Abortion: Defusing the Bomb

Warning: if you are incapable of maintaining composure and levelheadedness when exposed to viewpoints that differ radically from your own, do not read this blog. I am 100% serious. Go look at pictures of kittens. In fact, even if you plan to read this, may as well open a new tab with kitten pictures just in case. Or, better yet, momongas. Or red panda cubs. Now then…

I missed the deadline to register to vote. I’m not particularly upset about that. As a New Yorker, I already know which candidate my state’s electoral votes are going towards (and as for local elections, I wasn’t well informed enough to responsibly vote anyway). Whoever wins this presidential election will inevitably bring good and bad, and I guess it’s our inability to agree on who will bring what that leads to such divisiveness. For what it’s worth, I think socialism is the greatest danger to economic prosperity and true social justice, and as Obama’s policies tend toward that extreme I fear for the economic impact he will have. I also fear for the rights of religious institutions to freely practice what they feel convicted to practice. Already church-funded institutions are being asked to provide medical care they have moral problems with. How long before church-based charitable organizations have their tax-free status completely revoked on the basis of their unwillingness to compromise on certain doctrinal issues?

Romney is hardly a knight in shining armor either. While his business practices will likely lead to better economic recovery there is sure to be a cost, and I’m honestly not sure what that cost will be. Many have already noted that they’re not voting on the basis of things like guns, homosexuality, or the environment, because jobs and the economy are more important. And while that’s good, if Romney wins many of these people will likely find themselves in an America in which they have a job but have taken a hit on the other fronts about which they care.

There is one issue, however, which I really would like to address, because I have seen far too many rallying cries from my more liberal friends and it has gotten to the point where I honestly cannot remain silent. I am sick of being painted black, and sicker still of the many with whom I agree who have done nothing to address this problem. I speak, as it were, about abortion.

A great many people seem to be under the impression that this is a women’s rights issue. They couch their platform in language that conveys that abortion is about a woman deciding what happens within her own body. On the basis that some women do not have a choice about becoming pregnant — that some are forced to have sex, which is the natural process leading to pregnancy — they argue that for a woman to truly have “choice,” she must be able to terminate a pregnancy regardless of whether the conception was consensually brought to term.

This of course brings up a great many other issues which are also trumpeted as women’s rights: contraceptives and morning after pills are considered critical and necessary healthcare for which advocates of this position want the government to pay (using, of course, the tax dollars of plenty of people whose moral and religious convictions expressly forbid such things). Nevermind the fact that sexual intercourse is (with rare exception) a completely optional part of life, and that any healthcare which addresses its consequences must also be considered optional. While I won’t stoop to the depth of one infamous radio host, I can sympathize with his point: the only women who can honestly say they need these services are those who refuse to stop having sex until they are ready to have a pregnancy.

I’ll allow for the possibility of oversimplification. Contraceptives aren’t my point here, and to be honest I’ve never really given much thought to the ethics of using them. I don’t subscribe to a religious doctrine that has a hard and fast law (of which I’m aware, at any rate) regarding their use, and even if I did I’m neither a woman nor a husband and so am currently indifferent.

What is my point, however, is the sort of thinking that has led many Americans to argue for optional consequence-dampeners as fundamental entitlements to be paid for out of my pockets. It’s the sort of thinking that says that anyone who disagrees with such practices “hates women,” “will take away women’s rights,” “will set us back a hundred years” and all the other ways in which you can say that a man who has a problem with funding contraception is a troglodyte.

Contraception is as much an economic issue as it is a moral one, but it’s been painted as a civil liberties case and thus opponents of its flag bearers are set as enemies to freedom. And so with abortion. Time and again I’m told that my stance against the practice means I am trying to limit the fundamental rights of a free and equal woman. Our dialogue brings that nomenclature to bear: I call myself “pro-life,” but you call me “anti-choice.” I say “the choice was to have sex,” you say “not all women have that choice.” I say “not the point,” you say “Agreed. The point is it’s my body, and the government needs to get their hands off of it.” I say the government needs to intercede and you say screw off.

The problem here is that abortion is not a civil liberties issue, and it’s not a women’s rights issue. Perhaps, more accurately, the problem is that people like me don’t view it as a civil liberties issue, and our entire position is framed from a completely different conceptual universe from those who support it. The same evil you see in those ostensibly trying to keep women in an inferior position to men is an evil I see in you, for something arguably far more pernicious than chauvinism: murder.

I define life as beginning at conception.

That is as simple as I can make it, but people seem to miss the point. I earnestly, and deeply, and beyond any shadow of doubt believe that. And with that belief there are certain intractable conclusions by which I stand and stake my position. If life begins at conception, then termination of that life must be considered the same regardless of whether it is done at 10 years, 10 months, or 10 days from its start. We have legal and ethical frameworks for defining what the termination of a human life is. We call it murder.

I see abortion as the termination of human life.
I see abortion, therefore, as murder.
I see those who have and provide abortions as murderers, or accomplices to murder.
I see those who support abortion the same way I would see a person who candidly and with unwavering conviction told me that they thought shooting or stabbing other people was a perfectly acceptable practice if that person inconvenienced or endangered you, or infringed on your wants and needs in any way.

The question of whether the murderer is a man or a woman never enters the equation. I do not believe anyone has a “right to murder.” To the extent that abortion is a civil liberties issue, it is a matter of the right to life for the unborn — not a right to choice for the woman who, I daresay in most cases, at least had a choice when it came to the intercourse. And while I will never, ever justify rape or make excuses for a rapist, two wrongs have never been considered the path to righteousness. Committing murder because you’re a victim of rape does not paint you in a sympathetic light, and I’m not sure why anyone would think it would.

I do not hate women. In fact, I generally prefer them to men. I get along with them better, I feel more comfortable with them. I would rather talk with a woman, learn from a woman, be cared for by a woman, work with a woman, play games with a woman. And whenever I see a woman treated as inferior — be it receiving unequal pay, slander, coarse joking, or any of the myriad ways in which men mistreat the fairer sex — it bothers me greatly.

But when it comes to abortion, this is not that. Don’t kid yourself into thinking my position is as simple as feeble-minded bigotry, and don’t shame yourself by disregarding me as another woman-hating white man with antediluvian ethics. I stand against something that has always been wrong and defy those who would redefine the limitations on the inalienable right of all humans to life. And in our discourse, I think it’s critical to treat one another with the respect to which we claim to believe all people are entitled.

Stop calling me anti-choice; give me the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume I believe what I do because I don’t like women having freedom. Likewise, I’ll assume you don’t support murder, and I won’t do you the indignity of calling you anti-life. Our disagreement lies in our definition of where human life begins, and that is the only battlefield worth fighting on because all the other fights are distractions from that one, simple point. Argue elsewhere on either side and you slip into the stereotypes of the other side’s framing. A person who believes life begins at conception had better not be supporting abortion in any circumstances whatsoever. A person who believes otherwise has no basis for limiting who has access to the abortions he or she believes acceptable. I see no margin for exception that cannot rightly be defined as hypocrisy.

This political season has brought out the worst in so many of us, and frankly I’m glad I can’t vote, because I’ve been relieved of the burden of responsibility temporarily. It’s replaced with a guilt that I did not do all I could to ensure that the way I view things is the way our nation is run; but then this issue, like so many others, isn’t won with a ballot. Electing a “pro-life” candidate won’t convince people that life begins at conception anymore than electing a “pro-choice” candidate will convince people it doesn’t.

I’ve used strong language here, partly because I’m naturally aggressive and partly because I wanted to leave no room for the typical equivocations and qualifications I tend to use to hash up so much of the conviction from which I write. I don’t want to start fights and I don’t want to offend and make people hate one another. If I have offended you because I’ve called you a murderer or murder sympathizer, perhaps it will help to consider that you’ve been calling me a woman-hating bigot for years and that hasn’t stopped me from getting along with you. All I hope to have accomplished is to diffuse things a little bit with clarification, and give you — whichever side of this divide you’re on — a reason to take pause next time you’re about to share or post some partisan blog or slogan and consider the terms in which we phrase this delicate, heated discussion. We both believe that people are equal and important; in our endeavors to defend those truths, let us not make the mistake of dehumanizing those who oppose us. It may be inconvenient, it may be hard, but in the end we’ll all be better off for showing our enemies just a little love.

All that aside, abortion is not likely to be a major issue in this election, and what I’m about to say is not meant to be associated with what I just said:

If you, unlike me, are registered, I encourage you to go and vote tomorrow for a candidate you can honestly say you believe in, and I truly, truly mean that. I do not care who you vote for. I think there are extremely valid reasons for supporting either of the main candidates. I also think there are reasons to vote for neither of them. So if you can’t honestly say you believe in any candidate, I encourage you not to vote. Because there’s no sense betraying your own conscience to support a platform officially with which you emotionally or psychologically disagree, particularly if they win and you find yourself in years to come regretting having done so. So many people will tell you that there’s no such thing as a vote that “doesn’t count.” If you believe that, then act on it: value your suffrage, and use it with conviction and intent. The right to vote entails the right to withhold a vote.

May your decision tomorrow — whether Obama, Romney, Other, or none — be calculated and honest, and may our nation’s future be one of hope, however the ballots fall.

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The Urgency

“Teach your daughters, teach your sons: pray to God you won’t be overcome by the urgency of the generally insignificant.” -Wayne Watson

This blog has been sort of hanging over my head all day. I knew it was coming. Knew even before today, because in theory it was supposed to exist yesterday, and then tomorrow. I said “devotional,” as if that made sense, as if that’s something one simply writes off the cuff, as if I had some bounty of spiritual wisdom begging to be let forth in neat little packages with which you might water your soul. As if.

Uncertain as to what I’d write, I began to find other things that I “needed” to do. I emptied the dishwasher and scrubbed pots and pans for an hour. I did some contract work. At one point I even “needed” a nap. In the back of my mind lingered the “need” to catch up on a couple TV shows, the “need” to finish Borderlands 2 before Assassin’s Creed 3 comes out, the “need” to take photos for tomorrow’s “necessary” fulfillment of former plans. And somewhere among all those needs, I misplaced another one, the “need” to really make headway on this grad school planning thing before it’s too late.

My dictionary tells me that “need” means something required, something “very important.” Not just important, but very important. And by that criteria, most of today’s needs weren’t. Some of them didn’t even qualify as wants. And at some point, I really had to stop and wonder “what do those words even mean? Do I know what’s actually very important in my life? Do I know what’s essential? And am I wanting the right things?”

Scripture tells us that God will provide everything we need, and therefore we shouldn’t worry. That suggests to me that everything I’m worried about getting or getting done is either already taken care of (in which case I shouldn’t be worrying) or else isn’t actually important (in which case I shouldn’t be worrying). It also suggests that if I were to stop worrying about the unimportant things, and focused only on doing that which mattered, I wouldn’t have cause to worry at all.

It’s grimly amusing how important the most trivial things can seem. Would it really matter if I missed five minutes of some TV show? If the dishes waited an hour or two? If I didn’t play a new game on launch day because I was still enjoying an older game? Of course not. But still I have that rush, that drive, that inability to just let go. And in the wake of all the small things, the real needs get lost: the need to spend more time in prayer and the Word, the need to unplug, the need to focus. When we worry, we rush; when we rush, we mess up; when we mess up, we worry.

Over the course of the past week I have on three separate occasions been presented with the same concept to consider: the dissonance between God’s will and our will. That sounds pretty generic, but let me elaborate. See, I know a couple people currently suffering from cancer. There have been a handful of funerals over the past couple months for people I used to see sitting a few pews down, whose homes I’ve been invited into, whose lives have touched mine. And their deaths were not surprises: they were long in coming, long predicted, and — most importantly — long prayed against.

We are taught, by none other than Christ himself, to pray first and foremost for God’s will to be done. And while we often say prayers with words to that effect, I wonder how often we (or at least, I) truly am seeking God’s will. It seems far more often that I pray for my will, and ask God to, if possible, conform His will to that. “Yeah, I know it’s all about you, but if you could decide to do what I want, that’d be great.” Even the most seemingly selfless prayers — to save a life, for example — tend to lack that element of surrender that seems so crucial to prayer as God intends. The focus is our desire, our request, and that request is pretty much always more specific than God’s will being done.

The problem is not that we pray for inherently bad things. The problem isn’t even that we pray for what we want or need; for what else, really, can we pray for, but what we know? No, the issue is that we are blind to God’s will, and therefore incapable of praying for it in terms that go beyond the extremely vague. We get so caught up in our own lives that the things we learn to consider important we make the mistake of thinking important to God — God, whose plans for us and for his people are so staggeringly beyond the mundane realities we settle for — and so we pray from that close-minded place and then hold God responsible as if he were a slot machine out of which we hope for good but usually get nothing.

I think if we really knew God, were truly seeking a deeper relationship with Him, were actually and honestly working towards greater intimacy with Him, then there would be far less guess work when it came to prayer — who, what, when, how to pray for would all be more obvious, and the doubts and uncertainties would fade away. Our prayers would be answered more frequently, not because we were getting lucky but because we wouldn’t be asking for as many things that were out of line with the greater plan God has.

I encourage you to consider whether you’re a victim of this kind of laughable urgency. Ponder whether you, like me, are placing a premium on tasks, objects, or people that really aren’t nearly as important as your worrying suggests. Then realign with God, and find peace in His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Set Your Watch & Warrant On It

It’s crazy to think that it has been — let me verify — almost three weeks since I last posted here* while sitting alone in a student union building 400 miles and a seeming lifetime away. The fire I spoke of hasn’t had a chance to erupt, but then the embers have heated rather than cooled, so this still isn’t exactly a story of failure.

The last few weeks saw me more or less focused on a single thing: the GRE. It actually got to the point where I no longer cared how I fared on the exam because even a complete bomb would be outweighed by the sheer relief of no longer bearing a doomsday clock over me every day. Despite all the people saying not to worry so much about the test, I couldn’t help but remember the words of one advisor who saw my performance as the true determiner of my eligibility for the funding I’m relying on. Those words still echo, still have me contemplating a retake. But I’m not ready to reset that clock. If another GRE is on my horizon, it’s at least a little bit distant, and will never resume its place in the forefront of my mind.

That space is now, as it were, available for rent, and that’s where this post (or, more accurately, the mental gymnastics I need to go through to articulate anything here) comes in. A month ago I promised something concrete. Not mere musings of a plan but something definite, something predictable, something to which I could be held accountable. That means more deadlines, it means measure of performance, but also productivity and a refusal to backslide like so many times in my past.

Admittedly, there is one complicating factor. The thing to which I must dedicate myself the most over the next couple months is the sort of thing not easily quantified or externally expressed: the grad school search. It will probably take me a week or two before I understand what that process looks like and how to streamline it in a way where goal-setting makes sense (i.e. “check x number of sites per day,” “contact x number of faculty per week,” etc.).

It’s worth noting (as I did to a friend the other day) that this is my first college search proper. I broke all the rules when it came to Grove City College: I didn’t look into the programs, the school’s reputation, the faculty, the job placement statistics, etc. I also didn’t look at any other schools. Not one. I read one brochure, visited one campus, applied early decision, got accepted, and attended for four years. In retrospect I am incredibly blessed. My failure to look at or apply to so much as a single other school means had GCC not taken me, I’d have been going to community college for at least a year. I can’t expect that sort of providence this time around, which means I’m starting from scratch at something most people have at least taken a trial go at once in their lives. Suffice it to say: if you’ve been through this process (particularly recently), I am very, very open to advice.

That said, I promised myself that coming home one last time would only make sense if I truly took advantage of the opportunity it afforded me to actually develop as, well, a real person, learning to shop on a budget, to cook for myself (or a family), to handle repairs and maintenance on things like my car. Perhaps my biggest challenge has been, and will continue to be, proper balance of leisure time. I am prone to excess and fixation, a reality both debilitating and ultimately untenable. There’s nothing wrong with, say, Borderlands 2, but there is something wrong with having played it for 26 hours in the past week (thanks, Raptr) at the exclusion of any other game, movie, book, or, say, going for a hike or (hello?) writing a blog or two.

The best way I can see of making myself diversify is if there is some external measure of success for others to see. If the only consequence of failure is letting myself down, then I’ll probably fail because, in the interest of honesty, I’m inured to that particular consequence. So, less because I think the world cares for my opinions and more because putting them out there forces me to have opinions, I am officially going to commit to the following:

  • 3 devotional posts per week (MWF)
    • EDIT (10/22 5:03 p.m. EST) – I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I don’t have nearly enough insight to warrant this one in particular. I am modifying this to be once per week, on Tuesdays, and I’m still not sure what I thought this would look like.
  • 1 album per week (published Mondays)
  • 1 photo-shoot per week (published Wednesdays)
  • 1 film per week (published Thursdays)
  • 2 books per month (published on the first and third Fridays)
  • 2 games per month (published on the second and fourth Fridays)
  • 1 game-culture post per week (published Sundays)

Now, I am also considering doing a weekly vlog. Those few of you unfortunate enough to have been subjected to my previous vlogging attempts will either be pleased (yay, schadenfreude time!) or petrified (oh god why please no) at the prospect. Still, I think it would benefit me greatly to develop the skills associated with the process, regardless of the level of success the finished products actually reach. Video editing and webcasting are huge and growing aspects of the Internet (particularly of the gaming community), and while I don’t have any plans to acquire streaming tech in the near future I think having a general working understanding of how to write for and produce a several minute video would be quite useful. If nothing else, it might improve my ability to achieve brevity.

Speaking of which, I haven’t done that today, and if you’re still reading I’d just like to thank you. If you’re actually looking forward to any of this, please let me know; historically, I tend to do better work when I believe other people care.

This publication process begins now, which means keep your eyes on (or, dare I say, subscribe to) Deus Ex Ludus for Sunday’s post. Monday I’ll post thoughts on anberlin’s new album, Vital.

Cheers!

*To be fair, I did write a fairly lengthy post on faith, games, and time travel last week.

The Arsonist, or The Escapist pt. 2

I hit my 23rd birthday in less than two months, and that’s a little startling because, in the story of my life, Chapter 22 may as well be entitled “In Which Nothing Happens.” There’s not much that can be done to change the events of that chapter, but as an author I realize I’m not completely without agency. If I work at it, I can make something of the rest of this year. I can scratch out the title and replace it with “The Calm Before the Storm.”
But if that’s going to happen, I need to work on my rain dance.
~ July 3rd, 2012

It’s raining today.

Yesterday, it was literally raining, as it tends to be at Grove City College when it isn’t snowing. I know it was raining yesterday in Grove City because I was there, and am still, though my heart has moved on. There were legitimate reasons to come here, but they’re mostly exhausted, and soon I’ll be leaving this campus, perhaps for the final time.

For me, this campus has always lent itself to melancholy after dusk. I’ve spent many nights strolling circuitously under cover of cloud and hood, sometimes listening to music, always listening to my mind. It’s hard to say which one is louder on most days. The last few, the latter wins hands-down.

Last time I was at Grove City I was accosted time and again with the question “what are you doing?” to which I had no answer. This time I had an answer, but the question changed: “what are you doing here?”

I have an answer to that too, but it has grown cloudier as the days have passed. In retrospect I ought to have come down a day or two earlier, and left this morning. Because my goal was to seek guidance from professors, and now I’m in the midst of two days during which no professors are here. Promise of a few social hours this evening hardly explains two wasted days. Try as I may to redeem that time, there’s no doubt it could have been better spent back home.

Yet herein I find a marked difference between past and present me: where I once spent my solitude wishing I were in the past, still here, remaking the decisions I regret, I now spend it wishing I were moving forward faster, leaving mistakes and this place behind to worry about themselves, eager for opportunities to make (or avoid) new ones.

Months ago I looked at my life and lamented how nothing was happening, wondering if something would, wondering if I could change. And change it did, change I have. Stagnation has become trajectory; my concern no longer inertia but velocity – moving the right way as quickly as possible. The ennui took not weeks but hours to appear; every minute lost seems a tragedy, one I now fight to avoid.

I ended Chapter 22 with a bang: I got a job, found a purpose, started losing weight, and reclaimed dark and dusty corners of my spiritual and vocational life. Chapter 23 is going so well. Everything I wanted to be doing, I am — and the ambition to do more is still alive and well, smoldering in place of the ashes I was afraid that ambition would become.

But smoldering isn’t good enough. Smoldering is heat suppressed, energy concealed, potential latent. I’ve always been a pyromaniac at heart, and I think it’s high time for combustion.

Time, as it were, to set fire to the rain.