Monday, December 13, 2010

The Ashes of the Phoenix

While having an online back and forth over at something occured to me. Something fundamental that I hadn't realized before and it inspired me.
We get and receive complements all the time in life, some sincere, many insincere. But can you think of the best complement you've ever been given? Out of everything from everybody does one stand out as 'the best'?
I can. While there are a handful of complements that I have been honored over the years to receive I think one bestowed upon me freshman year in college squeaks by as the best.
I was sitting in my buddy Adam's room in winter of freshman year (mine not his). It has been a rough month. I was dealing with a lot of personal stuff, very much depressed and struggling deeply with some relationships...but so were a lot of my friends and I was doing my best to comfort and help them, non-christians all, as they struggled with their own messes. I don't remember specifically what sparked the conversation that night but he looked at me and said: "I know your God exists because despite everything you still have such hope, and I know that comes from something greater". It goes right along with a handmade poster I had hanging in my locker in high school "It is fruitless for a mirror to have 'self esteem', 'self worth', or pride. Reflect the LORD!"
In what has certainly been one of my lowest points, personally, I succeeded in something that all Christians struggle with for their whole life (and certainly I still do). I reflected the hope of Christ and love of God so brightly my non-christian friend was able to see God through me. What Christian could possibly want for more? To die to ourselves so that Christ shines through? Almost 10 years later and I still can't come up with a better wish, a more perfect goal, a more noble hope.
I have long said that Christians and non-christians alike get depressed. The difference is Christians have HOPE. It means a lot, the difference between hope and hopeless, especially in the worst of situations.
So back to my revelation. I, and the blog author Jim, were in a back-and-forth discussion with a regular tagged 'girlevolving' about abortion. Specifically how abortion is not made morally right just because someone's situation is bad or because the babe will be poor, beset by hardships, or disabled. And something occured to me.
Christians look at any situation, regardless of how bad, and see the hope held therewithin. We know that every situation can be used for good, every heartache a path to joy, every empty wallet a start to a full heart. History teaches us the undeniable resilance of the human spirit. The greatest rise from the worst of situations, the strongest unfold from the weakest.
Non-christians look at a poor mother, an abuse victim, a woman struggling to make ends meet and can only see how hopeless it is. Why bring a child into that? Do not fault, they tell us, the murder of a babe in womb to save it from a lifetime of suffering; it's a kindness, a curtesy, a heartwrenching decision that the woman believes is 'best' for herself, her existing children or family, perhaps even the soon to be dead child itself. And we look at that and marvel at how they can view it that way, horrified at the wanton destruction of so much potential! A child could be exactly the thing that turns a delinquent teenager into a responsible adult, that convinces the abuser they are wrong, or finally gets the abused to leave. A baby could lead to a new friend, who leads to a job opening and financial security, or it could repair a fractured family as the mother is forced to accept help from relatives. That disabled babe might become a world class scholar, or painter, or simply find happiness and acceptance in a commited loved one. How can they not see that they are trying to 'fix' a temporary problem with a permanent and horrific 'solution'. Abortion not only doesn't address the problem, it takes away the solution that can be found in new life!
Somewhere along the way they forgot, or maybe they never knew, that humanity has survived every horror, every holocust, every depression, and has risen to greatness. Not by dying, but by living! Somehow they can't see that humanities ability to overcome and rise above puts the phoenix to shame! Like that mythical bird humans rise back up from the ashes of distruction, but it is not simply to our old selves we arise but to a greater self. From the desolation of despair do humans create the finest riches. It is the soul scarred by the worst that life has to offer that has the most capacity to empathize and help others, and the most capacity to revel in the simple most universal joys of life.
We see hope.
They see hopelessness.
Which is why, I realized suddenly, that all the biology, science, statistics, and facts so rarely make a difference. You can not make the hopeless understand hope, and you can not take hope away from those who have it.
But you can try to give it; it can not be forced, only offered, only accepted. And the best way to do that is to introduce them to the Author of hope. He can not be forced upon anyone either, but if they accept then hope springs eternal. Hope allows even the weakest, basest of humans in the worst situation to pick his head up and exclaim "it is well with my soul!"


Anonymous Rachel said...

First of all I am pro-choice. Why am I pro-choice...mainly because the law says that it is legal. A great show Boston Legal said at one time that the reason pro-choicers cling to Roe v. Wade is because they really don't know how to feel about it. This I think is very true. For myself I am pro-life. I can think of no situation where I would choose to give my child a fighting chance. I have never agreed with abortion for health reasons of the child...I worked too long with special needs children to see them as anything but a blessing, even if it is a slightly different one. And as for life of the mother...well I would have risked everything for my son but now that I have kids at home I wouldn't go that far...but I would choose to carry as long as my body allowed. Now the other...rape and incest...I have never been in those situations and hope I never am...If I am I hope I would be strong enough to make the right decision. I feel that rape is probably the worst thing that can happen to a human being and what I am not comfortable with is forcing a woman in that situation to carry the child of her abuser. This is the only reason I really support though my religion allows for all of the above reasons. I am also pro choice because even though I know my opinions I also know that I am not every woman in this country...I believe holeheartedly in freedom of religion...and would rather see abortion legal and regulated then having desperate women revert to back alley horror shows. That being said I think more needs to be done in the realm of counseling women on their other options and I am even for forcing contraceptives (Norplant/Mirena-long lasting and not permenant) on frequent offenders. I don't think making it illegal will solve the problem and in no way see some anti-abotionits (not saying you) point. I don't see fighting with violence against anyone. I think that with time, education, and an offer of counseling and affordable birth control that the problem will eventually fix itself.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Jespren said...

1st, just because something is legal doesn't make it right. The Bible is against abortion, so were the early church members. (Roman society had abortions, as did many other societies throughout history)
2nd, rape/incest victims account for about 1% of abortions and the only study to date on post abortive/post partum rape/incest victims (done by the Elliot institute and some of the women in the study testified before Congress) shows that over 70% chose to carry to term and not one of them regretted it. Of those that aborted, almost 70% felt it made the situation worse and almost all reported feeling pressured or forced into the abortion. Rape and incest are horrible crimes, but it is disingenous to claim them as reason for abortion, much less for abortion on demand.
3rd, history would disagree with you. Birth control has led to an INCREASE in abortion at every expansion of it's availiblity in this and other countries. Before birth control was availible the out of wedlock birthrate was around 5% and abortions were extremely rare. Common access to birth control (among the losening of social morals that go with it) has caused it to skyrocket to over 50% and, in some communities there are more abortions than live births. There are two types of services/commodities: staples and luxuries. The demand for staples is more or less constant and is unchanged by availibility of the item, while the demand for luxuries varries greatly and is dependant upon ease of access and availibilty. Abortion has been show by economics (among other points) to be a luxury item. People don't NEED abortion, if access becomes problematic the rate of use/want plummets (as opposed to say cars, which is a staple in the US and ppl will travel as necessary to obtain one, the number of dealerships in the local area has little to do with state wide auto sales for example). The vast amount of abortions would not happen if there was minimal or no access to it. The myth of 'back alley horrors' is propagated by the pro-abortion crowd but has little to do with real history. Nearly all 'illegal' abortions were proformed by doctors in their private offices and clinics. The main difference in safety of abortion (which is more dangerous for the woman than bearing to term as well) came with the advent of safer forms, the vaccuum asperator and better antibiotics, not in some mythical difference of where or by whom they were proformed.
Unfortunately the problem will not 'fix itself' unless society recognizes the humanity and inalienable rights of all people to life, from biological beginning to biological end.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

This is of course assuming that all people believe in the Bible and that your views are the correct ones. I have my views on abortion and for myself and my children I am against it. But I have never been in a situation where that was even a thought and I know that my views are not shared by all women. Also there has been a push for abstinence only education in this country and it has shown to be largely ineffective. Are unmarried children really increasing in numbers or are we simply able to report on what more people are doing. I for one know of several bastard children I am descended from(William the Conqueror. Throughout history people have been having children out of wed lock...this is nothing new, and yes in some cases they were looked down upon by society but in many ways they still are. Studies show that teen pregnancies are on the rise but if you look at history and see that many teen girls were married before the age of 16 then the numbers really haven't changed only societies views on marriage have. Also I would like to know what passages in the Bible you are referring to that speak against abortion...I don't doubt you but don't recall that specifically. My religion (Lutheran)allows for these exceptions within its you see how can we ever expect to agree as a nation if we cannot even agree as Christians.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

People don't NEED abortion, if access becomes problematic the rate of use/want plummets

True, but alcohol is a luxury as well and making that illegal didn't stop people from wanting or using alcohol and making it illegal did more harm to our country than good with the rapid growth of organized crime that it spawned. One could make the same argument about other substances that are illegal as could easily argue that the real drug problems in this country didn't begin until it was made illegal. Making something illegal doesn't solve the problem and it doesn't eliminate the issue. I am for regulation of abortion practices and counseling...these issues of women having unwanted pregnancies within or out of wedlock are nothing new and a series of laws is not going to change that. More education into adoption options and yes, birth control (because if you use it you typically don't get pregnant, the issue is people thinking that it is unnecessary to avoid pregnancy and the church saying that it is forbidden...also doesn't really help.) But more than that I think if a woman asks a doctor to get her tubes tied and he refuses because he thinks she is too young is a load of bs...if she wants it, let her have it. Can't get preggers if your sterilized. If they regret it latter...oh, well there is always adoption.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Jespren said...

I know all people don't believe in the Bible, in fact most don't. But if you do believe in the Bible, then you do in fact believe there are absolute rights and wrongs. Murder of innocents would be wrong. And someone else 'not believing' it doesn't make it not wrong, it just makes them blind and lost. And no, I don't care if I get labled intolerant or dogmatic. The Bible IS dogmatic and, by todays meaning of the word, intolerant. Luther, for the record, wrote on the topic of abortion, he said it was murder. That the current Luthern church would allow it just shows how far they've drifted. Some branches of the Luthern church have even officially rejoined the Catholic church! (That happened a few years ago so I no longer have the link to the press release or the statement of faith they jointly sighed...I have relatives that go to a Luthern church)
Your comparision to alcohol is misleading because its refering to criminalizing something that had historically been legal. The reverse in true of abortion. It was (relatively) recently DECRIMINALIZED after having been illegal for pretty much all of recorded history (even in Rome where it was fairly obtainable to the elite it was illegal) criminalizing it would take us back to the status quo, and we can look back and learn from history what effect it would have, namely, a sharp and dramatic decrease in both out of wedlock births and abortions itself.
Abstinence education works, it worked for generations before 'comprehensive sex ed' was even concieved of, it works today, and it works in many places around the world. 'Sex ed' doesn't work. According to the CDC over 98% of sexually active women have knowledge of birth control and access to it. (I have no idea why the study only looked at women) the most commonly reported reason for failing to use it was 'negative side effects', the 2nd was 'physical dislike' (explained as they or their partner didn't like the feel of the birth control, primarily condoms in this group)..
And birth control is NOT very effective. In real life (as opposed to a lab) a couple using condoms for 1 year (this is for adults) has a nearly 40% pregnancy rate, the 'pill' has about a 30% failure rate. More 'education' will not help, unless it's the kind that says you can and should remain celibate until marriage and faithful within because anything else is asking for an STD or pregnancy. None of this 'abstinence is the only sure way..but a condom is 98% effective and the pill 99% effective, so let's talk about those because you don't really want to wait and be faithful'. Guess what? Until ppl were told 'they're going to have sex anyway might as well make it 'safe' ' ppl were perfectly capable of keeping it in their pants until marriage. Even today the average 18 year old is a virgin (about 20% of high schoolers are sexually active, about 40% of college aged people, again, this is CDC statistics)
I will get back to your request for Bible references but I got to get to bed now!

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Actually, no. It was not uncommon in the 16th and 17th centuries for women to be pregnant before their wedding...they were, however, married before the birth. This may be to the long and convoluted courtship rituals but is was not in any way unusual. And there are no absolutes in anything...yes, the Bible says thou shalt not kill...but does that mean that you should allow someone to take your life or the lives of your children because the only way to stop them would be to kill them. Nothing is simply black and white...there are a tremendous amount of shades of gray.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Jespren said...

Almost everything is simple black and white, there are very few shades pf gray. People making 'shades of gray' is almost always just a way to say 'well, I don't think the law should apply to ME'.
And you'll note I said 'out of wedlock births', not 'conceptions'. If people did fool around before marriage 'back in the day' (and I was more referencing the 1950s and back then I was the middle ages, although I suppose they are both valid) they were usually decent enough to get married when they got pregnant.
Self defensive isn't murder, and the Bible makes allowances for both self defense and for accidental deaths (the accused could throw themselves upon The Mercy Seat of the alter if he was innocent of murder and be saved, if they tried it when they had actually commited the murder God took care of the exicution right there.)
There are exceptionally few instances that abortion is required to save the life of the mother. Most of these also strike in late pregnancy where the baby can be deliveried as a premie (certainly some will not survive but some will as well) instead of aborted. It's very black and white, very simple, if not necessarily easy: if the baby is alive then to kill it without cause is murder and indefensible, if the baby is not alive then getting rid of it is perfectly permissible. A human being comes into existance, meeting all biological requirements of life at conception. The Bible acknowledges the validity of this biological fact (I promise I'll get those references posted just can't right now). Therefore, unless in defense of another life (not lifestyle, mental health, or convience), it is murder to kill the unborn the same way it's murder to kill a 2 year old or a 20 year old. There is no difference between being alive at one age than at another.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Great job on this article, Jespren. You really nail the Christian view.

You know, you made me think of the Hollywood movie formula; protagonist sees mountain of difficulty but struggles forward, experiences setbacks, struggles forward again when an opportunity blossoms, set back again, struggles forward some more, then finds the opportunity that leads to living happily ever after.

Doesn't abortion kill our protagonist at the first sign of trouble?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Of course, that Hollywood narrative is the same plotline as the gospel.

When I taught Genesis several years ago, I realized the narrative was exactly analogous to the New Testament gospels. On my bucket list is the task of writing a Christian telling of Genesis going back and forth from Genesis to Jesus.

Birth of Isaac to parents in old age / Birth of Christ to a virgin

Joseph being sold into slavery / Jesus being arrested and crucified

Joseph's brothers realize who they've been talking to / Jesus appears to the disciples and they understand finally who He is.

Joseph takes care of his brothers' needs / Jesus takes care of His family of believers

They live happily ever after.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Jespren said...

Ok, Rachel, sorry this took so long, my husband did a whole study on abortion and the Bible and I wanted to get his notes for you, but I keep forgetting so I thought i'd give you a quick run down, then if you want more I can find my husband's notes.
So you've already references the most vital one "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13 among other places). So it remains only to show the Bible considers the unborn to be under the protection of the Law. The Law was given to all men (Gal 3:10, Rom 5:12, Rom 3:23, Rom 3:20, Rom 2:14 for a few examples), so for the unborn to be protected by "thou shalt not kill" we have to see if the Bible considers them to be living humans. In Ps 139 God is said to knit us together in our mother's womb, that even before birth He knows all the days of our life and He has seen us "yet being unperfect" (not fully formed). In Luke 1:40 we see that John the Baptist, as a 6 month old babe in womb recognized Jesus, who was only a few days conceived. Yes, this was miraculous in that John recognized without being able to actually see, but it shows that babies have their unique personalities from conception. The word in this passage for the unborn John is also the same word appropriately used for any child.
This is just a brief sampling, but it's clear the Bible recognizes the unborn as distinct humans, and therefore they fall under the command to not kill them.

9:08 AM  

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