Tag Archives: Children

Our Most Recent Church Small Group Endeavor

untitledIt had started snowing by the time we got to the house. It had rained all day, and there were weather warnings for the night and next day. Since Chris and I are both Midwestern, and most importantly, the car was Midwestern, we weren’t super worried. At least, not about that.

We were trying a new small group for the first time. It was connected to Chris’ church, and there were going to be food and games. I was relieved, because it meant I didn’t have to share anything too personal and deep, which it something I have a tendency to do when someone asks me. The last small group we had gone to, I had essentially relayed my whole story with depression, which fascinated the small group leader, like he had never met someone with depression before. He was perfectly nice and appropriate and everything, but I felt really on the spot.

So, I could easily avoid the life history if I wanted to. I started to get really nervous when we went to the door. I could hear children’s voices. When we rang the doorbell, a gaggle of kids opened it. Neither Chris or I really knew what to say. “Hi, we’re here for the small group” didn’t seem quite right, given our audience. The kids screamed, “People are here!” and then proceeded to close the door.

“Just go in,” I told Chris.

“They’re holding the door shut,” he replied.

Oh no.

After an agonizing minute or so, an adult human woman opened it. She had a baby tied to her chest and was extremely pregnant. She had an odd look (at least, I thought it was odd), like she was expecting us to try and sell her something.

“Is this the church small group?” Chris asked.

“Yeah! Come on in!”

We all introduced ourselves and went to the kitchen, where more introductions occurred. I quickly deduced that they were all dads, and it was their brood who had tried to shut us outside. For her sake, I was glad they weren’t all the kids of the woman who opened the door, but that meant that Chris and I were currently the only adults in the room who were not parents. Well, us, and the young guy whose zipper fly was down. I spent the next ten minutes or so trying to make my body as small as possible so kids would stop crashing into me, and sending a telepathic message to Chris to signal to Zipper Fly to zip up. I was not successful in either.

A few more people came, and with them, children. I became more and more uncomfortable. When it was time to eat, everyone stood staring at the food for what felt like an eternity, not wanting to go first.

“This is very Midwestern,” I murmured to Chris.

When we finally ate, Chris and I went first, because we were “the guests.” It was subtle, but then I realized that we were the only ones considered guests. That felt weird. I asked if we were all going to eat at the table in the room next door.

“Sit wherever! Make yourself at home!” the man of the house said.

Okey dokey.

Chris and I went to sit at the table and waited for the others to join us. No one came. I could see them, standing in the kitchen and eating. If I was someone else, I would have gotten up and went back into the kitchen, but I was not confident in my ability to hold a plate and eat. The kitchen was small, and with all the adults and assorted children running around, it was pretty much assured that I would drop my food everywhere.

Eventually, someone did come out. We had a painfully awkward conversation about where we were from, stuff to do in Oregon, and believe it or not, pressure cookers. I became absurdly enthusiastic sharing my knowledge, as if I was a salesperson for the Instant Pot. Another person came out and stood by the table. More painful conversation. All the while, two kids played with their fishing game at the table with us, lightly arguing about who had caught what fish. Eventually, both adults left because their kids needed food/help with the bathroom. I did not expect them to return.

At this point, I had checked out. We had not even reached the “game” portion of the evening, and I was dreading it. But I wasn’t going to say anything. Chris already knew how picky I was about people, so I wasn’t going to be the jerk and make him leave. To my surprise, he said he was going to make an excuse about work, so we could leave. We took our plates to the kitchen and Chris made his announcement. It triggered a few questions about what his career, and I realized that in our two conversations, they had always asked Chris what he did, but never me, even when the opportunity was right in front of them. We had only started talking about pressure cookers because Chris had brought up my freelance writing on my own and my newest project. I chose to not see it as sexism in action, but rather an indication of just how bad people are at talking to each other. The man of the house said we should come back another time.

“Definitely!” Chris said.

We got in the car and I declared that I needed hot chocolate. As I sang along to the radio, I noticed Chris had not spoken. He didn’t speak the entire drive, and even forgot where we were going, so we went to a different Dutch Bros than usual. When we got home and changed into our comfy clothes, I asked him if everything was okay.

“I’m just disappointed,” he said.

He didn’t talk much the rest of the night. I realized that the reason I didn’t feel anything about the bust of an evening was that I didn’t really expect anything. I knew what it was like to feel incredibly uncomfortable (and unwelcome) somewhere. I’ve been to my share of youth groups and churches, and had anxiety long enough to know what it feels like when an entire house seems to want to expel you from its walls. Chris isn’t that way. He’s endlessly gracious about people and optimistic about every situation he goes into. I sometimes think I would like for Chris to have a rough time somewhere so he can relate to me more, but seeing him so disappointed and quiet…it kind of broke my heart. I wanted him to be chatty and goofy with the dog. I wanted him to be himself again.

I think we should start our own small group. No kids. Read interesting books. Go do volunteer work. Be intentional about building a spiritual community that questions and builds up. I would sign up.

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Why I Don’t Call Myself “Pro-Life” (As Defined By A Google Image Search)

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I’ve been sitting on this blog topic for a while now, because I have a lot of thoughts and it’s controversial. I like to work through things when those two things collide. First of all, I’d just like to say that I do not like abortion. I don’t like to really think about the process of abortion, because I do not like it. In my perfect world, no woman would ever want or need one. But the world isn’t perfect. So we make due. I would also like to say that this post is about the movement as a whole, and not individual people whom I know. Most of the pro-lifers I know are genuinely kind people. However, there are aspects of their beliefs that I do not understand. 

I cannot buy into the whole pro-life stance because it confuses me on a couple of different levels. It’s inconsistent. It contradicts itself. It approves of certain people who should not be approved of. It lies. It manipulates. 

I have two main issues with the pro-life movement and its numerous organizations: 1) Its emotional manipulation and 2) Its inconsistency.

  I’m not sure when the emotional manipulation began for the pro-life movement, but I’m betting a lot of it was sparked by “The Silent Scream,” an anti-abortion film made in the ’80s that is famous (or infamous) for its graphic visuals and videotape of an actual abortion on a sonogram. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist, was behind the film. During the showing of the abortion, he says, “We see the child`s mouth wide open in a silent scream. . . . It is moving away in an attempt, a pathetic attempt, to escape. . . . This child senses the most mortal danger imaginable.” This is just horrible, and not because it’s true. The fetus was 12 weeks old. Other medical experts denied the fetus’ ability to move with purpose and it’s unlikely that the part of the brain that perceives pain was even formed yet.  It does not sense danger, it doesn’t know emotions. Don’t mistake my skepticism of Dr. Nathanson as callousness about abortion. Like I’ve said, I do not like abortion. I am not “pro-death.” I also do not like being manipulated. “The Silent Scream” is not an unbiased presentation of facts, it has an agenda, and could be called propaganda. This is why I am wary of pro-life and its aggressive attempts to hit upon my emotions; it has a very specific purpose and will not present ideas that contradict that purpose. Like the idea that fetuses can’t feel pain until a certain stage of development.     

This is my problem: I don’t like child prostitution. I think it’s horrendous. Do I go around waving pictures of a child being raped? No. Why? Because it’s unnecessary and is more disturbing than anything else. It shocks people. It doesn’t necessarily move them to action. Now, this isn’t a great example, because pretty much everyone who isn’t crazy also doesn’t like child prostitution. Abortion is different, because a ton of people don’t think it’s that bad or that fetuses aren’t people yet, so pro-lifers wave around pictures to show that, yes, this is actually a pretty violent thing. I get it. A better example would be if I was protesting what happened in Abu Ghraib and other enhanced interrogation techniques, and had signs with pictures of soldiers and prisoners. Images like that mostly just shock people and don’t actually change anyone’s mind. It’s especially troublesome when emotional manipulation involves children. Lots of children are involved in pro-life events, and it disturbs me. I don’t think a six-year old boy who doesn’t know what a vagina or sex is should be holding a grotesque sign of an aborted fetus. That’s just the worst. Even those Pro-Life Across America signs with cute babies saying cute things bother me. People who get abortions rarely have problems with babies themselves. It’s the whole being pregnant and changing their entire lives thing. Seeing a sign with a baby is not going to convince them about anything; it could even have the reverse effect and harden their hearts further. Because they know they’re being manipulated.

      This December, a suit was filed by the ACLU against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops because of a situation where a woman received improper medical care from a Catholic hospital. After 18 weeks, her water broke and she went to the only hospital in her county, which was Catholic. She was given medication for her pain and sent home. She returned the next morning with bleeding and was again told to go home. The third day, she went back yet again, where she miscarried and the baby died. Medical officials reviewed the case and concluded that the hospital should have informed the woman that her baby had next to no chance of surviving and that removing the fetus was an option. The hospital’s actions could have resulted in the woman developing a fatal infection. The ACLU decided to file the suit against the Conference instead of the hospital because this is only one of many cases where religious policies put upon Catholic hospitals has resulted in dangerous medical practices.

      This is just one example of where the pro-life movement (especially in situations involving the Catholic church) is inconsistent in its claim that it values all life. Doctors have been excommunicated for performing emergency abortions to save the life of the mother. In Ireland, one of the strictest countries in terms of abortion law, a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant was told she was miscarrying baby, but was then denied an emergency termination. Despite the woman’s severe pain, the doctors said that they had to wait until the baby had no heartbeat. When they determined the baby had indeed died, they removed the fetus. Savita Halappanavar died four days later of a blood infection.

      In the Dominican Republic, where all abortions are banned, 16-year old Rosa died after her cancer treatment was delayed 20 days because the chemotherapy could have terminated her pregnancy.  The ban in the Dominican Republic made headlines in 2009 when it was put in place and received support from American pro-life groups. LifeNews, a popular pro-life website, quoted one of the Americans involved: “We have witnessed firsthand the grievous slaughter of innocent children in America, and we are committed to helping our friends in the Dominican Republic to avoid the same mistakes.”

Was he thinking about the women who might be affected by this ban? What about their lives? It’s easy to justify outright bans by saying how rare Rosa’s circumstances are, and even how rare pregnancy by rape or incest is, but that’s dangerous thinking. It erases all the women it does affect, which number thousands in the US alone. Each life is important, isn’t it? Or does that only apply to the unborn?

     It’s been a criticism of the pro-life movement for a long time, that they only seem to care about fetuses, and as soon as that kid is born, it’s on its own. We’ve got pro-life politicians voting to restrict abortion and then in the same day, voting to cut food stamps and arguing against minimum wage. I’ve seen people mocking those who want higher wages by saying they deserve what they have, because they aren’t “skilled” enough to get more. So you’ve got a sixteen-year old girl who drops out of high school to raise the baby YOU wanted her to have, and then you’re saying she doesn’t really need those food stamps, and that she shouldn’t be earning more per hour at McDonald’s because “McDonald’s was never intended to be a career.” Oh, the compassion. Again, I’m not saying all pro-lifers are cold-hearted monsters. Most of the people I know would want to help the 16-year old mom and wouldn’t be jerks about it, but what I am saying is look at who you are voting for and look at the inconsistencies. They may wear the Pro-Life badge, but what else are they wearing? Do they actually care about people? Or are they just spouting some emotional tirades about thumb-sucking ultrasounds to get your check mark?

    Another area where the pro-life movement is glaringly inconsistent is when it comes to sex education and contraception. Over and over again, abstinence-only education has been proven to fail. The idea that sex education promotes or hastens sexual activity among teens has also been proven false. Many Christian pro-life organizations continue to push for it. Face it: if someone is going to have sex, a teacher telling them not to is not going to change their mind. People also make mistakes and compromise their values. They need a safety net. You can’t just say that kids should learn about sex from their parents and that it’s not the school’s business, and then when the parents fail at that and a teenager gets pregnant, suddenly leap in the ring and start telling everyone what to do. Why so interested now and not before? Again, is it worth your time just because there’s a fetus involved?

       Most people are also misinformed about contraception, and pro-life groups calling morning-after pills “abortion pills” (which do exist, but are not the same as morning-after) does not help. Christians all too often also promote (or at least passively approve) the idea that women who use contraception are “sluts.” A woman only needs to be having sex with one person to need birth control. So, relax. It’s not like every woman who gets her hands on birth control is going to lose her mind and start having sex with anything that moves. There aren’t some libido-boosting chemicals in those things. People also get upset at the idea that insurance will cover birth control and recently, that Obamacare will cover more women than ever before. Isn’t that a good thing? More birth control means less unwanted pregnancies means less abortions. This ties into the inconsistency thing for me – people get all red-faced about paying for birth control and then get super mad about abortions. One thing could have prevented the other, and if you really believe that abortion is murder, then paying for birth control is waaaaay less morally objectionable than having taxes go towards abortion (which they do not), so what is the real issue here? Is this really about saving babies, or is it about sex you don’t want women to have? It sounds like it’s about sex, especially when people say that getting pregnant is a “consequence” of having sex, so women should just deal with it and not get an abortion. I thought a baby was a blessing, not a punishment. Make up your mind. This is confusing to me. If I’m going to call myself pro-life, I don’t want all this extra “NO SEX FOR YOU” and “NO BIRTH CONTROL EITHER” hanging around.

    Abortion should not be banned. Number one reason: it does not actually stop abortion. In Africa and Latin America (where most countries have very tight restrictions), abortion rates are about 29 per 1,000 and 32 per 1,000. In Western Europe (where abortion permitted on “broad grounds), the rate is 12 per 1,000. In countries where the restrictions are the most strict, abortions are also the most unsafe, so more women die. Now, these numbers are not to be blindly taken as truth (the Guttmacher Institute faces a decent amount of criticism because of its number-gathering methods in certain countries, though I found only one legit source that criticizes them, and then the rest are all pro-life/Christian websites and blogs, soooooo a little biased there), but I’m inclined to believe that in countries that are considered “developing” – where there’s a lack of modern medical care in rural areas, high poverty rates, little access to birth control, and very strict abortion laws – there are going to be a lot of abortions done unsafely (either self-induced or by non-professionals). If a woman wants to have an abortion, she will get an abortion. And she might die in the process.

     Reason two – The women who are the most vulnerable and most at risk will be the ones to suffer most. I’m talking about pregnant women with cancer, rape victims, women at risk for infections, women who can’t bear the thought of their child being born only to suffer for a few hours and then die, women whose babies will be born dead….this is not emotional manipulation, these are facts. People can try and dismiss the statistics, and just focus on a teenager who made a mistake and wants a “quickie abortion,” but the reality is there is no one type of person who would ever want an abortion. That’s important to at least think about, to look at their stories, to hear their reasons, and not to just shame them and write them as “baby killers.” Who is that helping?

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Side Bar:

I also come across this thing where people are all like, “You care about this typhoon in Indonesia/any other horrible thing in the world? Well, babies are dying! Isn’t that worse?” Like it’s some kind of competition. Or this has happened a couple times, where I say how sad those polar bears commercials make me, or that Sarah McLachlan ad about the animals, and I get this aggressive “Abortion is the new Holocaust!” thrown in my face. Yesssss, that is also bad. Which is why I support more birth control, comprehensive sex education, and less shaming about children outside of marriage…what exactly do you think? And, as a head’s up, don’t go around calling things “the new Holocaust” or saying things are “like the Holocaust.” Because it’s not. It’s not the systematic extermination of a certain race and faith by a dictator, and yes, I do in fact know that Margaret Sanger was into eugenics, but did you know that organizations can change and not hold to every wacko idea that their founders had? Henry Ford was way into eugenics too, but we still buy Ford. Calm down.

Also, google “Pro life” and look at what comes up. A LOT of emotional appeals there. And shaming. Like that nice little bumper sticker that says, “The root cause of abortion is selfishness.” Really? Is it? Every time? Ok. I’ll stick that on the car of the politician who said that abortions in situations where the mother’s life is at risk are about “convenience.”

 

Sources:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-03-17/news/8501150835_1_fetus-dr-bernard-nathanson-abortion

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/us/lawsuit-challenges-anti-abortion-policies-at-catholic-hospitals.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/08/world/europe/ireland-abortion-controversy

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/18/world/americas/dominican-republic-abortion/

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/11/07/study-finds-abstinence-only-programs-fail-to-reduce-teen-sexual-behavior/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/brian-nieves_n_3640587.html

National Adoption Awareness Month

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November is National Adoption Awareness Month. I know at least two families who have adopted children and when the time comes to start a family of my own, I want to consider adoption. There are so many children in the world who need a family; why shouldn’t I be a part of that?

Stats in 2011 estimate that 153 million children under 18 have lost one or both parents. There are of course orphans and children who need families in America, but internationally, the number of orphans is staggering.  In the US, we don’t usually think about malaria, or war, or extreme poverty, or HIV/AIDS, but on a global scale, these are routine concerns and countless children are losing their parents daily. These children (usually girls) have to drop out of school to care for their other siblings and try to find work or marry. In the worst circumstances, orphans are bought and sold as soldiers, prostitutes, and slaves. In order to survive, many orphans turn to crime.

Adoption is one way that orphans can be given a family and the opportunities they need to have a full life. However, I imagine that adopting a child (especially one from a different country who is not a newborn) is much more complex than giving birth to one. There are cultural differences and emotional traumas to be considered, and is especially acute the older the child is. Families are not always equipped to deal with the challenges. I read about a trend a couple years ago where these Christian families in rural areas were adopting 4-5 children at once from African countries, through a sketchy organization, and often had to give the children to other families or even tried to send many back to their home countries. The emotional damage a situation like this causes has got to be very difficult for an orphan.

If one is not able to personally adopt a child, there are other ways to support orphans. Organizations like Worldwide Orphans work to provide children with the physical care they need as well as giving them skills to become independent. A big problem with traditional orphanages is when the children age out, they have no where to go and no idea about how to support themselves without resorting to crime, prostitution, or unwanted marriages. The Worldwide Orphans Foundations provides education, health care, recreation, and technology on a long-term scale, because not every child can be adopted. Every child can be cared for though, if the right organizations are supported.

Go to https://www.wwo.org/ to get more information and donate.