Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Trickiest Issue in Today's Church

In 2009, there's absolutely no social issue driving more of a wedge between conservative and progressive Christians than abortion. Today on Religion Dispatches, three faith-based reproductive rights activists describe the challenge of finding common ground with pro-lifers in the abortion debate:

It is hard to take seriously a movement that thinks they can dramatically reduce the number of abortions while largely ignoring access to contraception—including emergency contraception. One understands that they feel their hands are tied by the official position of the Catholic church against contraception and by evangelical opposition to comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and sex outside of marriage. But it is hard to join a movement that fails to support the measures proven most likely to achieve their goals.

The abortion reduction movement is thus left with a focus on doing something after women become pregnant rather than preventing unintended pregnancy. They emphasize helping women who are pregnant continue difficult pregnancies and either keep the baby or give it up for adoption. Even here, they fall far short, offering rhetoric, not a plan. According to the Guttmacher Institute three-fourths of the women who have abortions say they do so in part because they cannot afford a child. That is about 800,000 women and girls each year...

On adoption, the movement presents no plan at all. We have no idea what changes in adoption policy they think would lead to more pregnant women to continue their pregnancies and give the child up for adoption? Have they studied the issue or relied on existing studies? And how many abortions a year do they think this strategy would prevent? ... Have they talked to women who have given children up for adoption to understand from a pastoral perspective what effect this decision has on a woman’s life?

Historically, activists on both sides of the abortion debate have presented it as a black-and-white issue: abortion is either murder, or a meaningless medical procedure. But those who are fixated on the rights of the fetus often lack compassion and respect for the mother; while those who think only of the mother's rights like to gloss over the idea that a fetus is the first stage of a human life. As long as both a mother and a child are involved -- as long as contraception and sex education are denied by the government, as long as adoption and foster care are in desperate need of an overhaul, as long as mothers live in poverty -- reproductive rights will never be a black-and-white issue.

And this is where pro-choice Christian activists can help. Because on the whole, Christians who support legal abortion do want to see abortion rates go down; but they'd like to see that happen in a way that shows compassion and respect for women. The best thing we can do for our national conversation about abortion is to start exploring these gray areas, and to start looking at both lives involved in an abortion: the child's and the mother's.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tweets for Jesus

Inspired by this Religion Dispatches article about churches using Twitter, here are the ten most recent appearances by Jesus on Twitter (usernames removed to protect the innocent):

Today has been a good good day:) i felt sick but i got healed by JESUS!<3 Can't wait to get home, play me some guitar hero!

Preaching on Jesus miracles for the next few months.
On the plane thank u jesus

Hookers For Jesus...on Nightline ABC tonite at 11:35 pm...tell ur friends and be sure 2 watch!!!

Wasn't Jesus the first zombie? He came back from the dead


I would kill jesus zombie the only problem is that he would come back in 3 days

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever! --Hebrews 13:8


"There's a difference between following Jesus and stalking him." -Dennis Miller (pre-crazy)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Forgive Me Lord, For I Have Snarked

Last week, Roger Ebert used his very popular personal blog as a confessional, where he repented... for being snarky.

Snarking is cultural vandalism. I have arrived at this conclusion belatedly. I have been guilty of snarking, and of enjoying snarks. In the matter of snarking, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But it has grown entirely out of hand. It is time to put away childish things. I must restore my balance, view the world in a fair way, hope to inspire more appreciation than ridicule. No doubt there will always be a role for snarking, given the proper target and an appropriate venue, and I reserve the right to snark when it is deserved, as in certain movie reviews. But in general I must become more well-behaved.

And later:
What concerns me is that snark functions as a device to punish human spontaneity, eccentricity, non-conformity and simple error. Everyone is being snarked into line.How dare Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, or Mia Farrow before them, adopt more than one Third World baby? Do they have nothing better to do with their money?

I feel the need to note that Roger Ebert mainly uses his blog to say nice things; as snarky websites go, it's practically the anti-Gawker. Still, I enjoy seeing someone hold the internet to a standard of higher morality. Is being mean online as much of a sin as being mean in person? Even if it's funny? Does snark keep the bourgeoisie in check (stay humble, Angelina!), and does it do so at the expense of discouraging our celebrities -- and by extension, us -- from being risk-takers?

To me, it seems that snarkiness is linked to pettiness: it is the art of being mean for no good reason. This is markedly different, I think, from satire, which is one of the most effective ways of critiquing something that's fundamentally screwy (and I am proud to live in an age where satire is a valued form of political debate). Could it be said that satire is, in fact, moral comedy, and snark is its lesser cousin?

Which is not to say snark doesn't have its uses; a good sarcastic insult is an attack tool, focusing the writer's anger and rallying readers. It vents frustration. I've done it. Maybe you have too. But at what cost?

Perhaps Ebert should take this whole thing one step further and set up an actual online confessional, where we can cleanse ourselves of the sins accrued in the heat of blogging...

Find the Religion! Russell Brand's Comedy Central Special

It wasn't on par with an Eddie Izzard show, but Russell Brand still managed to work a few thoughts about God into his cable stand-up debut:

"No,no,no, thank YOU, Lil Wayne!"

"Even Jesus only did it once, to make a point."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Video of the Week: The Miracle of Flight

"Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, Oh my god, wow! You're sitting in a chair IN THE SKY." A lesson in gratefulness by Louis CK, currently making the rounds on Facebook.