Thursday, September 17, 2009

Follow-up to Wordless Wednesday

For yesterday's Wordless Wednesday, I posted a picture of my latest book purchase with a title that proves I don't really know what "wordless" means.

Yes, I'm addicted to books. And I'm enrolled in an addictions counseling program. Which requires the purchase of books. Hence, the program is feeding my addiction. Oh, the irony is rich... well, to me, anyway.

For another perspective on the power of books, check this out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sex, lies, and the pro-choice movement

I'm pretty sure anyone who knew me in high school would be stunned to hear that I volunteer for a pro-life organization. As a teenager, I was staunchly pro-choice, and vocal about it. (The last four words of that sentence will come as no surprise to anyone who has known me longer than five minutes.)

But my change to a pro-life stance is not the subject of today's post.

Instead, I'd like to talk about the mindset behind the pro-choice position. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's important to understand the philosophy on which the pro-choice position is based. Without that understanding, it's impossible to have a real discussion of the issue.

In an article entitled Sex, Lies, and Abortion, author Dinesh D'Souza points out the philosophical conflict at the heart of the pro-choice movement. (You'll want to read the article — he makes an excellent point. OK, I'll give you a hint: it has to do with social justice.)

D'Souza asks, "Why then, in the face of its bad arguments, does the pro-choice movement continue to prevail legally and politically?" The answer, he writes, is that "abortion is the debris of the sexual revolution... [and] is viewed as a necessary clean-up solution to this social reality."

He continues:
In order to have a sexual revolution, women must have the same sexual autonomy as men. But the laws of biology contradict this ideology, so feminists who have championed the sexual revolution—Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Shulamith Firestone, among others—have found it necessary to denounce pregnancy as an invasion of the female body. The fetus becomes, in Firestone's phrase, an "uninvited guest." As long as the fetus occupies the mother's womb, these activists argue, the mother should be able to keep it or get rid of it at her discretion.

D'Souza hits the nail squarely on the head. By the 1970s, feminism's original cause (professional and social equality) had bled over into relationship ethics.* If men could have sex with impunity and without commitment, women should be free to do the same; there was no equality without sexual freedom — so went the party line. That philosophy fueled my own worldview, and that of many of my friends.

A generation later, even that twisted rationale is lost. Many girls and young women seem to passively accept and even willingly participate in the hypersexualized culture that demeans and objectifies them. They accept it without question, in the same way my peers and I accepted our right to vote, never pausing to consider that it had not always been this way.

(However, unlike the vote, the last few decades' transition in values has actually made women more enslaved to the dominant male culture, rather than less. Need proof? Just look at the exponential increase in pornography, both in volume and demeaning-ness. I doubt that was what the suffragettes were fighting for.)

D'Souza concludes his article by pointing out that, in light of this reality, pro-life arguments that focus only on fetal humanity and viability are unlikely to make much headway, because they address the wrong issue:
Rather, the pro-life movement must take into account the larger cultural context of the sexual revolution that invisibly but surely sustains the triumphant advocates of abortion.

It won't be easy, but somehow the case against abortion must include a case against sexual libertinism.

As I reflect on my own philosophical evolution — no, more like revolution — on this subject, it strikes me just how misguided was that aspect of the feminist ideal. I can't argue with the goal of gender equality. But the "freedom" that feminism held up as the standard for both sexes has turned out to be nothing more than irresponsibility.

Equality may have been second-wave feminism's goal, but it seems to me its method has resulted in a further devaluation of women, and a loss of dignity for both sexes.

And we are less free than ever, because we're looking for freedom in the wrong place.

"...through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2

*Carolyn McCulley gives an excellent overview of first, second, and third-wave feminism in this short video.

~~~~~

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bluer than blue

Depression has been called the common cold of mental health.

If you've ever struggled with depression (or you know anyone who has, which is more likely than you may think), you owe it to yourself to watch the PBS documentary Depression: Out of the Shadows.

You don't need to buy it — I found a copy at my local library.

The documentary covers quite a bit of territory in 90 minutes:
  • It looks at depression in various populations from executives to gang members, from teens to new moms to the elderly.

  • It discusses the connection between depression and various other problems, including anxiety, heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, even insomnia.

  • It talks about various treatment options and the stigma attached.

  • And it describes what depression is like, from the perspective of those who have battled it.

You may not agree with all of it, but I promise you will think differently about depression after watching.


Edited to add:

Another PBS documentary, Men Get Depression, focuses specifically on men's experience of depression, its symptoms, and some of the issues that can get in the way of seeking treatment for men in particular. It also touches briefly on the conflict some people find between treatment and faith.

If you're a man struggling with depression, I highly recommend both these videos.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The sometimes hard grace of God

"It basically says God will work everything together for good."

I was 18, a first-semester sophomore at a college five hours from home. I had long considered myself an atheist.

Yet here I was, having a conversation about God and the Bible with a new friend, a fellow student, at the restaurant where we both worked.

Her name was Lisa, and she was a patient and compassionate listener. I was involved with a guy who was thousands of miles away, and I was worried his feelings for me had cooled.

I needed to talk about it. A lot.

After listening to several minutes of my verbal handwringing, Lisa responded in a way I never could have expected. She told me about Romans 8:28, and how God works everything together for good.

~~~~~

When I got back to my room that night, I found my roommate's King James Bible and looked up the verse Lisa had directed me to. Then I read the verses before and after. I didn't understand much of it, but I remembered her paraphrase.

She introduced me to an idea — really, three ideas — that shook my narrowminded atheism at its core:

God exists.
God cares for me.
God is in control.


To understand why these were such revolutionary ideas for me, you need to know some of the background of my atheism.

My dad, though he was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, abandoned his religion when he couldn't reconcile the idea of a loving and all-powerful God with the suffering he saw in the world.

He was born in 1930. Think WWII. Hitler. Death camps.

So he came to the conclusion at age 18 that either God couldn't help, or that He wouldn't. Either God was loving but powerless, or He was powerful but unloving. Given those choices, my dad chose instead to believe in no God at all.

(I've phrased it that way intentionally. Atheism is not disbelief, or the lack of a faith. It is really a faith, although the object of that faith is human reason rather than a divine being.)

~~~~~

I was in elementary school when Dad told me about his decision. By that time, he had lived with his belief for over two decades, and his commitment to it was unwavering. It was around that time I decided I, too, was an atheist.

Romans 8:28 introduced me to a God who not only existed, but who also cared for me (despite the fact that I had never looked His way except to scoff at the naïveté of His followers), and who was powerful enough to work in situations and circumstances over which I clearly had no control (despite all my best efforts).

Without knowing any of my background, Lisa had pointed me to a verse that countered the very foundation of my atheism, point for point: He exists, He is loving, He is powerful.

~~~~~

A few weeks later, after many more conversations with Lisa (and with other Christians who suddenly appeared in my life), I put my faith in Christ.

A few weeks after that, the long-distance guy broke it off.

At the time, I was crushed. But I look back now and see God's hand doing the actual breaking. The relationship wasn't good for me, and it didn't honor Him; He broke it off, because I never would have.

~~~~~

I've been reading Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner's memoir of her own conversion to Christianity. In a section about prayer, she writes:
Augustine wrote that God sometimes does not give us what we ask in prayer. "Of his bounty, the Lord often grants not what we seek, so as to bestow something preferable."
Less than a year after the breakup, I met the man who would eventually become my husband.

~~~~~

Right now, I'm in the middle of a struggle that feels similar to that breakup. This time, it was a job instead of a guy. Back then, it took me a while to see that God's hand held something better than what I was clinging to.

I'm trying to remember that.

~~~~~