is likewise quite present in the minds and practice of those who openly consider themselves to be part of the Church in America. In fact, when the issue of birth control is brought into question within ethical debate, passionate reactions are rarely found to be lacking. Correspondingly, such responses are far from uncommon within the context of Christian thought and debate. Such an observation certainly could often be made of quite a few – if not most – ethical issues, for ethical debate seems to spark and ignite something deep within the human heart, something that is often found in the garb of passionate expression. Ethical issues are deeply personal and, when coupled with the evident and not so evident consequences of thought, trigger deeply passionate responses.

But even still, matters regarding the bringing of human life into the world undoubtedly ought to be appropriately welcomed within the thought life of the thinking Church, and, therefore, ethical debate should always find a home for serious reflection and discourse especially amongst Christians. In fact, it should be rather unarguably understood that the Church has even a moral responsibility to think seriously about all matters, especially those that are evidently quite serious in nature and consequentially carry with themselves rather serious implications.

That being said, the present writer is under the conviction that birth control is, in fact, such a matter – not only one that is quite serious in and of itself but also one that is accompanied by rather serious implications. Such being the case, the facts surrounding birth control and its consequential implications should be fairly and adequately considered when one – particularly here, a thinking Christian – seeks to raise and offer a reflective response to the question of whether or not birth control should be seen as an ethically viable option in the avoidance of pregnancy. Therefore, the purpose of the present paper is to offer a synopsis of how birth control is designed to work, give an observation of both the possible benefits and detriments of its use, look at some of its apparent and assumed implications, note the possibilities in play when it is used, hear from what the Church has had to say about the matter, and finally offer some brief personally reflective conclusions concerning the issue at hand.

The Methods of Effectiveness

Though there are admittedly several different kinds of what might be understood to be birth control per se, the present concern is directed to what is most often considered by the general public to be such – i.e., that which is commonly known in the medical field as “hormonal contraceptives” or, more specifically, “oral contraceptives” and commonly known outside the medical field simply as “the pill”. Oral contraceptives find their effectiveness in the hormones1 they distribute to the female body, which in turn are expected to provide a defense against pregnancy or its advancement by producing several resulting mechanisms, the first being openly acknowledged as the most directly intended. It should be noted, however, that these mechanisms are only logically ordered, for they necessarily occur neither prior to nor subsequent to one another.

By Hindering Ovulation

The first – and again, most purposed – line of defense against pregnancy or its advancement built into the effects of oral contraception is established by attempting to stop ovulation, or the process by which the female’s ovaries discharge an ovum – or egg – into the uterus – or womb – so that it might then be potentially fertilized by a male’s sperm. Ovulation, which is often said to mark the beginning of the menstrual cycle, typically occurs fourteen days before the period of bleeding and is naturally consequential to the maturity of follicles, which is intended by oral contraception to be inhibited by an increase in hormone levels, therefore, expecting to prevent the release of ova altogether.

By Hindering Conception

If, however, ovulation goes unavoided, the effects of oral contraception present a second line of defense. Due to the increased hormone levels, the female’s cervical mucus is thickened, which in turn makes it more difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. This thickened mucus also presents less suitable conditions for the sperm, having hypothetically reached the egg, to actually penetrate, which would, of course, result in conception were it to occur.

By Hindering Implantation

There are, still, admittedly rare cases in which these first two lines of defense inhibit neither ovulation nor conception. At this point, though, oral contraception provides yet a third line of defense. The natural mechanisms of the menstrual cycle cause the mucous membrane lining of the uterus – or endometrium – to mature and, hence, thicken, providing the opportune circumstances for adequate and proper implantation of the egg. The raised hormone levels caused by oral contraception, however, prevent the maturity of the endometrium, therefore, making the womb inhospitable for a hypothetically fertilized egg, even if both ovulation and conception were to occur.

The Potential Goods

There are, unquestionably, certain “goods” related to the argument in the defense of birth control as a viable means of avoiding pregnancy, and such benefits should certainly have a fair hearing by anyone wishing to take seriously the subject at hand. Two such benefits are most obvious to all and are commonly expressed by advocates of preventative birth control.

The Convenience of Timing

One such benefit to birth control is related to timing. Though many things in life are clearly out of the personal control of those affected by them, some things undoubtedly lie within the reach of human control. The timing of when one has or avoids having children is in many cases one of those things within the grasping distance of modern Man. Further, timing is unarguably an issue related to convenience. There are some things that a person might not mind happening just so long as they occur at the right – or, at least, a somewhat bearable – time. Today, the convenience of timing when having or not having children is considered by many to be a convenience offering adequate justification for the use of birth control.

The Convenience of Limiting

Another matter considered by many to be a benefit to birth control is that of limiting the amount of children born to a couple. It seems that even most married couples in America see limiting the number of children born into their household as a potential good and would, therefore, see birth control as a viable option in bringing about such ends. The popular assumption is that one child is enough and two are plenty. If one happens to be a boy and the other happens to be a girl, it is often considered that a family is just what it ought to be and that the only thing lacking is a nice house and a cuddly pet. The rhetorical question must be raised, however: Are all assumptions necessarily true? And, likewise, are conveniences always – or even ever – the best determining factors in moral decision-making?

The Potential Bads

Though birth control certainly offers a share of “goods” to its advocates, it also often carries with itself a share of undeniable and consequential “bads”. At least three such unquestionable detriments should be considered if one wishes to take seriously the possible results of birth control.

Later Infertility

Even today, it is a common assumption among the general public that people can typically have children whenever they want. However, the passing of time and the advancement of medical understanding is progressively challenging such an assumption. The fact is that having children is not quite as simple as it is often thought to be.

Not only are there natural conditions related to the human body – both male and female – which prevent pregnancy and childbirth even when the timing is seemingly right, but there are also other conditions which have a negative effect on pregnancy and childbirth. Simply based upon the numbers, conception is not the rule but, rather, the rule’s exception; even more so is uninhibited delivery. Quite frankly, it is usually the case that people have sex much more than they get pregnant and much, much more than they are actually able to carry a baby to realized viability. In fact, it is beyond dispute that, as time passes, a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant begin to quickly diminish as she steadily approaches her time of infertility.

Birth control, however, causes still more hindrances to pregnancy, even beyond its immediate use. Even after the discontinued use of birth control, its consequences can be sustained for some time. Certainly, there are many cases in which the effects of birth control quickly – almost immediately – subside and the potential for pregnancy is immediately resumed, but there are also many cases in which its effects remain long after its use. In such cases, the female is often hindered from conception for several months – if not years. In a few of these cases, based on the duration of use and the consequential effects of birth control, the female finds that she will never again have the opportunity to conceive and bear children.

Consequential Miscarriage

Though infertility may not be the most consciously understood or feared result of the use – especially the prolonged use – of birth control, there is yet another result that is often more sobering. It is considerably common for a female to discontinue the use of birth control and later conceive – sometimes relatively soon, sometimes relatively not so soon – only to miscarriage shortly into the pregnancy.

Such miscarriages are often caused by the lingering effects of the birth control she previously used. In many cases, though conception occurred without fault, proper implantation was yet hindered, later causing dire complications and inevitable death to the once living and growing embryo. When such occurs, the mother is often devastated by the miscarriage, which often goes unacknowledged as the result of the birth control previously taken.

Chemical Abortion

There are still yet other detriments related to the use of birth control, one in particular that is directly connected to its simultaneous and continued use. Though they are certainly rare in occurrence, there are indeed times as noted above, when both ovulation and conception occurs but the fertilized egg is hindered from implantation, an occurrence referred to by some as a “chemical abortion”. Due to its nature, chemical abortion could also be seen as including those miscarriages which occur consequential to the use of birth control even after its use is discontinued.2

The Seeming Implications

Having seen some of the goods as well as some of the bads related to the use of birth control, another less direct avenue of thinking ought to be explored. One wishing to think seriously about the viability of its use should take into consideration what seems to be some implications inherent in the use of birth control to avoid pregnancy.

The Inconvenience of Children

The first – and, personally, the most easily inferred – implication is the idea that children are really an inconvenience. Such thinking seems to be increasingly common in the general public. Oftentimes and among other things, children are seen as a barrier to freedom – i.e., personal freedom, financial freedom, marital freedom, etc. This is seen very clearly in the common assumption that people should travel or “live a little” before they even consider having children. Even within the context of family, children are sometimes spoken of as being mistakes, plainly indicating the presence of the idea that they are often seen as inconveniences, or results that must be borne.

The Assumption of Promiscuity

Another – though probably not as easily inferred – implication seems to be an assumption of promiscuity. Often, parents are encouraged to get their daughters birth control under what is mindlessly considered to be the inevitability of promiscuity. This is especially encouraged as teenage girls approach their advancement into their college years. In many cases, seemingly birth control becomes viewed as simply one of the necessities of living a “normal” life in “the real world”.

The Possible Ramifications

Putting aside – even if just for a moment – the potential benefits and detriments of birth control in avoiding pregnancy, one should weigh the possibilities of birth control’s results when its methods of prevention are indeed effective. Might its potential ramifications play a significant role in judging the ethical viability of its use?

If there exists – which there indisputably does – the known possibility that conception might occur, and at times does occur and is then aborted by various factors knowingly caused by birth control, the question then becomes inevitability linked to whether or not conception marks the beginning of human life for a person. Once this question is answered, it would seem that the most logical step would then be toward addressing the question of moral acceptability in regards to knowingly ending such life which would most certainly be innocent and, likewise, indefensible.

A Skeptical Approach

Simply looking at what might be considered a skeptical approach3 to the possibility of human life at conception, some significant light could be shed on the subject at hand.4 There are logically only two definitive positions one might take in regards to whether human life is formed at conception: either that it is or that it isn’t. Likewise, there are only two possibilities regarding the relationship of one’s position to the reality of the matter: either one is right or one is wrong. Consequently, there are really only four possible alternatives in the whole matter: one believes that a human person is formed at conception and is right, one believes that it is and is wrong, one believes that it isn’t and is right, or finally one believes that it isn’t and is wrong. In either case, when one intelligibly and deliberately5 decides to use birth control, understanding its methods of preventing conception or the advancement of pregnancy, one is running the risk of falling into line with all four of these possible alternatives.

The Consequential Risks

In the case of the first alternative, one such person would run the risk of what might be considered by some to be murder – the deliberate killing of innocent and indefensible human life. Even supposing this risk were not directly intended, if it were intelligible and deliberate, it would nevertheless be liable. In the case of the second alternative, the risk would be more related to negligence, based upon one’s belief that harm might have been done coupled with one’s neglectful indifference to avoid such harm. In the case of the third alternative, there is no real risk, and so “no harm, no foul”. However, in the case of the fourth alternative, the risk is closely connected to what could be considered manslaughter – for though one would have quite honestly thought there to be no harm involved, one’s carelessness would have been the cause of great harm and could consequently be seen as quite liable.

The Voice of the Church

Before drawing some personal conclusions, it might be wise to hear and consider what the Church has had to say in connection to the use of birth control. Undeniably, many – if not most – who readily acknowledge themselves to be Christians in America unabashedly believe birth control to be a viable option in the prevention of pregnancy. In fact, many openly consider birth control to be a wise and responsible option, often believing “nay-sayers” to be either far too closed-minded, far too radical, or far too unrealistic. However, authoritative voices within the Church have at times offered very clear and direct judgments concerning the use of contraception.

Even in 1930 – clearly prior to the most modern advancements in the area of pregnancy and childbirth – the Anglican Church offered a stance on contraception through the collaborative voice of Its bishops. Though it made allowance for the responsible use of contraception, it was quite clear that it must only be used when there is “a clearly felt moral obligation” and never for the sake of “selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience”. Even upon setting such standards, the Anglican Church still saw the need to demand that – even in such seemingly rare cases – contraception should only be used “in the light of… Christian principles”, standing hard against all forms of abortion and promiscuity and further calling for “definite restrictions” regarding both the advertisement and sale of contraception even within the context of marriage.6

The voice of Roman Catholicism has been plain and steady throughout the history of medical contraception. In the same year that the Anglican Church offered Its parameters for the allowance of contraception, Rome offered a counter response, pronouncing no allowance whatsoever for any intentional form of contraception. This judgment was later reaffirmed in 1968 even amidst a rapidly growing population throughout the world and ever increasing sexual promiscuity, declaring “all direct interruption” to procreation as a natural result of sexual intercourse to be “absolutely excluded as lawful means of controlling the birth of children”, including any and all acts “specifically intended to prevent procreation”.7 Though many throughout the years have considered this judgment to be too hard, and have either outright rejected it or rather ignored it, the fact remains that Rome has spoken clearly and unabashedly.

Conclusions

And so, the question: Considering all that is known about birth control, does it stand as an ethically viable option for the prevention of pregnancy and childbirth? Please, let it be known that the present writer’s opinion is in no way meant to cast condemnation upon those who have chosen to use birth control; nor is it meant to stand as either unchallengeable or even uncorrectable. Nevertheless, it seems most reasonably appropriate to deny hormonal birth control herein described as being ethically acceptable.

Though many certainly see there to be nothing inherently wrong with birth control and still many honestly have no known reason to believe otherwise, it seems quite obvious that, when the facts and the possibilities are known, there can be no escaping the reasonable conclusion that birth control is not a morally neutral option. Rather, it seems quite plain that it should never be intelligibly and deliberately pursued as a means to avoid pregnancy.

But what, one might ask, about the goods offered by birth control? First, it should be noted that conveniences should never be simply assumed as justifications in and of themselves. In fact, conveniences often end up serving as snares to freedom. It is often the case that in Man’s attempts to control his circumstances, he finds himself, consequently, being controlled by his circumstances.8 Second, it should be noted that love often calls for inconvenience. Undoubtedly, love often brings its share of intrusions, for love is always directed toward the other, making the lover vulnerable even to the inconveniences of the beloved. Love always imposes to some extent, and so convenience at any cost is never an ethical option.9 And, third, it seems to be quite plain that in connection to birth control, the “bads” far exceed the “goods” and, further, the potential ramifications certainly shed a poor light on any possible “goods” related to the matter at hand.

On another note, it should be mentioned that there are at least three natural ends in relationship to sexual intercourse: pleasure, intimacy, and procreation. Even when real pleasure is lacking and true intimacy could be considered suspect, procreation is an undeniably natural end to sexual relations.10 When all circumstances are right, procreation generally happens, and so it seems that the Roman Catholic Church should at least be given a fair hearing when It calls for no intentional interruption of the natural consequences of sexual intercourse.

There still are, however, other alternatives in avoiding pregnancy. The possibility that the easiest option might not be an ethically appropriate option does not deny that there still remain others – i.e., abstinence, natural family planning, etc. In the end, the fact remains that if one wishes to take seriously the call to ethical living and decision-making, one must be honest, fair, and consistent in one’s approach to and reflection on the issues as they present themselves, and it is the present writer’s hope that he has done just that.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bettenson, Henry and Chris Maunder, ed. Documents of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Boulton, Wayne G. et al., ed. From Christ to the World. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.

“Christian Ethics.” Wesley Biblical Seminary – PM 712. (class notes)

“Contraception.” http://www.rockforlife.org/know_contraception.php

“Harms of Contraception, The.” http://www.omsoul.com/contraception-problems.php

Kreeft, Peter. “Pro-Life Logic”. http://www.peterkreeft.com

_____. “Pro-Life Philosophy”. http://www.peterkreeft.com

Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man. San Francisco: HarperCollins Pushlishers, 2001.

Lowdermilk, Deitra Leonard et al., ed. Maternity & Women’s Health Care. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., 2000.

Neuhaus, Richard John. The Eternal Pity. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000.

“Pill – How It Works and Fails, The.” http://www.pfli.org/faq_oc.html

“Some Church Teachings about Natural Family Planning.” http://ccli.org/nfp/morality/churchteaching.php

FOOTNOTES OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT

1either a combination of estrogen and progestin (more common) or progestin only (less common)

2NOTE: Miscarriages in general are also termed “spontaneous abortions”.

3Such an approach is illustrative of the Roe v. Wade court ruling (i.e., “the mystery of human life”).

4It should be noted that most biologists today no longer argue that human life does not begin at conception and that most advocates for the “pro-choice” position today argue simply from the perspective that it remains a woman’s right to choose, whether or not human life has, in fact, been conceived.

5Intelligibility and deliberateness are here key.

6Bettenson, 442-443.

7Ibid., 443-444.

8See especially the basis of Lewis’s argument in The Abolition of Man.

9Neuhaus, 116-120. (“I Want to Burden My Loved Ones” by Gilbert Meilaender)

10“Christian Ethics”, class notes.

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When Worlds Fail To Even Acknowledge One Another…

* Please note well that what follows in not –in even the very least– intended to be an explicitly political critique.  My concern is –rather than that of politics– strictly, here, of deeply held religious, even theological, interests.

ImageThis past Friday, my heart and mind raced from genuine surprise to appalling frustration as I listened to an exchange on a popular radio talk show hosted by a popular “conservative” political pundit who openly and boldly claims to be a Christian.  [I do not “often” listen to his program but occasionally do so for a few minutes here and there when in the car.]

He had taken a call from a lady whose both name and story he remembered from a previous call she had apparently made to his program –what seemed like– not long ago.  After talking her up for a moment, even sharing and explaining the significance of her Twitter handle, he went on to describe their recent conversation.  It seems that she had previously expressed to him an opportunity she was being given to work with ladies who have far less than stellar backgrounds.  In fact, she would be working with ladies who had been convicted of various crimes and were or had been serving time in prison.

In bringing her –finally– into the conversation, the host spoke of his previous warnings that she’d surely be yelled at, cursed, spit upon, etc.  He then loadedly [Please bear with my exercise of grammatical license, here.] asked for her to confirm that he had indeed told her that she was “too nice for a job like that” and that he had given her ample reason to not even consider stooping to such a lowly level of work.

She sheepishly obliged and acknowledged that, yes, she’d been burned –so to speak– by the opportunity.  Hopefully, they both seemed to agree, she had learned her lesson.

As the conversation soon came to a close, the host proudly assured her that he’d do all that he could henceforth to help her land any job opportunity so long as it’d be with a “conservative” organization.

Please let me repeat and clarify: I was sincerely befuddled by how disconnected the host’s practical advice was from his otherwise ardent claim of Christian faith.  Immediately, I thought that this brief yet bold exchange was clearly a poignant anecdote of how commonly we live in two separate worlds presuming that “never the twain shall meet” — the “real” world (as it is too often so profanely termed) and our “religious” (and, generally assumed, private) world.

While my aim, here, is not to address how these “two worlds” are to coinhere, it is, however, to desperately plead that they must indeed coinhere.  John Stonestreet and Eric Metaxas having repeatedly called their BreakPoint listeners to be good citizens of two Kingdoms, I instinctively suspected that this was at least a fair and fitting example of how one could ever-so-naturally fall woefully short in doing so.

We believe…

…[I]n one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried…

It is to our benefit that He didn’t consider Himself “too nice for a job like that” but, rather, “emptied Himself of all but love and bled for Adam’s helpless race.”  He bids us, “Come and die.”


The Transcript

RUSH: We go to the Smyrna, Georgia. This is Adam. Great to have you on the program, sir. Hello.

CALLER: Rush, hi. It’s great to talk with you. What a joy.

RUSH: Thank you, sir. By the way, you’re calling from the soon-to-be isolated South.

CALLER: Well, I was actually gonna say I’m deep within the isolated South. I think it’s already partially isolated.

RUSH: And the effort to isolate you is ongoing and intensifying.

CALLER: I can feel the eyes watching and the breath on the back of my neck.

RUSH: I’m not kidding. You have the ability to look at it with jocularity.

CALLER: Yes.

RUSH: But there’s an ongoing effort to marginalize conservatism, and the South is the greatest concentration of it, and therefore the words out — Lincoln didn’t finish the job. I mean that was in Salon.com last week. Lincoln didn’t finish the job.

CALLER: And what’s worse is that I’m actually a young pastor, and so I’m probably one of those right-wing kooks.

RUSH: And a target because you preach to others.

CALLER: Yes. Yes.

RUSH: Anyway, I welcome you to the program. I’m glad you’re here.

CALLER: I’m glad I’m here as well. In fact, just holding the line I felt a thrill run up my leg. But the purpose of my call is I’ve actually been on a Meals on Wheels delivery route this morning, and when I walked into the apartment of one of my customers, she’s an elderly minority lady living in poverty, and she had the tube turned on and was watching the press conference, and I said, “How you doing?” She said, “Well, I’m doing all right. I’m just watching my president on this press conference, and I’m trying to get my head around what’s going on.” And she went on to tell me that her Social Security went up $13 bucks, but that really doesn’t matter because she’s been told by her doctor that with everything that’s been transpiring she’s gonna owe $147 for every visit before Medicare even touches it, and she was asking me, “What in the world am I gonna do?” And she said that she feels like she’s kind of being left out in the cold.

RUSH: She said all this to you while she’s watching Obama and his press conference?

CALLER: Yes.

RUSH: Does she blame the Republicans for this or did she say.

CALLER: No, she seemed to be feeling a bit disenfranchised, if you will, from her president. She referred to him almost in jest as her president.

RUSH: Did you say this woman’s African-American?

CALLER: Well, I said she’s a minority. She is an African-American.

RUSH: Okay. I was gonna say you don’t sound like a Southerner. You’re helping her.

CALLER: Do what?

RUSH: I’m being facetious. I said you don’t sound like a Southerner, you’re helping her.

CALLER: That’s right. No, you know, it’s interesting because just in my previous interactions with her, I feel like she thought highly of the president. I image she probably voted for him, if she voted. You know, she’s gladly referred to him as her president before, but today —

RUSH: I’m sure. There’s gonna be a lot of confusion. I think there’s going to be a lot of confusion among Obama voters ’cause they believe him. Like the people who are now experiencing smaller paychecks because the payroll tax cut ended, and the full FICA deduction has been restored, so people’s paychecks are smaller. They see this, but they trust the media, they trust Obama. They were told that their taxes aren’t gonna go up. They were told that only the 1% or 2% would see a tax increase, that any taxation had to be fair and balanced and responsible, and that meant they weren’t going to be called on to pay the burden, and here right off the bat, their first paycheck is smaller somewhat or a lot smaller, depending. And they’re going to be, folks, really conflicted.

The media, for the past year, two years, has been spreading the word that the middle class isn’t gonna face a tax increase. Only the rich are. Obama’s been saying the same thing. These people are not going to want to think poorly of President Obama. They voted for him. They’re not gonna want to think poorly of him. So they’re gonna be really confused and conflicted. They believed him. They believed the media. And they still do. So they’re gonna start asking how did it happen. And it’s going to be somewhat easy for the media to somehow blame this on the Republicans, and I think the way they’ll do it is simply say the Republicans wouldn’t negotiate with the president. The Republicans just simply refused to move off of their desire for tax cuts for the rich. And the president tried, he tried very hard.

He worked very hard on this, did the best he could. But now the Republicans are trying to hurt the country and hurt the president again on the debt limit deal, is the way this is all going to play out. None of this, as far as the media’s concerned, none of it will be allowed, if they have anything to say about it, to attach itself to Obama in terms of blame. I’m just telling you this to try to make sure you don’t get as frustrated as you otherwise could, ’cause I know you all sit out there and you pray that at some point this country’s gonna wake up. You pray that at some point people are gonna finally realize that what they’ve been told isn’t true. And they’re not going to want to believe that for a long time. Obama’s a cult-like figure to some of these people. And it’s gonna take a number of these betrayals before they start to substantively question whether or not Obama and the media have been not telling them the truth. Adam, I appreciate the call. God bless you.

To read the transcript of the entire segment, click this link which will take you to the appropriate subpage of Rush’s website.


A Celebrity in Your Midst

So… I was on the radio yesterday… being heard by the largest radio audience in history… talking with the self-proclaimed “lovable little fuzzball” — El Rushbo himself.

That’s right: I was on the Rush Limbaugh show.

My friend Jessica said that she felt like she knew a celebrity.  Haha.  While I am certainly not a celebrity, I must say that it is eerily odd how –as my beloved Lindsey readily notes– things of this nature just seem to happen to me on a regular basis.

Just a few years ago, I got through to the Sean Hannity radio program, scheduled a call with him to be recorded for the air, and regretfully failed to answer the call.  Ugh.  Most recently, though, I’ve met Greg Gutfeld, received responses from former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) via both Facebook and Twitter, been retweeted by John Stonestreet, been on the air with Jamie Dupree (WSB Radio’s Washington correspondent) on the night of the most recent election, and been mentioned on the air by Erick Erickson, who has also replied to me via Twitter on a few occasions.

Odd.  I know.

What’s even more baffling is that, despite what others might say [Ahem.]:

  1. I am hardly ever on Twitter.
  2. I don’t spend all that much time on Facebook.
  3. While talk radio is my primary means of keeping up with politics and the news, I’m hardly a constant listener.  Most of my listening is done for short periods while driving or for a little while here and there only on a couple or so days a week.

The Incarnate Embrace of Human Suffering: Redemptive Thoughts from a Good Doctor

Nativity

At Wesley Biblical Seminary, Dr. John Oswalt was both my Old Testament professor and my discipleship leader.  He now serves again at Asbury Theological Seminary.  Here are some redemptive thoughts from Dr. Oswalt via my friend Scott Engebretson [shared on Facebook]…

Oswalt“a good word this morning from my ph.d. mentor, Dr. John Oswalt, on Newtown:

” ‘Reading the headlines this morning made me want to resign from the human race, just to disassociate myself from all the messy viciousness that seems to mark our path. I thought it was especially tragic when we are supposed to be celebrating all this peace and joy stuff at Christmas. But then it struck me – Jesus did the very opposite of what I was fancifully contemplating. He didn’t resign from the human race – he voluntarily joined it! He left the perfection of heaven to become a part of this messy viciousness. And he did it with his eyes wide open – he knew what he was getting into and he knew what we would do to him, and he joined up anyway. The messiness was right from the start. Anybody who has been in a delivery room knows that births are not serenely pretty, they are hard, painful, and bloody, and every baby ever born has come into the world screaming his or her head off for just having been forced through a ring of fire to come into this mess. And there are no clean barns: the hay was itchy and scratchy and the “gentle cattle” were covered with manure. And in the end, we don’t know how, but we know it is so, crunched into about three hours he carried for us all the hell, all the grief, all the horror of this viciously messy world. He didn’t resign – he joined up. That’s good news.’ “


The Pastoral Office and Theodic Ramblings

One of the most painstaking responsibilities of a pastor is trying to calibrate one’s mind when tragedy hits a community.  I say this because the Church is in the midst of Advent, and our congregation will be lighting the Candle of Celebration in but two days.  On the third week of Advent, we light the pink candle, a joyous break from the sobering purple of repentance and royalty.

While I do not live in or near Connecticut, the larger “community” of our nation –especially aided by live news and social media– is certainly shaken, reminded suddenly and tragically of the deep darkness of evil.

The most pressing question [it seems] on people’s minds: “Why? How could someone do such a thing?”  While I recognize that this is perhaps far too simplistic, here’s at least a start: Sin is a vacuum.

As Peter Kreeft so ably put it, sin is insane — it makes no sense, is sick and twisted.  As one of my former pastors [I still call him such] and my predecessor at FMC put it, sin will will take you further than you ever wanted to go, will make you stay longer than you ever wanted to stay, and will make you pay a price greater than you ever wanted to pay.

Sin is a disease of the soul.  Diseases destroy.  They corrupt.  They sicken.  They maim.  They kill.

The season of Advent soberingly reminds us of the darkness.  It shockingly reminds us, also though, that Jesus, the Light of the world, has entered our darkness.  He has burdened Himself with our guilt.  He has embraced our disease.  He has invaded our world of suffering and death.

The Christ-child, who we worship at the Nativity, is the perfect Man.  His birth has renewed our humanity.  He is our hope, our peace, our joy.  He is the heart’s greatest longing.

As we await His imminent and glorious return, we live and dwell within a world of darkness needing light, a world of disease needing a cure, a world of pain needing comfort, a world of loss needing presence.  May the Church [we who celebrate His presence] be tangibly indeed the Body of Christ to those who hurt and sorrow.

Lord, surround these families with love and comfort.

Lord, have mercy.


>A Brief Critique of Part 1 from an Interview with Ayn Rand (1959)

>

This is very interesting and quite telling. Where I think she’s missing the conception of self-giving love in Christian thought is in that love -if it is to be LOVE- is in it’s very nature free and uncompelled. What’s more: the Christian Faith certainly recognizes varying degrees, origins, and characteristics of love. There is certainly erotic love, love for one’s self (i.e., the lover) to be satisfied by the object of love (i.e., the beloved). There is common love (i.e., brotherly love), by which there is a unity of interest and intention. There is, further, self-giving (as she’d call it, self-sacrificing) love, which is free and personal, rooted certainly in the value of the other, whether it’d be a virtuous sort or (as in the case of the imago Dei) an intrinsic sort.


>Just a Quick Note on the "Pandemic"

>Though you will most probably not believe me, this is a brief description of what Lindsey and I saw Tuesday morning:

We were getting onto I 75 South when we looked to the car with which we were merging and noticed a poor, seemingly terrified, young man [probably on his way to work] taking what he apparently understood to be the necessary precautions for one living through such a horrible time in medicinal history. What precautions? While driving in his sleek, mid-sized SUV, he was completely prepared for the dangers before him, behind him, and supposedly all about him. He was a determined man [determined for success, which could possibly be hindered by sickness or, even worse, death] – fully clad in nice business clothes, a sharp hair style, and a classy, green surgical mask. That’s right… a surgical mask. Please keep in mind, now, that he was driving onto the interstate completely alone in his own car.

Humorous? Absolutely. Disappointing? Somewhat. Sad? Completely. Surprising? Not so much.

[You should also know that I would have photographic evidence of the incident if Lindsey would have complied with my repeated request to take a quick pic with her camera phone. I really don’t understand her refusal. After all, why else would they make a cell phone with a built-in camera, if not to capture beautiful, yet fleeting moments in time such as this?]


>"Pork Invaders"

>I found the following game on John McCain’s website. As you might know, he has long been very outspokenly against “pork projects” and “pork spending”. The game is a bit throw-back and pretty fun.

http://www.johnmccain.com/videogame/invaders/external.htm


>Memorial Day

>(above: Arlington National Cemetery)

Happy Memorial Day!

In the past few days, I have found a couple of particular things to be of some interest:

1. The first thing that has held my interest is that many – possibly, most – people really seem to have no idea why we celebrate Memorial Day. They know it’s related to patriotism, freedom, and the military, but they aren’t quite sure how it’s distinct from Independence Day or Veteran’s Day. However, on Memorial Day we particularly remember those brave heroes who have given given their lives in combat for their country.

* NOTE: My sermon yesterday was about the three things we do – and I believe are biblically called to do – on Memorial Day. We remember. We give thanks. And we celebrate.

2. The second thing that has held my interest is that too many people – often Christians, regrettably – simply can’t let holidays be what they are. Now, on this issue, I want to be cautious, for I do honestly want to think as Christianly as I can.

Before I begin to say what I have in mind, let me illustrate what I mean. A few years ago during Advent, I saw a Church marque that read something to the effect of [I’m paraphrasing here.]: sure, we all like the little Baby lying in the manger, but most don’t like the Savior hanging on the cross. Now, though my wording is not precisely accurate, I am not stretching what the sign said [Please trust me.]. Now, why would a Christian feel the need to make such an insensitive jab – or “drive-by” remark – at folks?

Okay, what does this have to do with Memorial Day? Well, a couple of days ago while surfing the web, I was invited by an add to read an essay written by a Christian concerning “the two kingdoms”. This invitation was unabashedly made as a challenge to our typical thoughts at Memorial Day, and the essay was essentially making the point that we can either be true to America – a kingdom of the world – or to Christ – the King of THE Kingdom. And so, I entered into a bit of dialogue (which I hope to continue, if I find some time) with the writer.

The problem I have with such challenges is not about the fact that they are challenges or even that they are a bit controversial. In fact, I enjoy challenges and sometimes even find myself to being somewhat controversial. About some things, I know I am controversial; about others, I have been known to deliberately inspire controversy. The problem I have, though, is that we – particularly, again, as Christians – too often feel the need to make our snide remarks about everything. We can’t simply let things be what they are and celebrate them in their undeniable truth and goodness.

Please note, I am not saying that we are never to be critical. We are certainly called to have critical minds, even judging all things. However, the writer of the said essay was painting a picture of two kingdoms that are diametrically opposed to one another – as if the Church and America share nothing in common and are always at odds. He even went so far as to imply that military service would be inordinate obedience to another “king”, though I couldn’t get him to plainly say so.

If I might be frank – not the person, but the adjective – as best I can tell, the Gospel is only hindered by such assumptions. Though America is not without its flaws – some quite big and ugly -, it is truly a virtuous nation that stands for life, liberty, and “the pursuit”. Thank God for these! And thank God that there have been many thousands throughout our history who have fallen that these might continue to be America’s principles!

God bless our nation! And God bless our troops!