Monday, February 27, 2012

Abortion and the Safety Net

For the following post on my FB page,

A friend asks:

Can we raise heck about both? Can you help a starving child AND believe that abortion should be a very limited procedure?

Here's what I wrote in reply:

Judy, yes, indeed - as a pro-choice advocate for decades, I have always joined with others to promote family planning, the availability of contraceptives and sex education, all of which have led to a decrease in abortion because of fewer pregnancies, so when there is a pregnancy, the likelihood of carrying the child to birth goes up! I don't know of a pro-choice person who is "pro-abortion." What we know is that a reduction in pregnancies automatically reduces the number of abortions (or, as in some parts of the country, young marriages that hardly have the economic resources to raise a child properly). Yes, I think we can, and we must, advocate for both. I don't quite understand why some who oppose abortion would also oppose sex-education and contraception. Because sex still remains a number one activity, especially among the young, and others - ha! I also have many reservations about the willingness of some to shred the safety net, especially for children on matters nutrition, health-care and education. Again, Judy, I find some who oppose abortion to be rather thoughtless about children and their needs. Anyway, just a few rambling thoughts from an unrepentant Dutchman!

My friend is a serious and thoughtful Christian ... she and I rarely see eye-to-eye, but we try to walk arm-in-arm with one another. She's been a faithful critic of mine, and regularly calls me to account. I appreciate her frankness and kindness, and her willingness to engage me, and my liberal friends, too.

I appreciate her question about advocating for both - though I stand firm on the statistic that a pro-choice approach to human sexuality reduces the number of abortions, simply because pro-choice organization also advocate family planning, sex education and contraception. Also, those who are pro-choice generally stand for a strong safety net for children.

Hats off to my friend who challenges me on many a front, and for all of my friends - for where would any of us be without our friends.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What the World Thinks of the GOP

Recent European press op-ed about the American Republican primaries

The Republican presidential contest in America is a “freak show,” said
Marc Pitzke in the German Der Spiegel. The candidates vie with one another
to spew the most outrageous hard-right positions,  denying evolution while
endorsing torture and joking about electrocuting illegal immigrants. How
did a major  party in the world’'s sole superpower become a “club of
liars, debtors, betrayers, adulterers, exaggerators,  hypocrites, and

These know-nothings are enabled by a U.S. press that has been “neutered by
 the demands of political correctness” so that it can'’t say what’s
obvious: These people are daft! Instead, it “proclaims one clown after the
next to be the new front-runner.” The current favorite, Newt Gingrich, is 
actually considered an intellectual merely because he can create sentences
with multiple clauses. Scarcely a  one has even the most basic grasp of
foreign policy. One said Africa is a country, another that the Taliban
rule  in Libya. Collectively, “they expose a political, economic,
geographic, and historical ignorance that makes  George W. Bush look like
a scholar.”


That’'s the scariest part, said Lorraine Millot in the Paris Liberation.
The only GOP candidate who knows a thing about diplomacy, Jon Huntsman, is
dead last in most polls. The others “careen to extreme positions that
include starting new wars and abandoning old allies.” And that’'s when
they even have a position. Herman Cain, now thankfully out of the race,
was the front-runner even though he couldn't find a single coherent word
to say about President Obama'’s policy on Libya. He even boasted of
knowing little about foreign countries. And yet it was his adultery, not
his astounding ignorance that brought him down.


There’'s a simple explanation for this bizarre phenomenon, said Max
Hastings in the London Daily Mail. In the “lunatic, gun-toting badlands of
America'’s Hicksville, Tea Party country,” it'’s considered suspiciously
elitist to show any interest in modern science or the world beyond
America’'s borders. “Say what you like about British politics, no MP of
any party would dare to offer themselves as town dogcatcher while knowing
as little about the world as the Republican presidential candidates.” We
take public service seriously. Yet we in Britain, and everyone in the rest
of the world, will suffer if “one of the lunatics” vying for the
nomination makes it to the White House. “The American political system has
seldom, if ever, looked so inadequate.”

Don’t worry, said Matthew Norman in the London Independent. The fact that
Gingrich is the latest threat to Mitt Romney’'s inevitability just
“confirms how inevitable” Romney’'s nomination is. The thrice-married,
ethically challenged Gingrich is unlikable in the extreme. Which means the
nominee will be Romney, “the slimiest, phoniest opportunist to run for
president since...well, ever.” So sit back and enjoy this circus passing
for a presidential election. It can’'t possibly end in a GOP victory. Can

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and Horse Racing

The Roman Catholic Bishops and their consistent stance against birth control reminds me of my years in Oklahoma, when I was a Presbyterian pastor in a smaller community just outside of Tulsa.

During horse racing season, there was many a trip to the race track in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and at the betting windows, many a known Southern Baptist, enjoying the day, cheering on the horses, lamenting their losses or celebrating their wins right along with the Presbyterians, the Roman Catholics and even some Methodists from the town.

Yet, the following Sunday, these known Southern Baptists would be in church, listening to a rousing sermon that might well include condemnations of gambling, drinking, dancing and other such forms of social deviance.

And the good folks would nod their heads, come forward and get saved again, and on the following weekend, make a trip to Hot Springs with their Presbyterian friends.

I was asked by the local Rotary Club, of which I was a member, to speak about "the state of religion" in our town, and while emphasizing the strength of religion and its positive influence on the community, I described this disconnect between pulpit and behavior - and noted that this might well be labeled hypocrisy.

Afterward, many thanked me for my observations, yet I'm sure some were discomfited by them.

What with millions of Roman Catholics practicing birth control, and countless sermons and pamphlets and other such strategies employed to align the loyal with the strictures of the church, there is a disconnect here. 

While deeply conservative Roman Catholics like Rick Santorum and Mel Gibson adhere to, support and practice "irresponsible sex," it would seem that the majority of Roman Catholics are far more sensible and realistic.

While I have the greatest respect for the Bishops and their social agenda regarding unions and immigrants, I find their stance on birth control to be regressive, imbedded as it is in medieval convictions about women and their central purpose as "baby factories," in view of the fact that Europe was, for centuries, devastated by recurring war, disease and famine, thus requiring an emphasis upon birth to sustain the population. Rather than seeing this as a matter of simple economic survival, the church turned it into a holy war on women and legitimated male dominance. By the way, the population issue was also central to slaves (a word derived from Slavic) in Europe and then in the "new lands" opened up by Portugal, and the need for labor in the burgeoning sugar and coffee trade and ultimately the cotton trade in the United States.

This fixation on pro-birth policies helps no one, and only further isolates the bishops from reality, and, sadly, plays into the hands of far-right "Protestants" who have similar views on the "holiness of sex," a woman's job as a baby-factory, and the absolute duty to give birth no matter the origin of the conception.

Oh well, just some rambling thoughts about Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and horse racing.