Thursday, January 26, 2017

NGOs, Abortion, and Federal Money: The Truth About The Mexico City Policy

The Mexico City policy (so named because it was announced at the United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City) has been implemented or suspended on strict partisan lines since the Reagan administration. All Republican Presidents implement it; all Democratic ones suspend it. The fact that President Trump has reimplemented it should surprise no one. However, now that it's getting either wildly applauded or criticized, it's worth looking at the reality of the policy.

Let’s begin by looking at the facts. First, from usaid.gov:

USAID'S FAMILY PLANNING GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND U.S. LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY REQUIREMENTS

Restrictions on Support for Abortions


Since the enactment of legislation in 1973, recipients of U.S. family planning assistance have been legally prohibited from supporting abortion as a method of family planning using U.S. funds. USAID is committed to expanding access to voluntary family planning and reducing unintended pregnancies which saves lives and reduces reliance on abortion. USAID continues to support post-abortion care, which includes emergency treatment, counseling on and provision of family planning options, and community mobilization.  
The Helms Amendment: No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions. Under the Helms Amendment, post-abortion care is permitted. USAID post-abortion care programs include emergency treatment for complications of induced or spontaneous abortion, counseling on and provision of family planning options, and community mobilization. 


The Leahy Amendment: The term "motivate," as it relates to family planning assistance, shall not be construed to prohibit the provision, consistent with local law, of information or counseling about all pregnancy options. 


The Siljander Amendment: No foreign assistance funds may be used to lobby for or against abortion. {Note: later amended to add ‘or against.’) 


The Biden Amendment: No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for any biomedical research which relates, in whole or in part, to methods of, or the performance of, abortions or involuntary sterilization as a means of family planning.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Am Pro-Life

"Being pro-life" could potentially cover a lot of issues (capital punishment, euthanasia, etc). There is also a discussion to be had about the importance of protecting and honoring all born life. However,  that's too much for one blog post. I am going to focus on abortion, a 'life' issue that is front and center in our culture, especially as we approach a day during which hundreds of thousand will March For Life. 

I am going to give four different arguments for this position. The first two arguments draw from Judeo-Christian history; the others will offer arguments that can be made apart from a belief in the veracity of the Bible.

1. THE ARGUMENT FROM SCRIPTURE

Historically, the Judeo-Christian consensus has been that the unborn child is a human being.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The OA

In an entertainment world awash in TV shows, The OA has managed to catch the attention of a lot of people, and for good reason: the writers do a great job building compelling characters; the uncertainty of what is actually happening holds one's interest and piques one's curiosity; and there is a complexity lurking beneath the surface that keeps the show the show simmering in the back of the viewer's mind. 

Don't get me wrong - it's not a perfect show by any means. However, when compared to the plethora of current TV series, it holds its own well against the competition. Rather than dive into the rabbit hole of the baffling final episode, I would like to address some worldview messages embedded within the show.

I may be giving the writers more credit than they deserve – I don’t know how complex of a story they were attempting to tell. Nonetheless, bidden or unbidden, a worldview is present. That worldview is what I would like to unpack.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Monster Calls

I read Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls a year ago. I chose not to write about it because it was too personal, too magnificently beautiful to risk messing with the way it lingered. Now that the movie is out, I think I’m ready.

SPOILERS WILL ABOUND!!

As a young boy struggles to navigate the reality of his mother’s cancer and the increasingly futile treatments, a monster calls. This monster, an ancient tree that comes to life, insists the boy called him. Now that he is there, he will tell the boy three stories and the boy will tell him the fourth. These storytelling episodes are interspersed with real world challenges: he is being bullied at school; his estranged father is visiting again; his relationally distant grandmother is being forced to play an increasing role in his life; his mother is steadily succumbing to the cancer she is trying to hard to defeat.

The monster’s stories are meant to prepare the boy for what is inevitable. When I first read the book, the stories confused me, but as I watched the movie’s depiction some pieces fell into place. Here’s my theory for what it's worth. The stories are about some of the greatest fears in universal human experience: Life is unfair (the first story), hope and faith can be lost (the second story); and we will never matter (the third story). [1]

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Getting What We Deserve

Snapshot One: A few years ago, I attended a concert by Johnny Lang and Buddy Guy. While Lang’s performance left me in awe, a different memory has lingered just as strongly. When Buddy Guy finished his first song, he said something along the lines of, “Where’s the f****** crowd?”  Within minutes, audience members were shouting the f-word back at him. When Guy left the stage and began to work the audience, his speech, songs, and actions were full of innuendo – and once again, the audience responded in kind. It was all part of the stage show – Guy knows how to work a room – but I’ve never forgotten how the entire mood changed when Guy gave the audience permission to interact with him in a certain way by establishing what was appropriate. He didn’t have to tell them they could; they rightly inferred it from what he demonstrated. [1]

Snapshot Two: I once attended a soccer game in Costa Rica between two teams with a long and intense rivalry. My friend who took me, thinking himself funny, bought me the jersey of the visiting team to wear.  “Oh,” he noted, “don’t be surprised if people walking past you say insulting things.” Indeed, that’s exactly what happened. I wore a visiting rival’s shirt to a rivalry game; what else should I expect?

Snapshot Three: I saw a documentary that included some scenes from a music festival a few years back. A band introduced a song by saying, “There’s only one rule tonight: there are no f****** rules!” Shockingly, fans swarmed the stage, and the band had to stop while security enforced that particular rule. Limp Bizkit (“Break Stuff”) and Rage Against The Machine (“Killing In The Name”) have seen similar incidents at their concerts when fans went ahead and acted out what the band sang.

Snapshot Four: Last week, one of Mac Miller’s fans came up to him and said about Miller’s girlfriend, Ariana Grande, what Miller says all the time about women – specifically, how great it must be to “hit that.” If you are wondering why that fan thought it was appropriate to say that, just check out some of Mac Miller’s lyrics. Or not. The message matters.[2]