Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rejecting Reality: How Planned Parenthood And Its Defenders Hide The Truth

In early July, The Center for Medical Progress began to release videos procured after three years of undercover work. They released short teaser videos, long videos from which the short versions were edited, and transcripts. The videos not only showed the calculating, callous way in which key players in Planned Parenthood viewed their clients and the unborn children, they also provided reasons to believe that certain Planned Parenthood clinics were breaking the law in the process of harvesting fetal tissue. 

That's when Planned Parenthood and their defenders began a methodical campaign of  distortion, denial and deception to help people avoid looking at the reality of abortion and the industries that profit from it. One example requires a certain amount of speculation*; the facts supporting the rest of my points are clear enough on their own.

(UPDATE 9/26/15: When a reader offered a rigorous challenge to the veracity of many of my claims (you can read our dialogue in the comments section), I realized I needed to restate some of my points with better clarity and precision. I want to be as committed to truth as I wish Planned Parenthood and the press would be; I hope this update accomplishes that purpose.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wayward Pines

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in, or walling out."   

Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines books have sold in 25 countries including Germany, Brazil, Japan,
Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria, France, Turkey, Spain, Hungary, Holland, Serbia, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Russia, Greece, Portugal, Korea, Poland, Israel, and China. M. Night Shamylan also recently produced a TV series which introduced the story to a much broader audience. The TV show and the book series parted ways around Episode 5; this review will focus on the (much better) books.

The story centers around Ethan, a Secret Service Agent who is very good at what he does - unless it involves staying faithful to his wife, Theresa. He is one of those well-intentioned men that we tend to cheer for even as we cringe. At least he's honest when he describes himself:
"The father of Ben. Husband of Theresa. I live in a neighborhood in Seattle called Queen Anne. I was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the second Gulf War. After that, a Secret Service agent. Seven days ago, I came to Wayward Pines—" 
"Those are just facts. They say nothing about your identity, your nature." 
"I love my wife, but I was unfaithful to her… I love my son, but I was rarely around. Just a distant star in his sky… I have good intentions, but…" 
"But what?" 
"But all the time I fail. I hurt the ones I love." 
"I don’t know."
Ethan has been brought to Wayward Pines, a city thousands of years in the future that is the lone human outpost in a world that has gone to hell in an evolutionary hand basket. Though he is there against his will, he realizes it’s a second chance to become the husband and father he never was - if he can survive the reality of the world in and around Wayward Pines. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Are The Blood Moons The Beginning Of The End?

  • In 1976, Pat Robertson predicted that the end would occur in 1982.
  • In 1977, William Branham predicted the Rapture no later than 1977.
  • In 1981, Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel, had a "deep conviction" that the world would end that year. 
  • In 1985, Lester Sumrall predicted the end in a book entitled I Predict 1985.
  • In 1988, Edgar Whisenant wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 to explain why the Rapture would happen in 1988. He later revised the date to 1989.
  • In 1994, Harold Camping predicted the Rapture would occur on September 6 - then September 29, then October 2, then March 1995.
  • January 1, 2000, was the day Jerry Falwell predicted God would judge the world. This was also the day that Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins at one point claimed would inaugurate global economic chaos, and that the Antichrist would rise to power.
  • In 2000, Ed Dobson published The End: Why Jesus Could Return by A.D. 2000.
  • In 2000, Lester Sumrall tried again with I Predict 2000.
  • In April 2007, Pat Robertson’s book The New Millennium identified the day for Earth's destruction. That day has since passed.
  • May 21, 2011 was Harold Camping next guess for the rapture, with the world ending five months later. When May passed without incident, he claimed it was a spiritual rapture.
Now, John Hagee (Four Blood Moons) and Mark Biltz (Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs)  are leading a movement that claims the blood moons of 2014 and 2015 are pointing to the return of Christ this year in September (possibly) and warning us of the beginning of the tribulation, a war against Israel, or other calamitous events (almost certainly). 

Taking a stance on the blood moons has become an overly contentious issue in Christian circles. Both the proponents and skeptics are having their ability to understand the Bible accurately called into question, and that's a hard pill to swallow.  In recognition of the tension, I must note where we are united as Christians before I go into territory where we are not. 

No matter where we stand on this issue, it is Christ who unites us, not our speculation on things to come. If we disagree, may it be like iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), not clanging cymbals full of harsh noise (1 Corinthians 13). I’m skeptical; I have godly friends whose opinions I respect who are convinced. May we all take Paul’s advice to heart as we test all things, and hold fast to the things that are good (1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21). 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Visiting Heaven and Hell: A Look At "Heavenly Tourism"

"Heavenly tourism" books are serious business. Don Piper’s 90 Minutes In Heaven has sold 6.5 million copies in 46 languages; Heaven is For Real has been on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's bestseller list every month since it hit the shelves in 2010;  23 Minutes In Hell (which I guess falls under the category of 'hellish tourism'?) spent several weeks on the NYT best-selling list after its release in 2006 and continues to be influential.

This popular genre relies on the testimony of those who claim to have had either visions or near death experiences (NDE’s). There has been enough documentation about NDE’s that it’s hard to deny that people experience something when by all medical reasoning they shouldn't.  NDE’s offer fairly compelling support for the existence of a mind or soul – that is, something distinct from our physical biology – but I would be hesitant to claim anything beyond that.  Making an argument for the supernatural is one thing; making a claim to supernatural revelation is quite another.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Planned Parenthood, Fusion GPS, and the Smokeless Gun

The big story this week is that Planned Parenthood hired Fusion GPS to take a look at the Center For Medical Progress's unedited videos to see if they were truly unedited. To the surprise of no one, the group Planned Parenthood hired to exonerate them exonerated them. The story has legs - my Facebook feed is full of gleefully overhyped headlines.  However, there is much more to the story than meets the eye.

First, its' worth noting that this is the same Planned Parenthood that a mere six weeks ago faked a hack on their own website and blamed it on extremists. I felt very comfortable not accepting the news reports at face value - which is why I studied Fusion GPS's report of the videos for myself (more on this later). 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

“I don't mean to be rude' I said, 'but what are you people?'
'We're peculiar,' he replied, sounding a bit puzzled. 'Aren't you?’
'I don't know. I don't think so.'
'That's a shame.”

Ransom Rigg's Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a New York Times best-seller,
reaching the #1 spot on the Children's Chapter Books list during its 90 week run. The book has sold 15 million copies, and the graphic novel adaptation checked in with a 50,000 copy first printing. A movie is in the works from 20th Century Fox (Tim Burton is the director; he is a good fit for this story). Hollow City, the 2014 second installment in the trilogy, had a 500,000 printing order for its release.

Mr. Riggs notes on his website that this book was ”born out of my love for vintage photography and bizarro stories.” It’s a cleverly told story built around a multitude of very unusual photographs he found in different vintage collections. I often don't like how pictures shape my imagination when reading a story, but in this case I enjoyed it quite a bit. Seeing the next picture - and knowing it was an actual, historical photograph - kept me engaged almost as much as the story.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Response To “Planned Parenthood is Not Selling Baby Parts, You F****** Idiots.”

When Skepchick Rebecca Watson wrote her now viral post on the Planned Parenthood scandal, no one had to guess which side she was defending or what she thought of the pro-life crowd. The article is worth considering – not because she's right, but because what is presented as fact is so woefully wrong in so many ways.

As I respond to her arguments, I will be quoting the shortened blog version of the video that she posted on her website. A lot of what I have to say will challenge her claim that nothing illegal is happening. The rest will hopefully point out why it shouldn't be legal in the first place.

Planned Parenthood is in the news a lot these days thanks to a maliciously edited video making it look like they SELL BABY PARTS.

First, the Center for MedicalProgress released the uncut video along with the edited one. All anybody has to do – including all the journalists and bloggers who keep repeating this silly charge - is watch the whole video or read the transcript CMP provides on its website. If CMP were trying to deceive, they would have kept the uncut video a secret.

Second, if you think the edited videos makes it ‘look like’ Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts, just watch the videos and see for yourself. You will hear the following:
  • "We don’t want to get called on…selling fetal parts across states.”
  • “If you have someone in a really ‘anti’ state doing this for you, they’re probably going to get caught.” Get caught at what? Obeying the law?
  • “I think a per item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it.”
  • “I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a non-profit, they just don’t want to—they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.” Every business would like to do a little better than break even. That's called profit. It's probably worth noting that In 2014, Planned Parenthood's revenue exceeded their expenses by $90 million.
  • “The Federal Abortion Ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation.”
  • “Here’s the heart. My fingers will smoosh it if I try to pick it up. The heart is right there… A lot of times I‘ll get a full torso, spine, kidneys. You could send the whole thing or pick that apart… It’s a baby.” There's the baby parts. 
  • “If someone delivers before we get to see them for a procedure, then they [the babies] are intact…” Which is good for those clients who want intact babies. 
If you think I am trying to trick you or I ripping quotes out of context, please go watch the videos or read the transcripts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The 'Ick Factor' And The Planned Parenthood Videos

While discussing the recent Planned Parenthood expose, I have been told that my opinions about abortion are influenced by the ‘ick factor.’ Apparently, my opposition to abortion can be minimized or dismissed because I think abortion is gross. If I recommend that people view a picture or video so they can be fully informed, the response is fairly consistent: “There are a lot of medical procedures I don’t want to watch. Just because seeing them might make me squeamish doesn’t mean they are a bad idea. After all, I don’t want to see what happens in a heart surgery, but heart surgeries are a good thing.”

That's true. Something is not wrong because it makes me squeamish any more than it is right because it doesn't make someone else feel the same. So is this a legitimate argument? Am I and other pro-life advocates simply wanting to create a moral framework to support our weak stomachs? Obviously, I don't think that's the case.