Archive | February, 2013

Women’s Thursday: One Voice in the Abortion Debate

21 Feb

Women’s Thursday: One Voice in the Abortion Debate

I disagree with this blogger on many different levels  She gives me the opportunity to address them.

First of all, most people who are against abortion are not also against contraceptives.  The people who are against both are usually traditional Catholics.  They are only a small percentage of Catholics, let alone of the pro-life movement!

Secondly, one bit of data usually not included in comparisons of countries where abortion is legal and those where it is illegal is the status of doctors conducting abortions in both places.  They are usually the same bunch, with one bringing women in the front doors of their clinics and the other bringing them in the back doors of their clinics.   That was also the difference that occurred in the U.S. in  January of 1973, when abortion became legal.  A totally new group of doctors did not get trained in the procedure from one day to the next.  The ones who were already providing it just became legal.

That is key because when a country makes abortion legal, the blood of those unborn babies accrues on that nation’s conscience.  When abortion is illegal, individual doctors and mothers incur the guilt for a baby’s death.  That may seem a fine point now, but that only proves how far downward our thinking has spiraled since 1973.  I don’t want anybody’s blood guilt spread over our entire nation.  If someone chooses to murder a child in the womb, let those people bear their own guilt.

So I do not concur when the post says that countries that make abortion illegal punish women who want abortions by making them seek them illegally.  In light of responsibility for blood guilt, I can’t buy that line.  For when abortion is legal, I am punished by living in a society where we collectively bear the blood guilt of every woman who aborts and every doctor who provides an abortion.  Why should I be punished with that?  Given the choice between “punishing” a woman by making her find an illegal abortion and punishing our entire society with blood guilt, I choose the former.

Thirdly, the post advances the shaky argument that a woman’s body naturally expels more fertilized eggs than are expelled via birth control; this event is referred to as a natural abortion.  Well, so what?  If God causes a fertilized egg to pass out of a woman’s body, then that is God’s decision.  I am not worried about those cases.  My objective is not to maximize the number of fertilized eggs coming to the birth process, but to suggest that people don’t have the right to play God and to cause the death of a fertilized egg, whether by a birth control method that works after fertilization or by abortion.

Fourthly, however, I do agree that those who are prolife must be consistently so and must advocate for ways in which poor women can be helped to raise the children they bear.  Those ways do not necessarily have to be funded by the government, however.

And fifthly, one final word about the post is that statistics should often be questioned.  The Western European abortion rate is said to be 12 per 1000 women, while the Eastern European abortion rate is 43 per 1000 women.  Yet we know that in the U.S., a western nation, we abort between 20% and 25% of all pregnancies.  If that were consistent with Western Europe, then we would be talking about an abortion rate in Eastern Europe that is almost 100%.  I believe the discrepancy exists because all women are included in the statistic, not just all women who get pregnant in a given year.  That would be a more meaningful statistic.

There is much to be said on the abortion issue; my initial two posts have merely scratched the surface.  But when we say it, we need to use meaningful words and concepts.


Women’s Thursday: Putting a Tenuous Toe in the Water on the Subject of Abortion

14 Feb

Putting a Tenuous Toe in the Water on the Subject of Abortion

This link is interesting to me.  I have some pretty fundamental differences with some stands Tony Campolo has taken in the past.  But that doesn’t mean I think he should shut up and never write anything again.  In blogging, there is no concept of secondary and tertiary separation, as there is in fundamentalist pulpits!

I do like the idea presented by both men here that we can’t just make it our project to dissuade women from abortion, then leave them on their own to pick up the pieces of their lives.  I think we have to be willing to use our own time, talent, and treasure to help them after their babies are born.

When we homeschooled, we collected gifts at Christmas for “Baby Jesus” in our homeschool support group.  Baby clothes, diapers, wipes, etc. to be presented to our local crisis pregnancy center.  The thought of it makes me cry even now, as Joey and I would drive a car full of packages over after our Christmas party.  Our saying was, “Since Baby Jesus isn’t here right now, let’s give to another baby in His Name.”  Such a blessing to be involved.

I do agree that the majority of abortions seem to be caused by hopelessness in women, particularly financial hopelessness.

However, I also see that many abortions don’t particularly appear to be a woman’s “choice” (as prochoice people constantly say they are).  When a young woman is being coerced by her parents or by the baby’s father to abort the child, that is no choice for her.  Just sayin’.

And there is the guilty secret, hardly ever addressed, that many, many pregnancies (and subsequent abortions) in minors involve a man who is not, himself, a minor.  How very cold of him to encourage or even offer to pay for the operation that destroys the evidence of his crime, eh?  Because sex with an underage person is still a crime.

Where is the mercy for the woman who wants to keep her baby but is being told by her parents or by her boyfriend that she will be abandoned if she chooses to give birth to the child?

And where is the mercy for the underage girl, abused by an adult and then pressured to abort an innocent child to hide the guilt of that adult?

Real people have to live with the consequences of these abortions, too.  And mental scars are no less real . . .

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part V: Lady Edith’s Treachery

12 Feb

In Season One of Downton Abbey, Lady Edith, the middle Crawley sister, shows herself to be absolutely conscienceless with her letter to the Turkish ambassador when she cajoles from Daisy, the cook’s assistant, the secret of how a Turkish diplomat died in her sister’s bedroom.  Rather than going to her sister and talking with her about her sin in any sort of redemptive way, she writes to the Turkish ambassador and busts London wide open with rumors about her sister’s reputation.

It is said that envy is the deadliest sin, for it has nothing of good in it at all, but sheer unadulterated evil.  For example, lust can have some elements of love.  Greed can include an appreciation of the finer things in life.  Gluttony can begin with an actual knowledge of and appreciation for good food.  But envy . . .

It is plain that Lady Edith lives in the shadow of her two sisters.  Only at Downton Abbey can this blonde girl come across as plain, in comparison with her two stunning, accomplished brunette sisters.  But . . . that is just the point, isn’t it?  God cautions us again and again in the Scriptures against comparing ourselves to others.  If Lady Edith were to just be herself, she would be an interesting, rich girl with much to offer a potential suitor.  When she lives a life of envy toward spirited Mary and gentle Sybil, she becomes a monster.

And she becomes a monster with no idea of proportion nor propriety in her responses.  Edith has found out suspicious circumstances that strongly suggest Mary has sinned so, in her desire to elevate herself by casting her sister down, she just goes with that and smears Mary’s name.  If there might be any alternative explanation, Edith doesn’t care to hear it.

Sexual sin can produce shame when found out, but that shame might have come as a natural consequence of what happened.  Instead, Edith plays God and spreads Mary’s shame all over the capital by telling the Turkish ambassador about it.

Two wrongs never make a right, but how often do we see people, even in the church, whispering wildly about others, and not in any redemptive way?  It even seems as though people enjoy repeating the more salacious details of the lives of others, as though they can get a secondary thrill by the mere reporting of the information.  The Bible clearly says there are some things so shameful they should not even be mentioned among us . . . Meanwhile, we seem overjoyed to kill people’s reputations.

In the end, Lady Edith becomes my least favorite character in the series.  I am never upset when her suitors leave her.  She is dull, both in looks (because she doesn’t carry herself as a child of God, but rather as an envious little drudge) and in intellect (because it takes so much time and effort to feed envy that she doesn’t come up with much else).

What a boring, pathetic little life.  But such is envy.  Boring (the most boring of sins) and pathetic.

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part IV: Lady Mary’s Lament

11 Feb

The biggest storyline touching on morality in Season One of Downton Abbey is the storyline involving Lady Mary and the Turkish diplomat, who visits her home with an English friend of his who is courting Lady Mary, then steals her heart away.

The diplomat, Kamal Pamuk, comes to Lady Mary’s bedchamber in the dead of night, led by the treacherous footman Thomas.  He enters her room to shock on the part of Lady Mary.  She had only hours before pushed him away when he tried to passionately kiss her downstairs.

She wildly protests and prepares to scream.  He tells her screaming would not help her–that she is already compromised.  In the society in which she lives, perhaps he is right.  She had been noted flirting with him downstairs.  It might just be that people would believe he had been invited to her quarters . . .

At this point, it is hard to explain what happens next in the light of modern values.  She acquiesces to his advances and kisses him back when he kisses her.  The cameras cut away with no sex and no nudity onscreen but it becomes obvious later that Lady Mary and Pamuk had relations, as he subsequently dies in her bed.

The rest of Season One has this storyline woven in and out of its fabric, as Daisy, the cook’s assistant, observes Lady Mary, her mother, and the maid Anna moving Pamuk’s body back to his own bed.

The story eventually comes out, first among servants in London, then later in the Turkish Embassy.

It is always whispered as a rumor, however, and becomes a major issue of morality when Lady Mary falls in love with her distant cousin Matthew Crawley.

Matthew proposes and Mary hesitates.  Matthew eventually concludes that she is waiting to see whether he will inherit Downton Abbey or her own family will keep it.

In actuality, Mary is hesitating because she believes she owes it to Matthew (not to her father) to explain that the rumors being heard in London are actually true and that she has given up her virtue before marriage.

All of this is reinforcing of Christian morality, that sex belongs within marriage.

It is possible to our modern minds that Mary’s sexual encounter might fall under sexual assault, as it was definitely coerced.  She was led to believe she had no escape so she might as well relax and enjoy it.

The main point that I see is that the show holds up morality as an ideal, and shows that consequences accrue when God’s law is set aside, for whatever reason.

For that reason, I will watch this show, when I choose not to watch about 95% of the shows out there today with their muddled values.


Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part III: O’Brien’s and Thomas’s Murderous Impulses

10 Feb

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part III: O’Brien’s and Thomas’s Murderous Impulses

I wrote in the above link, Part II of this series, about the part O’Brien played in the miscarriage of Lord Grantham’s only son in Season One of Downton Abbey.

In Part I of this series, I wrote about Thomas, described by Mrs. Patmore as a tortured soul, but known to everyone else as the show’s main villain and schemer.

I actually think it would be the most fun of all, as an actor or actress, to play Thomas or O’Brien.  The sheer evil of their actions sometimes must make it very challenging to play them, and rewarding when the performances are top drawer, as they always are.

Their value to us, as I started to point out yesterday, is that they confront us with the heart of evil in us all.  Not all of us break the law and not all of us do things that lead to someone’s death.  But all of us have broken God’s law and all of us did things that led to the death of the Holy Son of God.

So, if we are truthful, we have to move away from the idea that Thomas and O’Brien are “over there outside of us” and realize that we have some of their same murderous impulses inhabiting our own hearts.

But for the grace of God, we would be hopeless.

What else do you think is inside the person who tailgates you at 50 mph on the interstate onramp?  That person is not so stupid as to be unaware that you might have to suddenly brake in an onramp, which would lead to a rear-end collision and could lead to your death.

Truly, there is often not much of a difference between the impulses that lead to assault with a deadly weapon charges and the impulses that lead to vehicular manslaughter charges.

When we are running late and weave perilously in and out of traffic at speeds 25 mph higher than what is written, are we not coldly stating that our schedule and our convenience matter more to us than the lives we are possibly endangering?  We have done the risk assessment and have decided that it is worth the risk of ending a life or two in order for us to get to where we want to be in a quicker fashion.

Those are only a couple of examples.  Any thinking person can come up with myriads more.  I shared yesterday how, even at age seven, I could exhibit coldness toward a person who needed my help to keep from falling.  Coldness that regarded its own convenience as much more important than the safety of another person.  That, my friends, is original sin and it is in us all.

Now here I will end with the good news, of the world of Downton Abbey and of this modern world we inhabit:  Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

God knew we were hopelessly broken and provided His Own Son to redeem us from sin and from ourselves.  By putting our faith in Christ, we can be made a new creation and begin growing to be more like Christ.  Praise God for making a way!

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part II : O’Brien and Miscarriage!

9 Feb

As anyone who has seen the first season of Downton Abbey knows, Lord Grantham’s wife Cora finally conceives a male heir after his three daughters are already adults, but then loses the baby when she slips on a piece of soap on the floor next to her bathtub.  The soap was purposely planted there by Cora’s maid, Miss O’Brien.  O’Brien thinks Cora is planning to replace her, after overhearing and misunderstanding a conversation about a maid being hired for Cora’s mother-in-law.

How often do we do that?  Hear a few words out of context and think we know the whole story?

But, beyond that, although most of us would never try to cause a pregnant woman to fall, have we ever done something out of equally hateful impulses?  Maybe something from motives so evil that the thought of it sends chills down our spine years or decades later?

I could hardly bear to look at O’Brien when she realizes that her mistress never intended to send her away and, in fact, loves her blindly.  Her mistress has not the slightest suspicion that the soap was intentionally placed in her path.  No one has the slightest idea.  But O’Brien knows.  She knows that she caused a baby’s miscarriage.  She did the equivalent act to taking a woman today and forcing her to have an abortion.

Looking at O’Brien in that moment, I see a desolate woman who has to live with private guilt forever, whether or not she ever confesses to anyone what happened.  Her sin cannot be undone.  It can be forgiven but its effects are permanent.

Even if her mistress had intended to send her away, her response was disproportionate, wasn’t it?  It is the equivalent response to the people today who are fired from a job and return with a weapon to shoot the place up!  Being fired, even wrongly, is not equivalent to being murdered.

But . . . I remembered tonight a time when I was about seven years old and was out in the countryside, at a friend’s slumber party for her birthday.  It was my first slumber party and it was exciting and scary at the same time.

My friend lived on a farm.  And we were having a hayride right after dark.  I only knew my friend at the party, as the other girls were from her school, out in the countryside.

One of the little girls started to fall off the back of the wagon but caught herself.  She struggled to get back on.  In the process, I looked down and realized she had grabbed my hand.  She was hanging off the back of the wagon, gripping my hand.  She struggled for what seemed like forever to right herself, with no success.

What happened next I could never explain if I lived a thousand years.  I got tired of holding onto her hand while she struggled to get back on the wagon.  Not physically tired.  Annoyed.  Tired of this needy stranger holding my hand.  I let go.

She plunged underneath the wagon.  We did not run her over, but she was injured.  She didn’t break anything, but we didn’t know that for sure until she had been taken to the doctor.

No one ever found out why she fell.  She didn’t remember holding my hand, I am sure.  I carried a cold edge of guilt over that act for many years.  In fact, I don’t remember ever telling anyone about it, until now.

We can make all kinds of excuses for me.  I was only seven.  I didn’t know she would fall.  I didn’t intend for anything bad to happen but just wanted to get her to stop holding on to me.  And she wasn’t really hurt badly after all.

Except . . . I know that in my heart lurked that same cold impulse that animated O’Brien when she set out to get revenge.  I didn’t care one toss for this girl.  She was an annoyance to me and I got rid of the annoyance, like swatting a bug.

I didn’t mean for her to fall, but if she had been crushed and killed beneath the wheels of the haywagon, it would still have been due to my cold, sinful heart.

You see, that is our guilty little secret.  In the hearts of all of us lurk those moments when we don’t really care about the wellbeing of others.  And, when we are like that, we are not much better off than Miss O’Brien.

That is the brilliance of Downton Abbey.  There are some true villains there.  O’Brien is usually one of them.  But when we look deeply at them, we realize the villainy of our own hearts.

And those of us who are Christians humbly bow and thank Jesus for coming to redeem our villainous hearts.

A Morality Play: Season One of Downton Abbey

8 Feb

Obviously, my title is its own spoiler alert for any who have not seen Season One yet!

I also must make a disclaimer here and say that I hardly watch any modern television programs.

“Jeopardy” and some Piers Morgan interviews because my husband likes them.  The news.  That is about it.

I love movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I love retro TV from the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  

I love classic novels.

I evaluate television by those standards, not by other current shows.  So if something being made now has my stamp of approval, it is an amazing and unusual work of art.

Downton Abbey is that show.  We are watching Season Three, but were given the first two seasons on DVD as a gift for supporting public television.  So I am catching up on the earlier episodes right now.

I love the beautiful home, and the precious small town atmosphere around Downton Abbey.

I love the clothes.

I love the depth of the characters that are portrayed, both upstairs and downstairs.

I started out with Lady Mary as my favorite character, but it has slowly shifted to be Mr. Carson, the loyal family butler.  My favorite scene is at the end of Season One as he hesitantly offers his shoulder to the crying Lady Mary.  Wonderful characterization!

I also love the morality of the characters.  Even the villains know when they are doing wrong and consciously choose to do so.  Things were not portrayed with so many mixed signals and analyses back in the World War I era and the show is faithful to that.  People back then didn’t call good evil and evil good.

When someone does wrong on the show, even the moral characters, they have consequences to their actions, in the tradition of the best old movies and literature (think Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”).

Sure we are all flawed sinners.  But the show rewards the good things that are done and punishes the evil ones.  Eventually.  Just the way God has set up natural consequences to work in this world.

I also applaud the fact that there is no real violence portrayed onscreen, just a few scuffles between men using their fists.  The way Shakespeare used to write his plays.  The violence takes place offscreen.  Even World War I, in the case of Downton Abbey.

So does the sex.  Yes, there are two sexual storylines, one heterosexual and one gay.  But those stories are also take place offscreen and are told by the characters involved.  When things begin to get steamy, the camera stops rolling at the kissing part.  There is no nudity nor heavy breathing.

The word is “understated.”  It involves avoiding coarseness. I applaud the show for this.

One note about Thomas, the gay character, who by our modern definition is guilty of sexual assault (and blackmail) in every one of his attempted relationships:  if I were gay, I would regard his character, the biggest villain at Downton Abbey, as a big step backwards for gay rights.  I am not sure why a kissing scene, involving him as footman to a nobleman, happens in the first episode.  It has kept many traditional Christians from carrying on watching the series.  And it is not followed up in any of the other episodes.  It is like a bone being thrown to the gay lobby, but makes no sense, in context.  And, as I said, his character is despicable after that.  

Mrs. Patmore, the cook, refers to him as a “tormented soul,” while trying to explain him to a naive young girl who has a crush on him.  That is the kindest thing ever said about Thomas. Back then, that would be the phrase used for a gay person, I suppose.  

So “Downton Abbey” is a show that celebrates morality and does not involve coarseness and a cheapening of our standards and ourselves.

What is not to like?




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