Donald Trump Is Not “Pro-Life!” 

In case you’re thinking about voting for trump because he’s pro-life,  think again. Despite his 11th hour “conversion” to pro-life talking points,  he is certainly the most pro-death candidate in the race.

I’m not the first to make this point. Matthew Lee Anderson at Mere Orthodoxy makes this point very well from a consevative perspective, Rachel Held Evans makes it from a progressive perspective, and Shannon Dingle has made it well from a largely non political perspective. 

Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson all oppose increasing restrictions on abortion. They’re “Pro-Choice” as the terms go.

Clinton has repeatedly said that while she does not want to ban abortions, she wants to make them rare, largely through education and contraceptive access that will prevent unwanted pregnancies, and also through an increased social safety net.

Donald Trump has shared the same pro-choice opinion for his entire career, until he realized he needed evangelical votes to win. Since then he’s “seen the light” and worked in some anti-abortion talking points. Few people believe he’s actually going to follow through on any of it.

The American Solidarity Party is strongly pro-life, but they aren’t on many states’ ballots.

The Lancet and the Guttmacher Institute have both found that, worldwide, abortion rates don’t go down when the penalties for abortion go up. 

Instead, the lowest abortion rates are present when a greater social safety net takes away the “desperation abortion,” and where contraception and education about contraception is freely and easily available.

Think about it:  prohibition didn’t work on alcohol in the 1920’s. The drug war hasn’t settled people from doing drugs,  and gun bans don’t stop criminals from getting weapons,  even when the whole country bans them (Mexico, for example). 

Back alley abortions are extremely easy to do, much easier than constructing or smuggling an illegal gun, or even making meth.

A lot of people present the typical abortion as involving some self-involved, cosmopolitan, well-off woman who just can’t be bothered to fit a baby into her busy social schedule, or who doesn’t want to lose her tight abs and gain post-pregnancy stretch marks.

That’s a great talking point for the Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akins of the world, but that’s really all it is. Abortions mostly happen because women are struggling just to survive (and take care of any kids they already have), and don’t think they can take care of another child. In fact, according to The Lancet, married women are the most likely to get an abortion.

Increasing the social safety net takes away that fear factor, and abortion rates adjust downward, naturally. Providing easier access to contraception also reduces abortion, so the Hobby Lobby’s of the world’s can’t really call themselves pro life in any meaningful way. 

During Reagan and Bush 1’s Presidencies, abortion rates began to fall. During Clinton’s presidency, they fell rapidly. During Bush 2’s Presidency, the abortion rate fell, but more slowly. During the Obama Presidency, the abortion rate fell 13%, a faster fall than under any of the Republican Presidents.

So while the abortion rates have been falling overall, there’s no reason to believe they’d fall faster under Trump than under Clinton, and some small evidence to believe the reverse might be true.

So that leads us to other aspects of being “pro-life.”

I mean, if you only care about abortion rates, you’re not really pro-life, just anti-abortion. And what good is that, really?

  • Clinton is certainly less likely to get us into another ground war. To be sure, she’ll use air power liberally (no pun intended), and kill far more people than I’d find acceptable, but Trump will almost certainly do much, much worse things.
  • A former CIA diector has labeled Trump a threat to national security
  • Clinton is less likely to tear families apart through bigoted and impractical mass deportation scenarios (Muslims, Mexicans, or whoever Trump names off next).
  • Oh, and speaking of worse things: Clinton is against torture, while Trump has advocated torturing and killing the families of suspected terrorists. This is unspeakably evil, a literal crime against humanity.
  • Clinton is far more likely to reform our justice system, bringing some reduction in the number of people killed by police and the outrageous percentage of our population that we keep incarcerated (more than any other sizable country, by a huge margin).
  • Clinton is more likely to support policies that will support families and mothers, like paid maternal leave, widespread health insurance, and social safety nets for economically disadvantaged mothers-to-be.
  • Clinton pushed for CHIP, a program that has provided medical care for huge numbers of otherwise uninsured children over the last 19 years.
  • Trump has been accused of sexual assault by several women, and his hateful misogyny is clear. I don’t know if this matters to the pro-life crusaders,  but it matters to me. 

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that some of the third party candidates might be just as pro-life or more so. Stein and Johnson are much more dovish than Clinton. The American Solidarity Party is dovish, pro-safety net,  and anti-abortion in every way. They are also anti-LGBT+ rights and borderline theocratic, so your mileage may vary.

    At any rate, none of them have a viable chance in November.  They didn’t even meet the threshold to be included in the debates. 

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote third-party. Just be realistic about the outcome. 

    Trump or Clinton will be our next President. 

    As far as lives lost and destroyed go, I think there’s really no question. Fewer people – born and unborn alike – will be killed, maimed, and tortured under a Clinton Presidency than under a Trump Presidency. Bottom line.

    And that means Hillary Clinton is as close to pro-life as we’re gonna get this year. 

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    All Things Right and Good

    You’re going to reach a point (We all do)

    Where you must decide whether you will be right or good.

    I know, Jesus never found Himself in such a spot

    But he was God made flesh. You and I are not.

    And when I reach that point, I want to say:

    “I don’t know if this is right.

    I don’t know how it fits in with systematic theology

    With moral law, with moral codes

    But I know how to be good.”

    I’ve learned the hard way that right, like rights,

    Can be abused, can be abusive:

    • Right and wrong (who decides?)
    • Legal and illegal (who makes the laws?)
    • Winning the argument
    • Contempt for the loser
    • Insiders and outsiders
    • orthodox and heretics
    • Moral panics
    • “They deserve it.”
    • “They would do the same to us.”

    These are tools of domination. These are acts of violence

    They’re labels and weapons the powerful use to maintain their supremacy

    Be it white or male or hetero/cis.

    It’s all the same. Power. Money. Control.

    The rich men who wield it

    The rough men who enforce it

    The abuse and domination of women

    And the blood of dark-skinned people

    And anyone different in religion, sexuality, or creed

    The enslavement of millions in for-profit prisons

    And the torture of the few with neither trial nor hope

    We can be right.

    We can be in control.

    We can hold the moral high ground

    Or we can be good.

    Or we can love as Jesus loved.

    But we cannot serve both God and mammon.

    Nobody Is Pure: Aligning My Actions with My Ethics

    How do you live completely harm-free in a world as complex and interconnected as ours?

    You don’t.

    Even if you focus on present, ongoing harm and ignore past historical harms – a completely arbitrary decision – you still can’t find or fix everything.

    We pay taxes to a government that does a host of bad things (anyone reading this, regardless of political leanings, can probably agree to that). Christians have instructions from the Master Himself to do so (“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” – Mark 12:17). We all have a gun literally pointed at our heads to make us pay.

    We can’t even know the origins of all the things we put on or into our bodies or our vehicles.

    What do we do? Well, we can vote, if we can find someone worth voting for. We can sign petitions and write letters to our representatives in state, local, and national government. We can protest and make our voices known.

    And we can educate ourselves on the issues.

    But is that enough? My taxes are still paying for drone strikes against civilians, and indefinite detention without trial (both happening on the CIA’s word, with nominal executive oversight and no due process), and so are yours, if you live in the U.S.

    “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10 KJV)

    But that doesn’t mean we can’t push back. It doesn’t mean we can’t find one little corner of our lives and push back against the cruelty, violence, and exploitation that have been baked into our governmental and economic systems, and the deception that hides them.

    It just means that nobody, vegan, vegetarian, meat-eater, tax-dodge, pacifist, or soldier, can ever fully claim the moral high ground.

    I know I surely can’t.

    And I know that when I try to, I can end up hurting people I never intended to.

    A wise long-term vegan told me that you can only go where your consciousness leads you. And that we should not be “holier than thou” with people whose consciousness (and consciences) aren’t leading them the same direction ours are.

    And experience leads me to understand that nobody can care about everything at once. A single human being just doesn’t have the energy.

    So, I’ll say this. Try some vegan dishes – some are very yummy – and see if you’d like to add them to your weekly meal rotation.
    But beyond that, whatever your conscience is leading you to care about, care deeply, and act wisely.

    And if I ever start acting holier-than-thou, let me know.

    Syria

    This seems to be the week America talks about the tragedy in Syria. And today is the day Pope Francis II called for prayer and fasting for the people of Syria.

    Lately, I’ve been focusing on some bad news in my own life (news I’m not sure I want to talk about here), so I haven’t written about Syria yet.

    Most likely, President Obama is going to “solve” this by bombing the bad guys, just like he’s doing in Yemen and Pakistan. He’s proven he is perfectly happy to send in the drones, missiles and bombers, with or without a declaration of war.

    He can do that with or without Congress ‘s approval. What is this gridlocked Congress gonna do if they don’t like it, impeach him? Not going to happen, especially not over a bunch of dead non-white, non-Americans.

    It’s not as if there is any uniform sentiment in Congress. There are good arguments for and against intervention, after all. Right now, neither side in this civil war has any capacity to hurt us. Could that change? I don’t know.

    What’s going on over there is an atrocity, and I know the rest of the world has to do something. But I’m not at all convinced that dropping bombs on an atrocity will make it less atrocious.

    I don’t have a perfect solution. At this point no one does. But maybe this world would be a little better off if America was a little less ready to fight. We’ve been at war since 2001, continuously.

    Most elementary school students and a large number of elementary school students have literally never been alive in a time of peace. Most high school students and some college students are too young to remember 9/11, or a time when we weren’t at war.

    And back then, most of the Christians I knew were strongly pro-war. And I was, too. But I wonder if that was be right idea. I wonder if we might have served our country and our God more faithfully by being a voice of peace.

    Maybe we should be that voice of peace now.  And maybe we should have a clear picture as to how American bombs are going to help the Syrians…before we drop them.

    Adam West and the Meaning of Art

    When I was younger, I never “got” the old Batman series. All I saw was the low-budget cardboard props and sets, the ham-acting, and the sheer silliness of it all. I thought it was dumb (except Julie Newmar. I always liked her).

    But my Mom told me a story from when the show was actually running. 1966-1968, she was in college. Protests, counter-protests, and authoritarian crackdowns filled the news cycle.

    The Vietnam War was escalating, and the news reports coming out of the media were little more than propaganda. If that many enemy soldiers were killed, week in and week out, there’d have been nobody left in North Vietnam to wave the white flag.

    The shadow of the draft fell over every young man on that campus, and every young woman who loved a young man.

    It was a tense time, even for a college student who only wanted to graduate, get married, and begin her teaching career. And there were a lot of students like that, male and female, who were, frankly scared.

    But everyone would gather together around the dorm lobby TV (6:30 pm, I believe), to exchange the very real madness of their times for the surreal, campy madness of Adam West and Burt Ward.  Batman meant something.  That goofy, campy, surreal show really meant something.

    In other words … Adam West was the hero the sixties needed, if not the one it deserved.

     

    Argument Is War

    St. Nicholas punching Arius as the Council of Nicea, 325 AD

    St. Nicholas punching Arius as the Council of Nicea, 325 AD

    I’ve been talking about Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (you can read my first post here). It’s been an eye-opener, seeing how (largely unconscious) cultural metaphors can shape the very way we think about topics.

    The very first conceptual metaphor they discuss is: “ARGUMENT IS WAR.”

    They back this up with the following phrases: (pg 4)
    “Your claims are indefensible.”
    “He attacked every weak point in my argument.”
    “His criticisms were right on target.”
    “I’ve never won an argument with him.”

    This is how we speak of arguments. We don’t think we’re talking metaphorically, the way we would if we said something colorful like, “Man, I lost that debate big-time. I was Bambi, and he was Godzilla.”

    But our unconscious metaphors are powerful, and they put limits on how we think about certain concepts. If we think argument is war (or similar to war), even subconsciously, then we think in terms of winners and losers. We think in terms of weapons and tactics. We think in terms of winning at all costs.

    We certainly don’t think in terms of vulnerability, humility, and opening oneself up to the possibility of learning something new.

    That’s why a person can be very educated, have witnessed or been a part of many debates and arguments, and still have a narrow, unchangeable set of views. I’m not just talking to conservatives, here. I’ve seen it from friends from both sides of the aisle.

    Even before I started reading Metaphors We Live By, I’d been wondering if there was anything worthwhile in ‘winning the argument’ or ‘defeating our opponents.’ Especially in the sense of Christian apologetics (or worse, doctrinal debates between Christians).

    I’d been wondering if all this verbal conquest and victory and domination wasn’t just as much a tool of Empire as physical conquest and domination were.

    I’d been wondering whether it ever changed people’s hearts, or whether it just engendered enmity.

    What if we could look at argument through different eyes?

    What if we could see an argument, not as a war, but as a dance? (pg 4)

    What if we could be grateful to the person we’re arguing with for taking the time to talk to us?

    What if we could view an argument as a journey?
    Could an argument be a path to travel from our current disagreement and separation to a place where we understand each other, even if we don’t agree?
    Could an argument take us to a place where we understand each other’s positions much better than we did before?

    That would require humility.
    That would require that we lay down our need to be seen as the smartest person in the room.
    That would require that we lay down our false certainty, and admit that we may not understand everything … even in areas of faith, which are deeply personal.

    That journey requires patience, on the part of both parties.

    It won’t work if somebody’s trying to “win.”
    It won’t work unless both parties are listening, not thinking of their next riposte.

    That journey requires that we re-humanize our opponents.

    Argument isn’t war. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

    But we who were raised to glorify warfare, to think in terms of conquest, have made the very exchange of wisdom a form of violence. The opportunity to learn has become an opportunity for ego-gratification and domination.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Toxic Worship (The Imposters of God, Chapter 1: The Mystery of Idolatry, Part 2)

    Sculpture of a Family

    Photo by J. Lord, Creative Commons

    This is part three of my series on William Stringfellow’s The Imposters of God. You can read my first post on Chapter One and my introduction to the series.

    As you recall, Stringfellow pointed out that an idol is anything we use to define ourselves, to give significance to our lives, other than God (of course). All such things – money, family, church, reputation, country – are doomed to fail us, of course.

    But did you know that so long as we put them in the place of worship, that we are doomed to fail them?

    As Stringfellow put it, “Where idolatrous patriotism is practiced, the vocation of the nation so idolized is destroyed.”

    How far from the lofty ideals of civil rights and democracy have the super-patriots (with their super PATRIOT Acts) taken us?

    I’m old enough to remember when torture and indefinite detention were things the bad guys did, not things two successive openly Christian Presidents would undertake, to the applause of their mostly openly Christian supporters.

    “When the family is idolized, the members of the family are enslaved.” (Stringfellow). How many times have we seen parents living vicariously through their children? Whether Tiger Moms pushing their kids into depression  or washed-up high school quarterbacks and homecoming queens reliving their youth, it never ends well.

    I’m reminded of the controlling mother from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, who’d rather have her son with her in hell than leave him in heaven.

    Even within our churches, the extreme focus on the family has left the unmarried feeling unwanted. It’s made us political animals, white-flighting our way into the “best” schools.

    It’s led us to forget that the Apostles who spread the Gospel to the known world were themselves single, and that they focused not on their families, but on the Gospel.

    “Every idol, therefore, represents a thing or being existing in a state of profound disorientation” (Stringfellow).

    Idolatry ultimately brings death.

    Sometimes literally, as in our persistent worship of war.

    Sometimes figuratively, in the dehumanization of a culture that views everything and everyone as a commodity.

    And sometimes both, as in the dysfunctional relationships and vicious social structures that drive the young to depression and sometimes suicide.

    Perhaps Idolatry is at the heart of the decline of America’s churches. We’ve grown so entangled with the idols of respectability, growth, and politics that we find ourselves reduced to merely a social function. A social function that offers precious little to the constantly-connected Facebook generation.

    What is the answer? I’m not certain. But I know this. We fail, again and again, to keep the very first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3).

    And to even detect our idols means turning the rusty knife of self-examination on the things we hold dearest. The pain may be akin to amputating a gangrenous limb without anesthetic, but it must be done if we are serious about serving Christ.