Friday, January 22, 2010

Adventures in Tulsa - March for Life

Becuase I wasn't able to go to the March for Life in DC I went to a March in Tulsa on Friday night. It began with mass at Holy Family Cathedral and proceeded several blocks around downtown Tulsa concluding at an open park area somewhere across downtown. Bishop Slattery spoke briefly and then was followed by three other speakers. After these there was a closing prayer and the march was over.

As we began to head back in the direction of the cars I noticed (to my delight) that there were 4 people holding signs on the street corner near where the march concluded. I jogged quickly over to them, full of excitement, ready for a fun discussion. In fact I accidentally scared one of them. She had been holding her poster high in front of her face and had not seen me coming, so when I jump-stopped in front of her the sudden appearance of my feet under her poster gave her a start.

As she peered over the top of her poster to ascertain who had just appeared in front of her I greeted her and the other three with a jovial *"Good Evening. May I ask why?" They all seemed taken aback by this, so I rephrased. "Why are you here?" By their faces, this seemed to them a ridiculous question to ask, so I continued, "You have taken the time to make signs and to come out here and represent your cause on a street corner. This implies to me that you have a considerable concern for the issue. Therefore it seems reasonable to me that you ought to be able to explain your motivation for being out here. So, that is what I am asking. 'Why are you here?'"

We began to talk about Roe v. Wade, about how I hadn't read it, and about how it defines when life begins (at birth). I asked why this was and the discussion continued through the topic of viability until we arrived at the idea that the limits for abortion ought to proceed along with the technology that allows babies to survive when born premature. (The guy on the end did not agree.)

I also took time to explain how I felt that some of the difficulty in communication comes because the sides aren't looking at each other in the way that side looks at itself. (see previous post) and how I thought that many Pro-Life people make things more difficult because they are closed minded. I could tell at this point, based on their body language that I was becoming less threatening now that I had made some concessions about the Pro-Life side. (Which is by the way, actually how I feel, not something I said just to ease them).

At about this same time however, an older gentleman approached and began speaking with them in an entirely different manner. He began with accusations and expected to work from there. His accusations drew a conditioned response indicating the beginning of an argument that would probably consists mostly of catchphrase criticism and stinging responses. Not productive. (At least this is how I felt at the time)

I left the discussion a) because the older guy had derailed my discussion; b) because my friends were cold and wanted to get back to the car; c) because the older guy was heading down a path that didn't seem productive and I wanted to correct him more even than the people with the signs; and d) because I had begun to wonder why I was actually talking to them and thought that if I couldn't be sure I was doing it for the right reason, I probably ought to stop.

This was the first time I had ever talked to strangers about such a high-stakes topic. I learned several things about myself and about the situation, mostly to do with reasons 'd' from above.

My oldest step-brother, Ricky, commenting on my facebook status about my excitement of finding protesters, basically called me out on point 'd'. I had said, before I found them, that I was disappointed in not seeing any protesters, which was legitimately how I felt. Thinking about it, I was wrong to be disappointed. If there are no protesters, that means that no one was concerned enough about what we were doing to protest, which means our ideas are acceptable, which is what we want. I should've been glad to see no protesters. (and conversely disappointed when I did see them)

My disappointment before finding them and my excitement upon finding them were not because of love for them, not because I wanted to show them something better, but because I wanted a good discussion, and I felt very confident that I could 'win', with changing their minds only being a tertiary concern. Beating someone at an argument is not what this is about. Humility fail.

Next time the opportunity arises I promise to enter into the discussion with the same confidence, but with a humble heart, with intentions that have nothing to do with showing how good I can be at debate. If I can't do that, I'll just stay out because I won't actually be doing any good.

If I had to to do over again, I think my method would be about the same (as I still feel that asking questions is more helpful than accusations) but my mindset different.

*My memory doesn't work so as to be able to give a transcript-precise recollection of conversations, so I have done my best to recreate the conversation, but particular wordings may be different than that which actually happened.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pro-Choice/Pro-Life Misalignment

It strikes me with increasing frequency that there is such difficulty in the discussion of abortion because each side is seeing the other differently than that side sees themselves. Therefore, when one side makes an accusation, the other side become more defensive than is warranted because of misunderstanding. It's like two people trying to communicate without a common language.

What I see is that the "Pro-Life" side treats the "Pro-Choice" side as is they were blatantly Anti-Life. Conversely, the "Pro-Choice side treats the "Pro-Life" side as if it were Anti-Choice. Each side is working from basic assumptions, their foundation, but not taking the time to understand the foundation of the other side. They each subconsciously operate as if the other side were just a confused version of them.

The Pro-Choice side is concerned about the woman's freedom which seems to them to be threatened. The Pro-Life side reacts as if the Pro-Choice side is sitting around in meeting rooms making a list of more fun ways to kill babies.

The Pro-Life side is concerned with protecting the life of unborn babies, which seems to them to be threatened. The Pro-Choice side reacts as if the Pro-Life side were sitting around in meetings thinking of ways to chain women and bar them from all decisions.

Neither of these are true, so it's inappropriate to act as if they are. Better communication and less yelling would go a long ways.

Personally, (as you may have guessed) I favor the Pro-Life side. I believe that from conception there exists life in the mothers womb, and that any intentional destruction of that life is immoral because the preservation of life must supersede everything else.

I am obviously not going to turn down a changing of the law, but I feel that the law is not the most fruitful change that can be made. Making abortion illegal would put abortion clinics out of business, but wouldn't it be better if they went out of business because no one wanted abortions anymore? Then we wouldn't even need to bother with a law.

The March for Life in DC is a great thing, but I feel that we ought to be equally, if not more focused on reaching out to the people, not just the government; focused on changing hearts and minds as well as votes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Response to: "What is the Church’s commission?"

A friend posted on his blog an excerpt (shown below) from a book called Christless Christianity by Michael Horton dealing with how "many believers today may experience Christless Christianity [is because] the dominant emphasis is on means of service rather than the means of grace." The excerpt is written in the context of mainline protestant Christianity, but the issue at hand is not a denominational one so my response avoids any theological prodding.


One of the major reasons so many believers today may experience Christless Christianity even in churches that identify themselves as Christ-centered is that the dominant emphasis is on means of service rather than the means of grace. Many Christians today are burned out and they are not sure why, but in many cases that I have encountered, the reason is that they have been subjected to constant demands while the gospel remains in the background.

To be sure, the local church involves fellowship among the saints, which includes works of service to the household of faith. But we have confused the priesthood of all believers with the ministry-hood of all believers, as if Christ had never instituted the offices that we find in the epistles. In this approach to ministry, every sheep must be a shepherd. The call to the sheep to become self-feeders is the natural consequence of this impoverished line of thinking.

The church has a very narrow commission. It is not called to be an alternative neighborhood, circle of friends, political action committee, social club, or public service agency; it is called to deliver Christ so clearly and fully that believers are prepared to be salt and light in the worldly stations to which God has called them. Why should a person go through all the trouble of belonging to a church and showing up each Sunday if God is the passive receiver and we are the active giver? It’s like being expected to look forward to Christmas when you are always giving but never receiving any gifts. Answering Simon’s complaint against the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume, Jesus said, ‘He who is forgiven little, loves little.’ Then he turned to the woman and said, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ (Luke 7:47-48). When we regularly hear and receive Christ’s forgiveness, we are filled with love for him and for others.

My Response

Christ came to make heaven possible for sinners. The Church is sinners continuing the work of Christ as he directed them to do, to bring others to Himself. Therefore, the basic function of a Church should be to bring souls to Christ.

Many churches have presumed (and operated under such presumption) that they way to do this is "to be an alternative neighborhood, circle of friends, political action committee, social club, or public service agency" because they feel that these things can become a distraction when people partake of them in the secular world so they try to make these things available within the Church to lessen the distraction.

I think this situation could be analogous to the situation the Jews had worked themselves into at Jesus' time. For them, the Laws had become the end-all for the practice of their faith. They had lost sight that the Laws were meant to lead them to God and had allowed them to be practiced for the sake of themselves. They were obsessed with the "letter of the Law" and had forsaken the "spirit of the law".

Obviously there is a gray area here in terms of how the Christian community decides how to handle the social system inherent in a Church community. You can't go to one extreme or the other, but I think it is safe to say that in some churches they have focused so much on the ways to help people get to Christ that they aren't able to effectively employ those well developed methods. It's like renovating a house that you never stop working on; at some point you have to be happy with your progress and actually live in the house. If you spent forever getting every detail perfect you would never be able to use what you spent time perfecting.

Well organized small groups, powerful worship music, lots of volunteers etc all count for naught if they aren't used to do something beyond themselves, something that actually gets people to God not just makes them feel good.