This Independence Day, I am saddened by news that pride in our nation has hit an all-time low(for the 20 years Gallup has been asking the question). I am saddened - but I am not surprised. This is the effect of emphasizing group identities over our collective one, the natural fruit of the “salad bowl, not a melting pot” tree. Some of us have been warning that viewpoints such as those were bad for the nation, and would lead to disunity; this has to be one of the least satisfying "I told you so"s of my life.
At this point, we have at least two generations of adults who learned history not as the facts about what happened, but as a narrative of American imperialism and subjugation of every non-white person they encountered. No wonder people are not proud to be part of a nation like that! These courses have failed to transfer the idea that, while imperfect, America is still a place where your voice can be heard, where opportunities to better yourself and your family (still) abound - a nation with vast resources and amazing beauty.
To be sure, we have not always lived up to our ideals. One of our culture's current hobbies is taking the worst possible interpretation of anything that ever happened; but, let's set that aside for a moment. The founding fathers have been derided for writing a Constitution that allowed for even the possibility that slavery could exist. Have you ever thought that, maybe, they deserve some credit for writing it in such a way that it was: a) an acceptable compromise for those who were pro-slavery, getting everyone to agree to rule by the same government; and b) contained the trap-door that eventually led to slavery's abolition? For their many flaws, they brought the country together, and moved us forward towards our ideals, even though they did not see that movement in their generation.
They did the hard work of building a nation. Tearing things down, the “revolution,” the violent mobs - all this is straight out of the Marxist playbook. As anyone who has ever had responsibility to maintain a home or a vehicle knows, it is way easier to tear things up than it is to preserve them; and, focusing on its flaws is a surefire way to discontentment.
Furthermore, forming “separate but equal” groups within a nation does nothing but encourage disunity, no matter how those groups are defined. The NFL is going to play “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing” prior to “The Star-Spangled Banner” for its week 1 games. In many respects, I have no issues with this. “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing” is a great song, and in some respects, speaks more directly to our ideals as a nation; I hope people will listen to the lyrics. The NFL is also free to do whatever it wants with its pregame ceremonies. However, this song is also known as the “black national anthem,” and given the NFL's history with protests during the national anthem, this seems to be kowtowing to those who have disrespected the flag and the anthem over the past few years. (Sure, call it protest; “it's not about the flag/anthem” is disingenuous, as they made it about those items when they selected them for their time of protest.)
The NFL isn't the only offender here - far from it. As a public service, let me provide this handy chart for those who truly value unity within our diversity…
This is fine…
This is not.
Working through these - supporting law enforcement is good; superimposing that on the US flag is not. While I disagree with the spirit behind the pride flag, its meaning is well-established; the US flag (per)version is offensive, and narrows their cause. (Did you know that there are nations where being gay is enough to get you jailed or killed by the government? None of those nations are "The United States of America.") Finally, as a Falcons fan, I find both flags on row 3 distasteful; however, I will staunchly defend my misguided NFC South opponents' right to fly the one on the left. (Superiority should be settled on the field, not in fandom; and, as a Falcons fan, I don't have a whole lot to point to in that regard in the recent past.)
Here's what the flags on the right should look like:
While the flags on the left are banners around which people can rally for a cause, the flags on the right take the United States flag and change it into a form of which not everyone will agree. In the spirit of diversity and inclusion (my cause + the US), they end up divisive and exclusive. (Lest you think that I've cherry-picked those symbols above, I've seen all three “in the wild” on multiple occasions.)
Everyone in our nation should be able to see themselves represented by the US flag; however, its supporters have not done much to make their argument. Particularly within the NFL controversy, it was said that disrespecting the flag and the national anthem was the equivalent of disrespecting the sacrifice of those who fought to gain and preserve our freedom. This is not untrue; I served for over 2 decades under that flag, and swore my life to protect and defend that “nation for which it stands.” That argument, though, is too narrow. It turns the US flag into the military flag, which becomes a symbol over which not all of the nation's citizens can agree.
Whether they agree with the current trajectory of the nation or not, every American should be able to see our flag and hear our national anthem, and take pride in their part of this American experiment, going strong now for 244 years. Our flag should be just that - our flag - and should encourage us to see each other as fellow Americans (no hyphens) with whom we can work together to bring us closer to our ideals. May future generations look back at us, and describe us the way I described the founding fathers above. “You know, they had some issues, but they really did a great job bringing us together as a nation, and moving us forward in a land of liberty.”
p.s. Some may say “Are you really this upset about symbolism?” Well - yeah; if we can't agree on the symbolism, how on earth are we going to agree on substance? How can we have serious discussion over multiple ways to get to our goal if we don't agree on what that goal should be? That's -literally- the reason nations are formed.
p.p.s. Unity does not mean uniformity; I have a draft of my next worldview lesson post that dives into federalism and subsidiarity, and its importance in realizing the most effective governance for all. I may have it posted later this month.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
(Each year, the Sunday closest to January 22, the date of the passing of Roe v. Wade, is observed as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in many churches.)
Ten years have brought us a long way. The 7th post on this blog observed 2004's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year brings us to the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.
As America has become more politically polarized, her views on abortion have as well. However, there is a growing trend against abortion, particularly the more barbaric late-term procedures, which are now only approved by those blinded by their insistence on how much of a “right” it is. A recent Time cover read “40 Years Ago, Abortion Rights Activists Won an Epic Battle with Roe v. Wade: They've Been Losing Ever Since,” and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, thoroughly dissected that article. And, there are some truly heartening statistics for those who value life:
Four states have only one abortion provider in the entire state
24 states have passed 90 laws restricting abortion since 2010
Some states require parental notification for minors seeking abortion
Some states impose waiting periods and/or counseling before an abortion can be obtained
30 states do not fund abortions via Medicare
The number of those who self-identify as “pro choice” is down to 41%
However, as Dr. Mohler so adeptly points out, abortion is far from the “rare” its proponents claim they want to see. 50 million abortions have been performed since Roe passed, and we are at the point where 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by the time they make 45.
Science is helping the pro-life cause. I covered a good bit of this about a year and a half ago. Ultrasound has given us a window into prenatal development, and psychology and psychiatry have identified post-abortion depression as much more common than postpartum depression per incident.
Interestingly enough, the most damage to the pro-life cause in the past year came from two pro-life national office candidates. I covered both thoseguys at the time (the latter also citing Dr. Mohler - what can I say, he agrees with me a lot!), and since that is where our movement faltered this year, I believe this is where our focus should be. Our participation in the debate should keep the following Scripture in mind:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world…” - Matthew 5:13-14a (ESV)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” - Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)
As Christians advocating for God's way of handling His creation, we must remember who we are. Salt can make a meal pop; however, salt can also overpower, and can be painful when ground into an open wound. Akin and Mourdock were the latter, coming off as callous and uncaring, much like those who still support “partial-birth” abortion come across to us. Light illuminates, but it can also blind. I left the entirety of Ephesians 4:15 there to show it in its context, but the first part of that verse is the key. We know this works; the “crisis pregnancy center” didn't even exist before Roe v. Wade, and now they outnumber abortion providers. Their popularity is due to the care that pregnant and scared women can receive from these organizations. They don't beat the women over the head with their “mistakes” of pregnancy or of seeking an abortion; they offer counseling, ultrasound, and support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few months of motherhood. They show a better way, and many women are choosing that path.
While progress against abortion is good, there is an the assault on the sanctity of human life from the other flank. “Assisted suicide” has been making the news already this year. In late 2012, two brothers in Belgium asked to be euthanized and eventually found a doctor who agreed, despite their condition not being consistent with even a liberal interpretation of the “unbearable pain” that law requires. North of our borders, Quebec looks to become the first Canadian province to legalize assisted suicide, not through legal changes, but through medical characterization of the procedure.
Both the Belgium law and the Canadian guideline revisions have advocates claiming that they will be applied narrowly; it sounds like they want it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Where have we heard that before? Belgium and Canada both have government-run health care systems, so the government has a financial interest to maximize its investments in the system. Right now, it's a long jump to allow someone to be euthanized because they have no hope of recovery, and keeping them alive is expensive. With the Belgian brothers, and this change in health guidelines in Canada, that jump became half as long. I'm certainly not accusing the advocates of these laws of wanting to kill people; I'm sure to them, this is just them trying to help people in pain. I can guarantee, though, that in 30 years, very few of these people will still be around, and the next generation will have been reared in a society where it's perfectly normal to choose when you die. At that point, faced with looming deficits, it's a very small leap to see mandatory euthanasia based on medical evaluation. The slope isn't terribly slippery, but it's a slope nonetheless.
This illustrates the root of the disagreements many of us pro-lifers have with these laws, guidelines, and procedures. The disagreement is one of worldview. We see human life as precious, from the moment of conception through natural death, being conferred that status by God's declaration and unique grace to us within His creation. Human life alone is described as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); its offspring described as a “reward” and having many as a “blessing” (Psalm 127:3-5); prohibited from being killed (Exodus 20:13); offered salvation from our fallen state (John 3:16); and promised reuniting with God (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). God has made it pretty clear how He views the part of His creation that was made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).
If we lived in a society that agreed with this worldview - well, I probably wouldn't be writing this. However, we do not, and the society in which we do live has an answer to each of those points.
Creation? No, we just evolved - somehow - big bang, amoeba, something - and there definitely was not intelligent design!
Lots of children are a good thing? No, that would interfere with our careers; let's delay that, scrape their beginnings off our womb if they're not convenient; there will be time for that later, right?
Murder? Don't try to force your religion on u… wait, if there aren't any laws against murder, then I could be murdered… OK, you can have that one.
Salvation? I'm a good person (hey, I don't murder!), why would I need to be saved?
Judgment? But wait, doesn't your own Bible say “Judge not, that you be not judged?”
We're made in God's image? Well, now you're on to something - if God is in each one of us, doesn't that make us all God? Then, what I want to do must be God's will, because it's my will!
This brings us back to the Akin/Mourdock problem. Simply asserting our views (then asserting them more loudly) is not going to be a very effective way of convincing others. We should keep in mind that not only does our society hold those conflicting views, they also claim to value tolerance above all else - except for tolerating us, interestingly; they have been raised to believe that we are hateful people who just want to control people's lives and force our religion down everyone's throats. Compounding the issue, some of our forebears actually did go about things this way, particularly over race.
So, is it just futile? Of course not. I believe the answer is three-fold.
We must advocate with words. We must choose those words wisely, but we must use words. These words should be loving, condemning the practice of abortion while offering love, compassion, and forgiveness to those who have had them, realizing that it is but by the grace of God that we have not made (or are not still making) the same decisions. Use words honestly - where science supports an argument, use it; where it doesn't apply, don't try to shoe-horn it into applying.
We must back up these words with actions. Crisis pregnancy centers, as mentioned above, have been hugely effective in not only preventing abortions, but for education and support. The film To Save a Life showed another angle of being pro-life, taking an interest in others to prevent suicide; though I didn't mention it above, suicides are also up this past year. Be involved with food banks, shelters, or other organizations that show we care for life when those lives are going through rough times. Be involved with senior's activities. Pick a place and plug-in; put feet to your words.
We must be vigilant. We must not give up the fight against legislation or policies simply because we haven't had time for the first 2 points above to be effective. We must continue to pray; we have the Creator of human life on our side.
Changing the culture seems like an overwhelming task, and it truly is a monumental one. However, the size of the task does not relieve us of our responsibility to be salt and light, and to work towards making it a place where all life is valued, from the moment of conception through natural death.
236 years ago today, the United States of America became a nation, kicking off one of the most successful experiments in self-governance recorded to date. As we enjoy today's festivities, we should remember a few things. First, we should remember that our freedom was both gained and preserved at a high cost; over a million individuals have lost their lives in US military conflict. Second, we should remember that this freedom has no lasting ties here; we are not immune to the human lust for power that has created so many dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. If our freedom is to be preserved, it must be defended from “all enemies, foreign and domestic” (to borrow a phrase some of you may recognize).
So, on our nation's birthday, reflect on the great sacrifice that has been made for us to be able to live in this great nation. Tomorrow, get back to the work of defending this freedom, so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same freedom we have enjoyed.