Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Dehumanizing Evil That Is NARAL

During Sunday's Super Bowl, the snack company Doritos ran an ad showing an expectant mother receiving a sonogram while the father looks on, eating Doritos. With each bite, the baby responds, reaching for the chips. At one point the mother grabs a chip and throws it, leading the baby to suddenly emerge to get the chip.

NARAL (which is what the National Abortion Rights Action League is now called) immediately responded with this tweet:

According to NARAL, showing a baby craving salty snack chips is a "tactic," and in particular, a tactic with the audacity of "humanizing fetuses."

This tweet may be the most stupid and evil tweet in the history of pro-choice advocacy.

First, as to its stupidity, how is it possible to "humanize" something that is already self-evidently a human? No one questions that the fetus of a man and woman is a human fetus. From conception, human beings have unique genetic coding that make them human, as opposed to a plant or an animal. This is a simple scientific fact. As this wonderful video explains, "Fertilization is the epic story of a single sperm facing incredible odds to unite with an egg and form a new human life." 

So at conception something exists - that makes it a "being," and it is human - that makes it a "human being."

The debate between pro-lifers (like me) and pro-choicers is not whether the fetus is a human being, but whether the fetus is a person with Constitutionally protected rights. But no ethicist who argues for abortion rights, including writers like Peter Singer and David Boonin, denies that the fetus is a human. So this is the epic stupidity of NARAL's tweet.

But what classifies this tweet as not merely idiotic but truly evil is the implicit position NARAL is taking on the question of personhood. The Supreme Court's opinion in Roe v Wade declared that the fetus was not a person until the moment of viability, the time in fetal development when the baby could potentially live outside the mother's womb. In 1973, the Court determined that this was at the start of the third trimester. Of course, since then we have seen advances in medical technology that make viability a possibility much earlier than seven months.

But in the case of the Doritos commercial, this baby was not a newly conceived embryo, or even a two or three month old fetus. If you saw the commercial, it was obvious that the baby is nearly full term. This is made explicit by what the attending nurse says in the ad: "And there's your beautiful baby. Any day now."

Yet according to NARAL's tweet, a baby that is in the latest stages of the third trimester - that is days away from being born - is not only without the rights of personhood; that baby is NOT EVEN HUMAN.

When an ideology has so gripped the mindset of an organization that it cannot recognize the humanity of a baby days before it is born, then it is only a matter of time before such an ideology blinds it to the humanity of a baby days after it is born. And that is why this is the perhaps the most evil tweet ever by pro-choice advocates. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesdays with Thomas 5: The First Way

Here is the latest video installment of Tuesdays with Thomas, a look at the First Way to demonstrate the existence of God.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Songs of the Brokenhearted

This morning I was delighted to speak in the chapel assembly at my alma mater, Florida College. Here are my remarks.

Songs of the Brokenhearted

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

 (Psalm 22:1-2)

Christ in Gethsemane, by Michael O'Brien
Those are the opening words of the 22nd psalm, probably more familiar to us as one of the few utterances of Jesus on the cross. It comes from a category of psalms you learn about in Old Testament Poetry called laments, songs of the brokenhearted. The grief expressed in these psalms may be caused by a catastrophic defeat in battle, or a grave illness, or a grievous personal failing. Or, as in the case of Psalm 22, by the hounding of enemies who threaten to take the psalmist’s life.

In the time since I was in school here I have noticed a wonderful trend in the songs we sing together. The book we used when I was a student contained very few songs straight out of the Book of Psalms. But the book you use now incorporates a lot of them. And yet, even with this wider use of the biblical psalms in our hymnals, I can’t think of any psalms like this one in our songbooks. 

Why is that? Ancient Israel sang them - by one count 70 of the 150 psalms are songs of mourning. The early Christians sang them - Jesus prayed one of them on the cross. So why our hesitance in using these psalms in our worship?

I wonder if it’s because we are uncomfortable being so direct with God, so transparent about our disappointments and frustrations with Him. “Why are you so far from saving me!” I don’t know about you, but I am reluctant to speak like this with God.

And in our churches and on a campus like Florida College, we can feel a certain pressure to be up all the time, to be unfailingly cheerful, as if every day brings a new victory. But that is not what life in the real world is like. In the real world we sometimes fail miserably. In the real world we see loved ones suffer. In the real world we have days where it feels like our world is falling apart. These psalms are the for those who are completely disoriented by disappointment. 

From our point of view, we understand that these ancient songs were inspired by God. That means that when these songs cry out in doubt and despair, it is ultimately God’s word that is being spoken. God gave these songs to His people, to us. And that tells me that while I may be uncomfortable with some of this language, God is not. We might have social expectations that everyone is happy all the time, but God does not. He doesn’t expect us to be happy - just honest.

And He wants us to be honest with Him, with how we feel about His relationship with us. Israel used these psalms in their collective worship at the temple, the place where Lord’s presence was its most immediate. It was in the very house of God that the Israelites complained about God to God! “Why have you forsaken me?” 

The most dangerous thing we can ever do is try to keep our broken-heartedness from God. Because once we start partitioning a section of our heart from God, we are deluding ourselves into thinking He doesn’t really know us from the inside-out, and that is the pathway to hypocrisy.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The first step in that healing process is to tell God that our hearts are broken. 

And we can tell Him that - we can truly cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. And in those moments of transparency with God, when we tell Him it feels like He has utterly forsaken us, we can know that He cares, because when He entered our story in Jesus of Nazareth, He said the same thing. The joy of the Christian is not the absence of sorrow, but the presence of God in the midst of our sorrow. Through these psalms and in the cross we know that God is with us and for us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tuesdays with Thomas 4: Faith, Reason, and Scripture

This week's video touches on what Thomas said about the relationship of faith, reason, and Scripture. Pus, there's a little Karate Kid discussion, too!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Is The Force Awakens Just a Knockoff of A New Hope? A Thomistic Response

Summa bellum stellarum

Question VII
Of The Force Awakens

First Article

Whether The Force Awakens was a knockoff of A New Hope?

[Note: several plot potencies are actualized in this article.]

We proceed thus to the First Article:-

Objection 1.  It seems that The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope. For, as some have said, it features a protégé who betrays his mentor, as Kylo Ren betrayed Luke. This is just as when Anakin betrayed Obi Wan. Therefore it seems as if The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope.

Obj. 2. Further, A New Hope was about the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and The Galactic Empire and its ominous battle station. Similarly, in The Force Awakens, the conflict is between the Resistance and The First Order and its even more ominous Starkiller battle station. Therefore it seems as if The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope.

Obj. 3. Further, the main hero of A New Hope is a young person, apparently fatherless, who is from a desert planet. The main hero of The Force Awakens is also a young person, apparently fatherless, who is from a desert planet. Therefore it seems as if The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope.

On the contrary, It is written: The Force Awakensdishes out familiarity without apology and arranges it in such a way that, even as we recognize the patterns and beats, it feels fresh and invigorating and, lest we forget what's really at stake here, fun” (James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk).

I answer that, since The Force Awakens is the continuation of the saga of the first six films, and since those films revolved around the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, that in order to maintain that narrative arc, a similar cycle had to be repeated in Anakin’s family. Since Anakin is dead, and since he only had two children, the only logical option therefore was to focus on the elements of the rise, fall, and redemption of his grandchildren. If the sequels completely departed from this theme, they would totally undermine the integrity and diminish the beauty of the original six movies. Therefore, there had to be a fundamental similarity between the old movies and the new movies, and especially between episodes IV and VII, in which Anakin’s child/grandchildren are introduced as heroes.

Reply to Objection 1. While it is true that both movies involve the betrayal of a mentor, Kylo Ren’s murder of his father is unprecedented. Thus we do not have a simple “remake,” but an artistic mix of old themes with new variations.

Reply Obj. 2.  The repeated effort of a centralized power to control the universe (The Galactic Empire and The First Order) is hardly surprising, given the fact that actual history is replete with many examples of the same impulse toward empire  (Napoleon’s repeated efforts, Germany and Russia, etc). Further, acquisition of the ultimate weapon to secure power has always been a driving force in actual history, and it is no surprise that such a motif would reappear in the Star Wars saga. And of course, because freedom is also a powerful and natural impulse, there will always be resistance movements to such efforts. Therefore we do not have a mere “remake,” but a reflection of the way things are in history.

Reply Obj. 3.  There are two reasons something may be said to be just like something else. One is because it is a mindless copy. But the other is because it is an artistic motif. It is in this second sense that there are many similarities between Rey and Luke. The filmmakers want us to see her as a “second coming” of Luke, quite possibly as his daughter. Recall, one of the last things Yoda said before he became one with the Force: “Luke...the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned.” Therefore, we do not have a “remake,” but an artistic extension of Luke’s story in a new character.

And so this criticism fails, and amounts to nothing more than a giant pile of bantha fodder.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesdays with Thomas 3 - The Summa

Thomas Aquinas wrote over 100 volumes, but he is most famous for the Summa Theologiae (the Summary of Theology). Here is a new video explaining a little bit about how to read the Summa, and what we can learn about the method by which Aquinas tackled the topics in the Summa.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesdays with Thomas: Aquinas and Aristotle

Here is a link to my newest installment of YouTube videos exploring the thinking of Thomas Aquinas. This week's thrilling episode is on the influence of Aristotle on Aquinas.