Friday, December 22, 2006

What We Don't Understand About Parenthood

I read comments to the Washington Post article concerning Katrina Clark's feelings about being a product of sperm donation. The feeling I had reading these comments was that only a handful of people understood what she was saying, and understood the implications of our "brave new world."

For many people they were only concerned with the apparent selfishness of the author. Their claim was that she shouldn't have brought up the issue, because she should be happy that she exists at all. Some went as far as to compare her circumstances with people who are suffering with abusive parents or no parents at all.

But that perspective is not only short-sighted, but it doesn't even address what the author is bringing up. The issue is not about expressing a complaint about less-than-perfect circumstances. It is about acknowledging that mankind didn't consider the "products" of human engineering to be human—with rights and feelings of their own. Were black people "whining" because they said that slavery was unjust? ("Hey, there are some people who have their freedom, but have no food. You should be happy with what you got.")

This girl, Katrina, is saying that just maybe, the practice of insemination is unjust, because it violates the fundamental, God-given, rights of the pre-born. But, in our society we debate whether the pre-born have any rights at all. We see them as being commodities. We weigh their dignity against those who have the power to choose, as if human dignity was determined upon ability, not on inherent worth.

The other set of commentators make the argument that it doesn't matter what form the family can take, as long as the situation is loving or the individuals, who come from alternative family structure, come out of them successful and healthy.

The problem with that premise is that our evaluation of successful, healthy, or loving is flawed. We base the ideas upon a set of unexamined presuppositions. We believe that whatever feels good, makes us happy, or gains us wealth is good. What if everything that we think is good is not good. What if something that makes us happy, will destroy us? What if we gain the whole world and loose our soul? We want to say that we determine what is good. But that philosophy just leads us to justify genocide, eugenics, greed, and hubris. And when we examine what we justify, we will call it bad when we are on the receiving end of the negative consequences.

If God created us, He determines our worth, our purpose, and our destiny. But this matter has been settled when Jesus came to the earth. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. God settled the matter of our worth, purpose, and destiny with the appearing of our Savior. And Jesus rising from the dead settled the matter of whether it was true. So in our discussions of family structures, the value of life, or our purpose for being here it all begins with what God wants, not with what we want. Success or failure is not determined by what we consider success, but whether or not we've fulfilled our purpose in life the way God has determined it.

The last sort of commentators looks toward or in disdain at certain political stances. But what most people don't understand is that political stances are worldviews practiced in public life. Some political views call for changes in laws or new laws, some are just perspectives on moral conduct in public life.

The main problem with our view of politics is that political views are adopted at a societal level through public opinion. And one opinion is no better than another, except when it calls us to some standard of belief. This view of politics leads many, Christians included, to separate worldviews from politics. And, in turn, this relegates politics to simply a process of power maneuvering.

We have loss the art of public debate, and the concern for public righteousness. We are more concerned with the preservation of "freedoms," thinking that by them we are saved. But we are depraved. We think we know what we want. But we know nothing outside of God's plan. We need to become more like children, so that we can be saved and realize our purpose.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Truth About Parenthood

Now that we've had the opportunity to socially experiment with artificial insemination, we've got a good crop of human products to examine. And these "products" are speaking out.

When she was 32, my mother -- single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family -- allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child.

And for a while, I was pretty angry about it.

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies -- conceived in the late 1980s and early '90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish -- are coming of age, and we have something to say. (view article)

Our brave new world always has consequences. We may not see the consequences right away, but they will show up eventually. I wonder what the consequences will be realized from our holocaust called abortion?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Power of Language

It probably comes as no surprise to you that language plays a big role in our understanding of the world. But how big is a matter of debate.

Language shapes our worldview.

Consider how we talk about current issues. We use terms such as "right-wing" conservative, or "leftist" organization. We speak of liberal theology and conservative theology. We talk about "pro-war" and "anti-war." And by doing so, we begin to believe, and our minds are shaped, by the rhetoric.

For instance, the issue of war is divided, in some people's minds, between a pro-war stance and an anti-war stance. There is no other way to see the issue. Therefore, relational interactions in life can be centered around defeating those who hold an opposing viewpoint. But the issue is never between being for war, or against war. It is just like being for disciplining our children or against disciplining them. That is not the point. If you love your child, you will discipline them, whether you want to or not. But more importantly, God says that is the way we love them and achieve what's best for them.

Notice I didn't say that discipline will achieve love or what's best, but that it is the path to achieving those things according to the word of God. Discipline may be a means, but it certainly not the goal. There are other factors God mentions that will make discipline effective. But that is besides the point. Love is the goal, not the discipline. With war, the same holds true. War is a means to good and bad objectives, whether we want war or don't want war. God uses war for his purposes, and sometimes incites it. We are not commanded to love war nor cower in fear of it. But again, even this example is besides the point.

How do we see the issues of today? What shapes how we view the titanic struggle between good and evil? Don't be fooled, neither God nor the Devil are confused. We all base our assumptions on something. If we step back and view how we formulate our thoughts and words, it is a good indication of what is shaping our thinking.

And a hint: If it's not the Bible, it's probably wrong.