Thursday, August 27, 2015

From Outrage to Action

I am tired of hearing about the newest example of human depravity.  Yesterday a disgruntle former employee murdered a reporter and cameraman as they were interviewing a guest live on the air.  This gunman then later took his own life.  This news has been all over any form of media and the responses have been generally responsible in the sensitive particulars of this story.  The shock, outrage, and grief is evident.

I do believe it is important to allow for the proper time for the grief process to occur.

But I also think we must talk about what else we need to do beyond moving through the stages of grief.  We need to move beyond our outrage and into action.

I am not in favor of OVER-reacting...but sensible steps can be taken.  Here are a few thoughts:

1.  Can we please develop some sensible laws about who can get access to guns and other weapons?  I am not in favor of removing all guns from the public but there are steps we can take to keep such weapons (and for the record I reject the notion that a gun is for defense- a gun is a weapon, not a shield), but I am in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of people who through negligence, ignorance, and irresponsibility pose a risk to others in the community.  Police and other armed officials train for hours and hours, and keep training, to understand the responsible care and use of such weapons.  Right now no such training or education is required for your average gun owner.  Traveling gun shows have little accountability on how and to whom they sell their weapons.  The rhetoric of the NRA lobbyists and the left winged opposition can be put aside to resume a discussion on methods to make gun ownership safe for would be owners and the community where they live!

2.  More important to me is the process of educating ourselves and our children on the danger of concepts such as anger and revenge.  We have parents teaching children that sometimes the only way to gain respect is through the use or willingness to use violence.  We praise aggressive behavior, model activity based upon anger, and lift up revenge as a romantic notion of righting wrongs.  How about talking to our children about the cost of violence, the damage hate does to a person's spirit, or the danger of acting in anger.

Better yet, why not teach (and model) to our children concepts such as healing, caring for one another, forgiveness, and reconciliation?  Why not encourage our families to develop empathy for others who might be different or seem foreign to us?  Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as our self.  When Paul describes love (agape) he uses words that are active, not feelings or emotions.

If all we do after this tragedy is talk about it for a couple of days, we leave it as a tragedy.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On being Pro-Life and a supporter of Planned Parenthood

The above link is to an article about Ted Cruz and a conversation with Christian pastors about organizing to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the wake of recently released videos of upper level leadership discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.  Reading this article led to a couple of serious reflections on my part.

1.  I can not believe that there is an organization of Christian pastors dedicated to improving political involvement by ministers.  This American Renewal Project runs against the idea of separation of church and state.  As a Baptist minister serving in Indiana, this very concept seems foreign to the role of the church and its leadership.

2.  A bigger issue for me is the realization that around 3% of the budget for Planned Parenthood covered their expenditures in 2009 ( while a much larger percentage went towards other women's health services which included contraception, testing and treatment for STDs, and cancer screening.

I am Pro-life.  In every sense of that word, I am for the living.  I do not believe in abortion as it ends the possibility of human life.  (It is important for me to note now that I am still undecided on the moment I believe life begins- finding little common ground with life begins at conception or with the notion that life begins when a fetus can sustain itself independently of the mother).  However, I am also a Baptist who believes in the concept of soul liberty and the freedom of choice.  I do not think that it is my right to impose my viewpoint on anyone other than my own self.  I also believe I have NO right to tell a woman what she may or may not do with her body.  While one interest in this conversation shouts about the choice of the unborn, the other side lifts up the choice of the impending mother.  While difficult to navigate I am one of those who thinks that the rights of both muddy this issue and that each case should be evaluated with the interest of both mother and the unborn child.

This movement to de-fund Planned Parenthood appears to be an attack upon the concept of abortion itself.  Since politicians have failed to make abortion illegal in our nation, the next step seems to be to pull any financial support that might make this possible (was this not a similar tactic as those who opposed the so called Obamacare?).  Is it not interesting that this same value for life does not apply to the loose laws for gun ownership in this nation- especially when recognizing the percentage of these handguns involvement in the taking of human life.  If preserving life were really that important would we not be having a different discussion about gun ownership?  Taking funds away from Planned Parenthood will severely hamper the greater mission of the organization that directly invests in improving women's health and PREVENTING unwanted pregnancy.

It is why I find myself in a very tense position- being a Baptist minister who supports the concept of life, but also the work of any organization that works to preserve and aid life.  I believe it is possible to be Christian, Baptist, and support continued financial support of my tax dollars for Planned Parenthood.