On abortion and “argument by meme”

On abortion and “argument by meme”

In the increasingly heated debates over abortion, the following meme has been making its way around the inter-webs.

Kbell2
Don’t fault KBell for the missing apostrophe. #LetItGo

“Men shouldn’t be making laws about women’s bodies.”

In so many cases, I agree.

I have no desire to tell anyone (not least women) what to do with their bodies—so long as their bodily-choice does not involve depriving other “bodies” of their basic human rights.

THE TROUBLE WITH MEMES

But, of course, even this most basic of caveats cannot survive what I will now dub: “The meme-ing of the American mind” (i.e., the reduction of all ethical and political issues to a snappy bumper sticker that carries emotional freight but almost zero argumentative rigor [on another example, see here]).

To be clear, I would love to see the percentage of women increase in all branches of government, including courts and legislatures. And I have written forcefully about what I take to be the misogyny and sexism of certain evangelical “darlings.” The problem is real.

But the idea that laws are only valid if passed by someone who shares your “body-type” is just absurd. By that logic, only roosters could outlaw cock-fighting; only pit bulls could decide the fate of Michael Vick; and only female fetuses could have legal opinions on abortion.

Hogwash.

ALL LAWS REGULATE A “BODY”

A second faulty assumption in the meme is the implication that one can do whatever one wants with their own flesh and blood.

This too is nonsense.

Speed limits constrain what you can do with your body while driving an automobile.

Rape prohibitions regulate what you can do with your body when it comes to sexual consent.

And libel rulings say what you can legally publish with your body if it turns out to be knowingly false, defamatory, and damaging to others.

To repeat, every law in existence is designed to tell humans what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Every. Single. One.

And that includes the ruling known as “Roe v. Wade”—a judicial fiat handed down by an all-male court. By the logic of the meme, “Roe v. Wade” would also be invalid, since it involved a bunch of old men issuing a decree that involved the “bodies” of both born and unborn women!

How many fetuses served on that judicial bench?

Should we then amend the viral claim as follows: “Non-fetuses shouldn’t be making laws about fetuses”?

CONCLUSION

The primary concern for any law is simple: Is it just for all parties?

And the bar of justice ought to mean that my bodily right to swing my fist ends where my neighbor’s nose begins. Hence the crucial question on abortion is precisely that once asked of Christ: “Who is my neighbor?”

Does that human category include those not yet born?

Whatever one decides on that final question (see my view here), it would better if both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates chose to have this debate in a way that acknowledges (1) the real issues at stake, and (2) the real value of both the unborn and the pregnant women placed in difficult situations.

We can do both.

That will mean support for pregnant moms, improved adoption processes, a willingness to listen, and grace for those who have already had abortions (a group often overlooked).

All that is possible, but it will require something more than memes and blog posts* to accomplish it.

 


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But the anthem was recognizable

But the anthem was recognizable

I’ve always loved this line from Steinbeck (East of Eden) on the raucous brand of revivalistic Christianity that sought to “save” the American West.

Somehow it manages to be both an insult and a compliment.

They fought the devil, no holds barred, boots and eye-gouging permitted. You might get the idea that they howled truth and beauty the way a seal bites out the National Anthem on a row of circus horns. But some of the truth and beauty remained, and the anthem was recognizable.

The churches, bringing the sweet smell of piety for the soul, came in prancing and farting like brewery horses in bock-beer time…

The sectarian churches came in swinging, cocky, and loud and confident. … The sects fought evil, true enough, but they also fought each other with a fine lustiness. … And each for all its bumptiousness brought with it the same thing: the Scripture on which our ethics, our art and poetry, and our relationships are built.

they brought music—maybe not the best, but the form and sense of it. And they brought conscience, or, rather, nudged the dozing conscience. They were not pure, but they had a potential for purity, like a soiled white shirt (East of Eden, ch. 19:1).

It is far easier to (1) see only the church’s stains, or to (2) excuse those blemishes without recognizing their full seriousness.

Steinbeck does neither.

In his view, even this prancing, fighting, farting form of frontier Christianity had value; because while the “players” were often misguided, there was enough truth and beauty to make the anthem recognizable.

 


Interested in understanding the Big Story of the Bible? Check out my new book: “Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements,” available with Video teachings to help church small groups.

Signup here to receive bonus content through my email Newsletter (“Serpents and Doves”).

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New here?

New here?

This weekend, Brianna and I journeyed up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to preach at The Ransom Church, a fantastic community, where my friend Phill Tague is the Lead Pastor.

This is just one of many cool opportunities I’ve had to serve local churches, and to talk about why I wrote Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements.

I’ll post the sermon video when it’s up, but in the meantime I thought I’d do a quick post for the many folks who may be new to the blog.

As a theology prof at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I write on a variety of topics at the intersection of theology and culture–usually with some humor, and an attempt to bridge the divide between academia and pop culture.

I’d love it if you’d click the green “Follow” button to be alerted to new posts.

You can read why I wrote Long Story Short here, and if you’re interested in why it matters that we reclaim the “big story” of Scripture, you can find that here.

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to scroll through prior posts to find something that might interest you.

grace+peace,

josh

On holiness and “hot takes”

On holiness and “hot takes”

Why everybody needs an “Editor”

Thanks to the folks at The Wesleyan Church’s “Voices” blog for publishing a piece I wrote recently on the Holy Spirit as a firm but patient Editor.

In an age of “hot takes,” God’s perfecting Presence offers something better than a fleeting hit of dopamine. The Spirit offers holiness, not by our own merits but by divine grace.

You can access the article here.

Thanks also to Katya and Matt over at Zondervan Academic who inspired the post with their patient feedback on my forthcoming atonement book (see here).

 

“This notebook doesn’t get Netflix”

“This notebook doesn’t get Netflix”

If you’re like me, one of your challenges involves balancing the benefits of our “devices” with their distracting downsides.

Their giant, hairy, screaming downsides.

Toward that end, I’ve begun using a paper notebook again to jot down ideas for book chapters, blog posts, and sermon prep. The shift happened almost by accident. Last month, IVP sent all of their authors a faux-leather journal for a Christmas gift.

my journal2
What you send authors to remind them to write the book they promised instead of mucking around with blog posts.
myjournal1
“Those ideas being ‘Make everyone twins’ and ‘Electric toilet’.” ~Baby Momma

As you can see, mine looks vaguely like it was stolen from a local psych ward. (Seriously, my high school psychology teacher showed us one he had “borrowed” from a friend with paranoid schizophrenia; it looked exactly like this, minus Jonathan Edwards.)

Then, last week, Jon Acuff’s author newsletter detailed why he uses pen and paper.

While at his daughter’s swim meet, Jon jotted down an idea on his notebook, only to be told by an elderly lady that “That’s the first time I’ve seen someone write something down by hand in a long time.”

His response was thus:

            “Paper helps me focus. This notebook doesn’t have Netflix.”

Nuff said.

And while I’m at it, here is a not-at-all-creepy pic I tookof my friend Jake T.

He has notebooks for days. I can smell the spirituality.

jake journal1
Jake T.: Pastor of the deathly hallows.

Make faux-leather great again.

Make everyone twins.

Electric toilet.


If you’re interested in an accessible book for anyone feeling baffled by the Bible, check out my new book, Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple movements(here).


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On spiders

On spiders

“Of all insects, no one is more wonderful than the spider.”

That, at least, was the opinion of America’s greatest ever theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758).

I’ve been reading Edwards over Christmas break (since “Puritans for Christmas” seemed as good an oxymoron as any); and I came across a passage today in which he links God’s goodness to the pleasure He delights to give to even the most “despicable” of creatures.

As a boy in colonial New England, Edwards marveled at how spiders could sail at will upon the wind by releasing filament in just the right amount to catch the breeze.

“And without doubt, they do it with a great deal of … pleasure.”

He wrote a scientific paper on the subject at the youthful age of sixteen, but Edwards’ true focus was always theological.  As he watched the spiders sail magnificently overhead, he mused that

We hence see the exuberant goodness of the Creator, who hath not only provided for all the necessities, but also for the pleasure and recreation of all sorts of creatures, and even the insects and those that are most despicable (WJE 6:154–62).

This is, it seems to me, a beautiful portrait of divine love (however accurate it is of “insects” [sic.]).

SPIDERS IN THE HANDS OFGOD

Yet Edwards is more famous for another spider reference.

In his famous sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” he piled lurid image upon image to frighten congregants with the idea of God’s hateful wrath.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors [hates/loathes] you, and is dreadfully provoked…

The sermon proved effective. But at key points (and despite good intentions), Edwards’ imagery went a good bit further than the Scriptures.

For this reason, it might be good to balance one “spider passage” with another.

The idea here is that the same Creator who judges evil in accordance with his holy love, is also the God who (according to Edwards) takes delight in granting “unnecessary” pleasures “to even the most despicable” of creatures.

Speaking of which… the view from my laptop:

beach

 


 

My most recent book, Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements, is now available at Seedbed.com.

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