reason4thehope

Thinking about life, faith and the world.

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Reality Chick

When Dan Cathy was asked his views on the family recently, he had the nerve to answer honestly. He believes that the Biblical model for a family is built around the marriage of a man and a woman. He could have evaded, could have lied, but he said what he really thinks. For this he and his company, Chick-fil-A, are being dragged through the mud, as if they were Westboro Baptist groupies picketing military funerals.

I have taken Christians to the woodshed for their sometimes fearful and hateful attitudes toward homosexuals. Now it’s the other side’s turn. As much as Christians are guilty of un-Christ-like attitudes in this debate, the side that currently holds the upper hand is not being very gracious in the march toward victory.

Gay marriage is advancing at a breathtaking pace. I think there are some gay activists who smell blood in the water, and they can’t resist a good feeding frenzy. The trouble with feeding frenzies is they don’t leave much room for nuance. So Dan Cathy is effectively lumped in with Westboro’s ringmaster, Fred Phelps, or the pastor who wants gays behind an electric fence, or the other pastor who says gays should be killed.

If we all vetted everyone we do business with and boycotted those who don’t share our views on social issues, commerce would be paralyzed. If Chick-fil-A and its president offend you that much, don’t go there. But must every disagreement degenerate into a smackdown?

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Amendment 2.1

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. — Amendment II, United States Constitution

This is one of those areas where, if I were running for office, I would have both sides of the debate trying to bankroll my defeat. Once again, legally purchased guns are at the center of an unspeakable tragedy in Colorado, and the perennial debate over the Second Amendment gets fresh fuel.

Full disclosure: I have never owned a gun and don’t plan to. That said, I do not regard gun owners as scary or unstable people. OK, some of them, but I could say the same about many non-gun owners. The point is, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

The debate over the Second Amendment is about as futile as it gets. We can only guess at the unexpressed assumptions buried in this tortured sentence. The only one made explicit is the need for a “well regulated militia.” Those three words alone have consumed an ocean of ink in the debate over their interpretation. What seems clear is that the founders intended local militias as a check on the national government’s power, particularly should that government build large, standing armies.

Let’s dispense with that one quickly. Assuming the intent was to counter federal military power, that train left the station about a century ago. When in the past 100 years has it been possible for loosely organized citizens armed with light weapons to challenge the increasingly formidable hardware of a modern army? It’s pure fantasy. If our national government were to turn on us to the point of provoking a violent insurrection, only a widespread mutiny within the military could offer any hope of victory.

So, on the most significant count, the Second Amendment is already obsolete. But other “givens” of 18th century life may well be embedded here, so obvious that it would have insulted the people’s  intelligence to spell them out. What are they? Here are a few possibilities:

– People in the 18th century tended to put their own meat on the table with their own weapons.

– There was no policing as we know it; self-defense was always up to the individual, and law enforcement came after the fact.

– Any other threats that existed, whether from wild animals or displaced Native Americans, were likewise for the individual to confront.

None of these conditions, which were woven into the framers’ consciousness, are nearly as relevant today. If you live in the backwoods, yes, the nearest cop may be far away. Some people still hunt for food, not for sport. Some live at times perilously close to nature.

But by and large, the Second Amendment – even if you read into it only what’s explicit– is an answer to questions that aren’t even on the table today. There are other questions, though. What’s the proper treatment of firearms in a society beset with drug- and gang-related violence, where guns are cheap, plentiful and able to do more harm, more quickly, than our forefathers could have imagined? When does self-defense cross into vigilantism in a society where organized law enforcement is a critical line of defense against crime?

I’m not implying any particular answer in posing those questions. But the conversation needs to be had over a blank sheet of paper. As long as we talk in circles around the Second Amendment, we’ll keep passing the same old landmarks without reaching a destination. The premise of the gun debate needs to shift to the replacement of the Second Amendment. Not plain repeal — we could never live with that vacuum — but replacement.

I don’t kid myself that this will ever happen. It would require a mass political suicide unprecedented perhaps in the history of elected governments. But I can dream.

Meanwhile, I’ll consider some of the imponderables, such as this one: why the tie between evangelical Christians and gun rights advocates? I’m sure many Christian gun owners hold their views on the Second Amendment separate from their faith. Still, sometimes I wonder whether I would be considered un-Christian if the person sitting behind me in church knew my views.

Is there something I’m missing in the New Testament? Or is it the thought process of people who are convinced God is a Republican, and Republicans favor gun rights, therefore God favors gun rights? Just asking.

Premature Judgment – Part 3

The Judgment of Solomon

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Passing judgment before the proper time can make faith look like fanaticism, or extinguish a life, or lead to gross injustice. Parts 1 and 2 in this series of posts looked at these themes in very different ways: first, the polarizing and often fruitless “culture wars” that drive well-meaning people to face the world with mean-spirited condemnation; and second, the hasty assumptions that can drive two young men into a confrontation that leaves one dead.

Now I’m veering back to the subject that I first intended to be Part 2. As I venture into a 40-year-old debate, I hope by this one issue to shed light on judgment that’s destructive, and on judgment that is just. Not to dance around the point, I’m talking about unborn human life.

Here, actual lives hang in the balance. I will plead for them first of all as a Christian, but also with any moral appeal that may possibly resonate. I will voice judgment on this issue and not apologize.

Speaking of judgment, ponder this: An old chestnut of Planned Parenthood is the slogan, “Every child a wanted child.” The idea sounds both practical and compassionate until you start to unpack it. It’s hard to find fault with preventing unwanted pregnancy. But we know that in practice the Planned Parenthood mantra also involves the liberal use of one very draconian judgment.

Every abortion on some level is a judgment of the unborn child’s worth by some external measure. The prospects for its home environment are too bleak. Its defects are too severe. It will cost too much – financially, emotionally or in terms of the mother’s life or health.

Those latter situations, and cases such as rape or incest, introduce some shades of gray. Such instances call for the wisdom of Solomon, and he’s not available. But by and large, the judgment of death to the child is made on grounds that while serious, are far less drastic than the exchange of one life for another.

In any event, the decision to abort is a judgment made not on any merit of the child, but on factors completely apart from him or her. And it’s a judgment in which the child has no say.

Time has a finger on the scale as this judgment is made. Abortion immediately lifts the responsibility for another life, grants financial relief and removes a physical burden. If you don’t find that a little chilling, consider how the same ethic could be applied to other people whose quality of life doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard, or who might be judged more of a drain than a contributor – in terms of time, energy or resources.

Unlike abortion’s “upsides,” the rewards of parenthood are slow-ripening fruit. Especially to a young, single woman, the judgment becomes easy when that fruit appears distant, and she has a flawed moral conviction – or none at all – about the object of that judgment.

If a person were brought forth who had somehow lived in a moral vacuum, with no opportunity to knowingly do good or evil, wouldn’t it be unjust to issue a death sentence based on other people’s subjective judgments of the person’s worth or prospects? Yet that is done with every abortion. And a life ends.

Some will ask, is it really a life? A fair question, which I’ll answer with another. Suppose there is an extremely premature infant in a neonatal ward – premature enough to have been aborted via a late-term procedure, had it not been born. This kind of overlap is not some future fantasy – it exists today. Now, supposed a deranged person breaks into the ward and kills that infant. Wouldn’t it be murder? And yet, had the mother judged it impossible to let that baby live, she could have had it aborted, legally.

The point is, we can try to compromise by setting some arbitrary, legal threshold of viability outside the womb, and drawing the line on abortion there. And as surely as the sun will rise, medical science will push that threshold back.

The pressures, subtle and overt, that drive the choice to abort make it important to withhold our judgment of the people involved. As with anything else, it’s for God to judge people, and for His servants to extend compassion, speak truth and seek justice.

In most of my posts, I leave plenty of space for the possibility that I’m wrong. On this issue, I can only leave a very small space. If there is any point at which a fetus is not a human being (I don’t think so), we are not wise enough to find that boundary. The safest moral ground is to treat every fetus as a person, too young to judge unworthy of life. With a few very narrow exceptions, to kill that child intentionally is a terrible injustice.

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