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If you have to look for the change with a microscope...


Steve Waldman, countering Jim Wallis's view that the Democratic Party has moved to a more pro-life position:

If you have to look for the change with a microscope, it's not going to have much effect on the public discourse.

(h/t Crunchy Con)

Obama and Abortion

A friend recently wrote:

This election ignore all the lies about obama is a terrorist, or obama is anti christ, or obama will destroy the u.s. those things are ridiculous and they are gonna continue to go out of conrtol. but here's one thing that is true and is equally as disturbing:

In a failed abortion situation, when the baby survives, the question is what do you do with that baby? The united states congress voted on this and there was a general consensus that it was wrong to just let that baby die. However, Obama did not feel the same way. He voted for letting the baby die. Hillary Clinton voted to let the baby live. This is not propaganda, google this, I'll even give you what Obama said to defend his side:

"that we live in a pluralistic society, and that I can't impose my religious views on another."

Its not a matter of religion, it's a matter of the right to life, the most important right in America. Some people will argue in the case where a baby will harm the health of the mother that the abortion is fair. But in a failed abortion the baby is outside of the mother and if everyone shared Obama's view they just let the baby lay out to die.

This is an extremely ugly and graphic topic, but I think its necessary to hear. Maybe McCain is old, pretty boring, and just kind of a weird guy, but he at least has never in his 200 years of congress life voted against life.

If you don't like either just do what I'm doing write in Ron Paul.

Ron Paul: Youtube him

As a HuffPo article (of course, sympathetic to Obama) points out (link), my friend's summary gets some of the facts wrong (e.g., Obama's vote was in the Illinois senate not the US senate and there are reasons other than a disregard for life that may have prompted Obama to vote against the Illinois bill).  That's not to say that Obama's position/votes related to abortion don't bother me.

Regardless, I see in this appeal from my friend (and most conversation about abortion) a perpetuation of the focus on ideology rather than practicality.  The American public is pretty evenly divided between the view that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare and that it should be illegal and rare. Ideologically those two views are very different, but practically they are very similar. Both parties focus on ideology as a wedge issue, dig in to give no ground, and as a result do things that don't help.  Rather than focus on ideological differences, an approach that has led to stalemate with little hope for significant change in the foreseeable future, I'm more interested in both sides focusing on where they agree and can work together to do practical things to reduce the abortion rate.

Some examples are suggested in an article by Tony Campolo: Pro-Life Democrats Call for an Abortion Reduction Plank


Today a friend said:

If budgets are moral documents then Hell is going to be over-crowded with church folk.

and another replied:

also pretty much most families. Do you have a budget? Do you look to the interests of others before the interests of your own?

I have been thinking a bit about church budgets lately.  It started when I heard that the U.S. set a new record for charitable giving last year despite the economic downturn (from an article by Philip Rucker in the Washington Post):

Americans donated $306 billion to charities in 2007...most of the donations, about $229 billion, came from from private foundations increased 7 percent and through personal bequests 4 percent, adjusted for aid agencies, environmental groups and human service charities saw the largest increases in charitable gifts. Gifts to international groups, which were so small 20 years ago that the category was nonexistent in the survey, have grown steadily, increasing by 13 percent last year to $13 billion.

I've mentioned before that Robert Reich has argued that most charitable donations are made by the rich to institutions that serve the rich:

This year's charitable donations are expected to total more than $200 billion, a record. But a big portion of this impressive sum -- especially from the wealthy, who have the most to donate -- is going to culture palaces: to the operas, art museums, symphonies and theaters where the wealthy spend much of their leisure time. It's also being donated to the universities they attended and expect their children to attend, perhaps with the added inducement of knowing that these schools often practice a kind of affirmative action for "legacies."

It turns out that only an estimated 10% of all charitable deductions are directed at the poor.

I started thinking about churches as charitable institutions and how church-spending typically fits this pattern too.  What fraction of American's "charitable giving" to church actually goes to the poor and needy?  Churches have ministers to pay and facilities to maintain, so what fraction of a typical church's budget goes to benevolence?  For us, it's about 7 %.  I'm not saying that the other 93 % doesn't go to good things too, but much of it isn't charity as I would define it.

I'm glad Americans are setting giving records again this year, but I wonder if our priorities couldn't use some adjustment.


No, I'm not apologizing for so many content-starved posts about movies I've seen recently. 

Several weeks back I read an article by Kevin Sack in The New York Times by titled "Doctors Say 'I'm Sorry' Before 'See You in Court'".  From the article:

For decades, malpractice lawyers and insurers have counseled doctors and hospitals to “deny and defend.” Many still warn clients that any admission of fault, or even expression of regret, is likely to invite litigation and imperil careers.

But with providers choking on malpractice costs and consumers demanding action against medical errors, a handful of prominent academic medical centers, like Johns Hopkins and Stanford, are trying a disarming approach.

By promptly disclosing medical errors and offering earnest apologies and fair compensation, they hope to restore integrity to dealings with patients, make it easier to learn from mistakes and dilute anger that often fuels lawsuits.

Malpractice lawyers say that what often transforms a reasonable patient into an indignant plaintiff is less an error than its concealment, and the victim’s concern that it will happen again.

Despite some projections that disclosure would prompt a flood of lawsuits, hospitals are reporting decreases in their caseloads and savings in legal costs. Malpractice premiums have declined in some instances, though market forces may be partly responsible.

That got me to thinking about non-apology apologies which are so prevalent these days (from Wikipedia):

A non-apology apology is a statement in the form of an apology that is nothing of the sort, a common gambit in politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry not because of any realization on his or her own part, but rather only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology, expressing a grievance, or threatening some form of retribution or retaliation.

Anyway, that got me thinking about how the Bible seems to say much more about the importance of forgiving than apologizing.

Here are some of the verses I turned up about forgiveness:

Col 3:13
13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Matt. 18:21-22
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matt 16:14-15
14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Mark 11:25
25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Here are the only ones that I cold turn up and construe to be about apologizing:

James 5:16
16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Matt 5:23-24
23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Apologies can be tough.  I admit it.  I'm not above employing a non-apology apology now and then.  An apology may not be a pre-requisite for forgiveness, but it certainly helps.  Get busy.  Apologize.



About a year ago I had a conversation with a friend in response to one of her blog posts.  It was about how family planning fits (or doesn't) with yielding to "God's will." At the time I thought about the issue a bit (and also had a few conversations Lisa on the subject) and took the time to do a reasonable job of typing out what I was thinking (kind of rare).  The subject sort of came up again today with some other friends which prompted me to check to see if I still had a copy of what I wrote (which I did) and to preserve it here:

It's wonderful that your family has found such peace and happiness where before there was burden and frustration. I certainly found your post interesting and have a few comments from my perspective. Admittedly, I haven't done any additional reading (e.g. about Above Rubies), so I may be missing the point or ignorant about some areas of the philosophy. Also, I won't be surprised if I'm not able to describe what I'm thinking in a way that is crystal clear.

Again, obviously the path your family has taken has led you from frustration to blessings and peace. I'm convinced along with you that this happened because you decided to accept whatever God brought you and to serve him in it.

However, I suspect this decision to faithfully accept God's will is largely independent of what choices you make in terms of family planning. Fundamentally, I believe that accepting God's will and receiving that peace of mind does not imply that my actions (or inaction) cease to have an influence on what happens.

I can continue to act according to my understanding of God's will and according to my desires (to the extent that they are consistent with my understanding of God's will) (with my primary desire being to love and serve God). In my opinion, it is fundamentally an attitude of accepting whatever God brings...not a commitment to any particular path of action or inaction ("interfering").

I think I have a different understanding about "God's will", interfering with it, etc. You can probably get a sense of that viewpoint in the comments to one of my blog posts: link. I'm not sure about this dichotomy between my control and God's. I think it's an illusion that I'm ever really in control, no matter what I do. Obviously, if God wants to, he can accomplish whatever he desires no matter what I do. On the other hand, my actions also have an obvious potential to affect what happens.

Therefore, I wonder about this:

"The stance of this ministry was definitely to turn family planning over to God, rather than take matters into our hands and try to prevent or plan for children."

In the area of family planning, what does it really mean to turn it over to God versus take matters in our own hands? How can you define one and only one particular path as turning it over to God and all others as interfering?





No matter what we do, we have some potential to influence the outcome. Birth control is an obvious one, but so many other factors have an influence: ovulation irregularities, egg or sperm problems, physical health of the husband and wife, stress level of the wife, whether or not the husband uses a laptop, does the husband wear whitey-tighties or boxers, frequency of love-making, level of nutritional health, etc.

Because many of these factors are at least partially within our control and influenced by our choices, it is inevitable that we will interfere. On the other hand, if our interference is contrary to God's will, he can make that clear (like he did for you) or work his will regardless.

As an analogy, Lisa contracted pneumonia a few weeks back. She assumed that it was God's will that she recover, and so went to the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics. Within a week or so, she got better. Did she turn her health over to God or did she interfere? I would argue that she did both and that accepting that God has ultimate control over an aspect of your life does not imply that you not take action that you believe to be consistent with God's will.

Then it comes down to me trying to understand what God's will is for my family concerning children. How many kids does God want me to have? Is there an optimum number? As many as possible? A "large" number? What's the biblical basis?  No matter what your answer concerning the target and the biblical basis, I assume that the biblical basis is rather subtle. I tend to think that God speaks clearly about the really important things. The number of kids I have is largely irrelevant, I believe.

Getting back to the theme of the blog post I linked above, the clear will of God regarding children that I see in the Bible is that I love them and train them in his ways...not that I have a certain number. That is his general will. In the exceptional case that he has a more specific plan, he can certainly reveal that (as he did for you) but I don't believe that he has already revealed in the scriptures a more specific plan.

About kids being a burden...I'm sure some people have that attitude and I'm sure that most every parent has had that feeling at some point, but I don't believe that it is generally as widespread as you imply. At least in my experience, most of the parents I know do not consider their kids to be a burden. I don't. About "large" families, you mentioned some benefits for the kids (learning skills, service, unselfishness). Are there any down sides for the kids? Are there not opportunities for those benefits in smaller families? Is it really better to have a family so large that the older kids raise the younger kids...better for the older kids? better for the younger kids? Humans and their families are highly adaptable such that I have no doubt that many different arrangements work out OK in the end...but 10 kids, really? That's what is best for everyone?

I think I've rambled enough. I hope I've been able to communicate my point of view. I hope it's clear that I'm not trying to criticize the path you've taken.  Though it would be unfair to assume it, one might get the impression from your blog post that you were promoting the path you've taken as THE right way. I think what I'm trying to do is argue that the path you've taken is not the only one that can lead to the blessings you've experienced.



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