Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle [Clinton Wilcox]

Special thanks to Brett Kunkle for providing me with a free copy to review the book.

There aren't many books that I'm aware of that try to talk about the culture as a whole. There are certainly some good ones out there (such as Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death), but Stonestreet and Kunkle's book, A Practical Guide to Culture, takes it a step further in that they don't just talk about our culture and how we got here, but they actually provide practical steps on how Christians ought to live in this culture and how to raise Godly children in a culture that can't wait to corrupt them. Even if there were other books about culture, as culture has a tendency to shift rapidly, books like this one are constantly needed. After all, the concept that a person can marry someone of the same sex, as one of our Supreme Court justices rightly pointed out, is younger than the smartphone. "Trans rights" wasn't even a thing more than a few years ago.

As you're reading through this book, you might start to despair about the state of our culture, as I have a tendency to do. But one of the greatest elements of this book is that while the authors agree the picture looks bleak, there is no reason to lose hope in our culture. Even if things don't get better, culturally, none of this is new. The ancient Jews had to endure trials and exiles in the Old Testament, and whether than wait around for rescue, they were called to live as God's people throughout their ordeal. Our hope is in Christ, not in a short-term fix like elections or predicting the rapture.

The book is a lot bigger than I was expecting, but it is very well-written. You won't feel like you're slogging through the book. They use illustrations to help understand the concepts that they're talking about.

The book is written in four parts. Part one talks about why it's important for us to understand our culture. Part two talks about the elements that go to make up our culture, especially the fact that technology is such a huge part of it (e.g. the internet and video games) and what impact that has on us as people. Part three talks about the various cultural elements that will end up affect children who grow up, and how parents can help preserve their innocent as long as they can, and how parents can help their children understand these elements once they're ready to discuss them. Some of the elements they talk about are pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Finally, part four talks about what our Christian worldview is and how our worldview interacts with the culture at large, a culture that is "pluralistic" and increasingly hostile to Christian views.

All the while authors critique the bad ideas of the world, they are never cruel to the people who hold these views. They remind us that "[i]f we see people as culture and culture as the enemy, we'll likely see people as the enemy and confuse their bad ideas with evil intentions. But culture is not people; culture is what people *do* as people." (p. 33)

I would say that this book is probably appropriate for high school age kids and older. While there is nothing overtly graphic in the book, some of the topics the authors talk about might be a little too adult for younger kids.

This book is simply a much-needed resource in today's cultural climate. If parents and educators aren't pro-active in inoculating children against bad ideas, chances are we'll lose them when they get old enough and go off to college, where Christian ideas are not taken seriously by their professors. A Practical Guide to Culture will go a long way toward helping to give them that preparation.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Conversation With a Congressman About Abortion

On a recent errand to the local office supply store to purchase a pair of bookends (just what every man in his early 20's shops for...), I happened upon a conversation with a man who happened to be running in the coming congressional election to become my district's next representative. During the course of our discussion, which had turned to the pro-life issue, he made several comments about the pro-life view that I think need to be answered clearly. While I was not able to respond to these points at the time, I'll briefly write them out here so that others may have an idea on how exactly to respond.

Before I begin, let's review the pro-life syllogism (a type of formal argument):

          P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
          P2. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

          C: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

Whether or not this argument succeeds is dependent on the truth of the premises. If both premises are true, then the conclusion logically follows.

Keeping this in mind, here are the three remarks I got from the Congressional candidate:

1. "If the unborn is a person, then we'd have to amend the laws regarding the carpool lane to allow pregnant women to drive in the lane by themselves."
Frankly, I find this statement puzzling. So? Even if that were what we needed to do, what does that entail? How do the rules that determine the number of persons needed in a car in order for that car to legally drive in the carpool lane determine the status of the unborn as valuable human beings? The statement does nothing to answer the syllogism, and in fact simply assumes that the unborn are not full human beings.

This also confuses moral reasoning with civil traffic law, which tends to vary from state to state, many times due to the environment and the amount of traffic on the highways. There would be no need to change the laws regarding the carpool lane to include human beings in-utero, as the purpose of the carpool lane is to cut down on unneeded drivers( which doesn't seem to help in Southern California...)
As Clinton Wilcox wrote in an earlier post, carpool lanes are simply a societal convention, and not enough to determine personhood, nor should they be.

2. "The US Constitution only determines human beings to be persons at birth. We would have to amend the Constitution to allow for the unborn to be considered persons."
Actually, in perusing the constitution , the 14th Amendment is discussing the rights of persons who happen to be citizens. A non-citizen of the United States is obviously not going to enjoy some of the same privileges as an American citizen, but that does not mean they aren't a person because of it. If I cross into Mexico, I am considered a foreigner there, but I still retain my status as a person because of what I am, not where I call home.

Speaking of which, why does birth even matter in determining who gets to live? While birth is a milestone in terms of development, it seems odd to think that transitioning from one environment to the next will somehow make one protectable under the law. If only eight inches is what makes one worthy of protection, then it would seem that something like "human rights" and being a person is not really of much importance in the first place.

3. "What are you going to do about all the unwanted children? There are a lot of poor families who cannot afford to take care of their children. They will suffer worse without abortion."
Frankly, this statement is both question begging and demeaning at the same time. It begs the question, by simply pretending that abortion has no effect on those same children whatsoever. It would be absurd to say that we should legalize homicide for the poor, so that they can kill their already born children as well, and thus not have to worry about how they will take care of them. If it is wrong to treat children in that regard by eliminating them when their lives become burdens, then it is just as wrong, if not even more so, to kill them when they may possibly become a burden in the future.

Also, it is very demeaning to "the poor" and those around them to think that the only thing ensuring their welfare is through a particular policy. This is a classic "either-or" fallacy, in that if someone does not support policy "A", they want poor women to die in the back alleys of America, at the hands of illegal abortionists. Or that the poor families who do keep their children will not be able to make it financially, because of the number of children they must support.. This is absurd, and is a very low view to hold of one's fellow countrymen. Just because a particular law or social practice that is intended to help ensure one's welfare is not in place, does not necessarily mean that people will not find other ways to help themselves and those around them. Think about places like Interfaith, the Salvation Army, or the Red Cross. Just because a particular social practice is not in place in society(in this case, abortion) it doesn't mean that no one will step up to help those in need.

Needless to say, the candidate I spoke to will not be getting my vote.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What The "Gosnell" Case Can Teach Pro-Life Advocates

Just this morning before I headed in to work for the day I was able to finish reading the Gosnell book that I had been given by a friend who works at a local Pregnancy Resource Center. I was able to finish it within a few days, although I do read fairly quickly as it is. Overall, this was the most disturbing story I have ever read about, and I have to say, it is extremely disheartening to consider that this entire ordeal came to light in a modern American city within just the last few years.

The story of Kermit Gosnell really needs to be looked at by pro-life advocates, in terms of what the reality of abortion is, how far some are willing to go in order to defend abortion "rights", and the monstrosity of the act of abortion on a living, though immature, human being. The story, as I will explain below, also sheds light on the strategy of using graphic images of abortion to reach hearts and minds that may never otherwise consider the issue in light of what happens to an unborn human being during abortion.

The story was written by two Irish journalists who detail the way the Philadelphia Police Department stumbled upon the crimes against humanity that were going on inside the abortion clinic known as the "Women's Health Society". They discovered that numerous women had been injured during botched procedures, infected sexually through the use of contaminated medical instruments, exposed to conditions in the clinic that seemed more appropriate to a Middle Ages medicine practice than to a twenty-first century women's health center, and even killed during botched procedures.

Even more ghastly than all of this was the way in which Gosnell treated the babies of women whose abortion procedures accidentally resulted in the baby being born. Gosnell would, in many instances "snip" the spinal cords of babies who had managed to survive the procedures.

Gosnell's practice was exposed to the public through the work of the Philadelphia PD, and other law enforcement agencies, and he was charged with multiple crimes, including infanticide and homicide.

The jury was, as the authors noted, comprised mainly of men and women who considered themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, and two who had considered themselves neither pro-choice or pro-life on the issue. As the trial commenced and continued over the course of the weeks, there was a change among many, if not all, of the jurors on their stance towards abortion.

The reason this changed is that the jury was exposed to the reality of abortion. It is quite easy to refer to oneself as pro-"choice" or "Women's rights". It can be quite another to know what those choices or rights will really entail. During the expert testimony of the Gosnell case, an expert witness from a local medical center was brought in to testify as to the procedures of abortion themselves, in order to determine for the jury whether or not Gosnell had killed the babies in his clinic "legally".

As the authors note, one of the instances in which the defense attorney for Kermit Gosnell, Jack McMahon, attempted to argue that Gosnell had killed the babies legally involved McMahon asking an abortionist, who was an expert witness in the case, to walk him through the steps of a legal abortion procedure. This, in turn, sickened the members of the jury, who were beginning to question their pro-choice views.

The prosecution also proceeded to display the images that were taken by investigators during the raid on Gosnell's clinic. The images showed the bodily remains of human fetuses scattered around in various containers, kitty litter boxes, milk jugs, and even toilets.

The images shown and the details of what happened to babies during both illegal and legal abortions brings up a point worth considering: Abortion is a horrifying, dehumanizing act of violence against an innocent human being. This case wasn't made to the jury by pro-life advocates. This was made by a judge and prosecution who were working to convict Kermit Gosnell while still defending abortion rights in public. The main point should not be missed: Abortion protests itself when it is shown honestly. Pro-life advocates, and those who consider themselves pro-life on the issue of abortion would do well to learn from the Gosnell case, in that being honest about what abortion is does a lot to persuade a public that has never considered the implications of being "pro-choice".

Provided, honesty about abortion should always be coupled with compassion towards those who are deeply wounded by the issue. When truth and compassion go hand in hand, hearts can be reached, and lives can be saved. The culture at large needs to be informed of just what abortion does to an unborn human being, and as the Gosnell case shows, images can be the most effective way of doing this.

The Gosnell book is one that everyone should pick up and read in order to understand just what consequences can result from bad ideas, and in order to understand the role that advocates for the life of innocent human beings must take so as to reach a culture that has attempted to move on from abortion without asking first, "Who stands to lose if we don't do anything about abortion?" The answer is obvious to anyone willing to ask.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Abortion is What Planned Parenthood Does [Eric Metaxas, G. Shane Morris]

Eric Metaxas did the BreakPoint commentary on June 7 regarding Planned Parenthood and its ties to abortion. BreakPoint has generously allowed me to share it here on our blog. Click here for the original article (where you can also find further reading and more information), and be sure to subscribe to BreakPoint on iTunes.
What does Planned Parenthood do? Everyone seems to know the answer except Planned Parenthood.
When I say “Colgate,” what comes to mind? Well, toothpaste, of course. Too bad no one in the 1980s explained that to Colgate when they launched a line of frozen dinners named “Colgate Kitchen Entrees.” Understandably, customers found the idea of eating food from a toothpaste company less than appetizing, and the whole experiment bit the dust.
But there’s another brand today trying very hard to convince the public that it sells more than one product. Planned Parenthood has spent the last few years insisting that its clinics offer all kinds of services besides abortions. As the latest stunt in this ongoing campaign, they’ve partnered with “Avengers” director Joss Whedon to produce a high-budget ad titled “Unlocked.”
In this three-minute propaganda piece, Whedon depicts a world without Planned Parenthood. It’s a dark and scary place where a mother dies of cancer because she can’t get screenings, where a couple breaks up because of a sexually transmitted disease, and where a young woman’s dreams of college are crushed by a positive pregnancy test.
Speaking with TIME magazine, Whedon said that if Planned Parenthood shuts down, “millions of people lose access to basic health services” like contraception, cancer screenings, and sex ed. In other words, he’s parroting the talking points we’ve heard non-stop from Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and others who insist that the organization “does so much more than abortion.”
But as our friends at Save the Storks point out, Planned Parenthood’s 2014-15 annual report shows that they perform a meager 1 percent of the nation’s pap smears, and less than 2 percent of all clinical breast exams. The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reports that over 80 percent of teens receive sex ed instruction from somewhere besides an abortion clinic, and contrary to repeated claims by Planned Parenthood’s leadership and advocates, they perform a grand total of zero mammograms.
In other words, all 650 Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics in the U.S. barely participate in real healthcare. In fact, Americans so rarely choose this abortion giant for other services, we hardly notice when the few clinics not offering abortions close.
LiveAction News reports that Planned Parenthood quietly shuttered three of its six New Mexico facilities, all of which were dedicated to those “other services.” Apparently, they weren’t covering expenses. Waving off the closures as no big deal, a Planned Parenthood regional official said—get this—that community health centers could pick up the slack. She might as well have admitted her organization’s services were not needed.
Colgate sells toothpaste, and Planned Parenthood sells abortions—more than anyone else in the business. In fact, it’s where over a third of all abortions in America happen. We know how Planned Parenthood’s bread is buttered, and Planned Parenthood employees know it, too.
Recent footage from undercover investigator David Daleiden captured affiliates at the National Abortion Federation conference who spoke openly of Planned Parenthood “selling” fetal body parts to “increase revenue.” Some also joked about pulling unborn babies apart and how “gross” it is when tiny eyeballs fall into their laps.
YouTube quickly removed the video, and now U.S. District Judge William Orrick is considering contempt sanctions against Daleiden, who’s already facing fifteen felony charges for taking this undercover footage in the first place.
Planned Parenthood wants to be known for nicer, less horrifying, less controversial services. But ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, their name means one thing: abortion. And lives depend on putting this big-name brand out of business
Written by: Eric Metaxas and G. Shane Morris
Reprinted by permission

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would No Longer Be an Issue"

Among all the bad pro-choice sound bites that are thrown around in a culture that seems to thrive on tweets and memes, this has to be by far the worst one I have come across. During a discussion on the abortion issue in a sociology class a few months back, a student in the class made this comment in response to the professor talking about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the near future.

Now, aside from being an extremely prejudiced statement (as if simply being male or female can determine the validity of an argument or idea) this assertion offers little in the way of an actual argument against the pro-life case.

The assertion that if I was able to become pregnant, I'd be pro-choice(I'd be female, if that was the case, and my mom and doctor would have quite a bit of explaining to do...), is so laughably bad, it needs an appropriate response:

Now that we've taken care of that, let's review the pro-life argument:

1. It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.

2. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

If both premises are true, and the conclusion logically follows from the premises, then the argument is sound. The statement that "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be legal and widely available" does nothing to answer the argument put forward by pro-lifers (including pro-life women). The statement "Abortion is wrong" is either true or false, regardless of the gender of the persons saying it.

However, let's just assume, for the sake of discussion, that men could become pregnant. (Again, setting aside the fact that this would mean that there would no longer be biological males, but just assume it to be the case).

What does this end up meaning? If men could get pregnant, would this mean it is suddenly, magically acceptable to intentionally kill an innocent human being? In turn, would this also mean that abortion does not intentionally kill an innocent human being? How does something as arbitrary as gender, or even skin color, determine the answers to those questions? The science of embryology relies upon empirical research to determine the answer to the question "What is an embryo?", which is completely independent of the gender of the persons doing the research. The embryo either has an intrinsic human nature or it does not. Because of this, abortion is still a moral wrong even if men could become pregnant. Pro-lifers are not arguing that abortion is a moral wrong as long as it is done by women. Instead,  we argue that abortion is wrong because it unjustly ends the life of an innocent human being.

The statement does nothing to answer the arguments pro-lifers make against elective abortion, and instead relies on the very controversial assumption that all efforts to restrict abortion are based in a sort of "patriarchal" society that "oppresses" women. Even if that was the case, intentionally taking the life of an innocent human being would still be wrong. Even if a society is inherently unjust towards women and girls, the answer to such an injustice is to try and right the wrongs being done, not promote a further injustice against more innocent human beings who cannot defend themselves. Such a response is foolish and callous, and ends up resulting in the conclusion that the only way women and girls can respond to being mistreated is to turn around and mistreat other innocent humans who happen to be in their immediate care.

That, in itself, is the anti-woman and patriarchal view.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pro-Life Students: Make The Most of Your Summer

Now that school has ended for the semester, you may be wondering what you should do next with the time you have off. You  may be wondering how to make the break between semesters meaningful and how to continue to spread the pro-life message while not in school or while taking summer courses.

Here are three things that I have found helpful:

1. Start reading

Start growing your knowledge on the abortion issue; in particular, you not only should, but you must become an apologist. We all have had questions asked of us such as, "Why are you pro-life?" Having a ready answer is crucial for being an effective pro-life ambassador within your sphere of influence. With that in mind, it is of the utmost importance to understand the logic of the pro-life argument, and have at least a basic knowledge of what questions may be asked of you.

Here are several books that every pro-life student, whether in high school or college, should have on their shelves:

1. The Case For Life by Scott Klusendorf
2. Tactics by Greg Koukl
3. Persuasive Pro-Life by Trent Horn
4. Letters to a Young Progressive by Mike Adams
5. The Unaborted Socrates by Peter Kreeft.

2. Get Trained

While you are in the process of reading (and re-reading, then three-reading) some of the titles above, consider attending and even hosting a pro-life training seminar. Have a member of the LTI team come and speak to your church youth group, college ministry, Bible study, or at a local pregnancy resource center. Learning from those who have been working in the field of pro-life apologetics and activism, especially those who have years' worth of experience, will help encourage students and non-students alike to get involved and engaged on this important topic.

Consider also watching and discussing a debate on abortion, especially with friends and family who may not agree with the pro-life view but are interested in talking about it. For starters, here is a recent debate between Scott Klusendorf and Dr. Nadine Strossen at Wayne State University.

3. Build a relationship with your local pro-life ministry

In many cities across the United States, pro-lifers have started pregnancy centers to help those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy find the care they really need as opposed to abortion. Many of these ministries or pregnancy resource centers are staffed by volunteers and rely mostly on donations to engage in the lifesaving work that they do. Building a relationship with the men and women working in these ministries can help students become aware of the resources available to their peers and colleagues at the local high school or college. Having a relationship with the local pro-life ministry can also put students in touch with potential mentors who have matured while working in the pro-life movement and learn to show love and compassion to those hurting from abortion.

Even doing something as simple as having a stack of brochures and resources on abortion alternatives within driving range of a school can be of importance.

Putting these three objectives into practice can help any student become an effective pro-life ambassador within the sphere of influence that they have been placed in and to be equipped to make a difference to those around them.