Friday, March 28, 2014

The Shame Game: World Vision and the U.N. AIDS Resolution

With the recent kerfuffle surrounding World Vision's change and immediate reversal of a new policy that would allow 'married' gay individuals to work for them came a lot of backlash.
First, there were the Christians who were outraged by the mega-charity's decision to betray it's original principles.  Many of these people pulled their funding from the charity as a protest, stating that they could no longer in good conscience support the organization.

Round #2 was the backlash against the backlash, with left-leaning bloggers and reporters criticizing all the heartless, cruel monsters that were in essence taking food out of the mouths of starving children over a "narrow policy issue".

Finally, there was the follow-up backlash from the same people as backlash #2, who redirected their comments at World Vision itself when they reversed the policy, reaffirmed traditional marriage as a biblical Christian tenet, and therefore gave in to the bullying of their conservative Christian base.
The article I linked for 'Round #2' is a piece by a Patheos blogger that boils down to the following accusation: Christians who stopped supporting World Vision when World Vision started supporting homosexual "marriage" are hypocrites who defend an arbitrary, self-righteous hatred for the fact that "Janice from accounting has a wife" at the expense of "hungry children with empty bellies or sick children without medicine". Mr. Benjamin Corey, the author of the article, is definitely not alone in his sentiments, as I found many other articles with similar opinions all over the blogosphere.

But the title of Corey's piece in particular just begs a brief moment of...consideration? admiration?: "When We’d Rather Let Kids Go Hungry Than Be Reasonable On Gay Marriage."  This attack on Christians--who have committed the unthinkable crime of feeling entitled to decide that their charity dollars go to an organization that represents their beliefs--is incredibly smart. It simultaneously places believers on the defensive, and makes them look 1. stupid and childish, because the gay "marriage" issue is an innocuous issue, and 2. like rabid ideologues, who will kill children over an abstract and outdated principle.

It's another instance of the strategy that the Enemy appears to have realized works fairly well in modern culture: make the Christians out to be the bad guys because they actually stand for their principles and don't support the liberal agenda-clothed-in-humanitarianism. A hyperbolic headline like 'Christians steal bread out of the mouths of starving babies because they hate gays' incites much more outrage and support than a truthful one: 'Christians who have always Scripturally and ethically rejected homosexuality and affirmed traditional marriage choose to give money to a different charity so they don't violate their consciences'.


I didn't bring up the World Vision debacle, or Corey's article, however, just to point out their hypocrisy or their rhetoric.  Another piece of news surfaced this morning, unrelated to World Vision, but quite appropriate to discuss in light of it.

For the past week or so, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has been reviewing an AIDS initiative spearheaded by several African countries where AIDS hits the hardest.  Today, those same countries backed out of voting on the finalized resolution because of language forced into the bill that downplays or removes stipulations about fidelity and monogamous partnerships, and which protects early "sexual debut" for teens, specifically girls and women.

This article from C-FAM describes how the language got into the resolution:
"In a surprise move, the Dutch delegate intervened to amend the resolution on behalf of the US and other countries in Europe and Latin America. They could not accept a mention of “delay of sexual debut” in a paragraph on helping women and girls protect themselves from HIV. Among the other defenses against HIV left in were condoms, gender equality, and gender sensitivity.
The draft had narrowly avoided being stripped of references to abstinence and fidelity. A confidential source told the Friday Fax that at the start of negotiations behind closed doors the U.S., European Union, and some Latin American countries insisted these be removed or there would be no resolution at all. A reference to reducing the number of sexual partners was removed later."
Perhaps I should title this piece "When We'd Rather Insist Kids Can Have Sex With Multiple Partners As Early As Possible Than Be Reasonable About The AIDS Epidemic"?

It sounds as ludicrous as Corey's headline, yet unlike his, this one is accurate.  Because American and European activists couldn't let go of an explicit U.N. commitment to pushing a sexually active lifestyle on kids, they caused countries most hurt by this issue to feel unrepresented and unaided.  "It’s all about sex, sex, sex, for them [the U.S./European agitators]," one of the African delegates remarked.

For the people who are living with the AIDS epidemic, making sure that teens can have as much sex as they want, as long as we are sure to provide them with condoms is a total misdirection of effort. (And condoms, incidentally, have been proven to be far less effective against AIDS than we have been led to believe by the Planned Parenthood cabal)  The issue is not how the people in the stricken countries are having sex, but that they are having it at all.  For non-married individuals, the best way to protect from the disease is simply to abstain from sexual activity.  The delegate's comment about it being all about 'sex, sex, sex' reveals that her perspective is not on sex at all--it is on the fact that people are dying.
"Early sexual debut and multiple sexual partners are associated with poverty. A pilot program in Malawi showed young women receiving cash transfers to attend school had lower HIV incidence because of delayed sexual activity, younger and fewer partners, and less likelihood of falling into prostitution. They were also more likely to continue their education and avoid child marriage. Other research shows partner reduction and fidelity led to HIV reduction in Kenya."
But, apparently, pleasure and immediate gratification is more important than the health, perhaps even the life, of these same children and teens.  Although the AIDS virus is such a threat in these regions, unhampered access to sex is given priority over anything else.

Furthermore, as the C-FAM report notes, "In Africa, women uniquely bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic, in part because male-to-female transmission is much more likely than female-to-male."  This means that, even more than the general disregard for the lives of the people in these countries, those refusing to let go of the sex-on-demand language in the resolution were specifically targeting women, since women will be the primary victims.

Who's waging a 'war on women' now?


The takeaway here is that in both instances, the World Vision policy shift, and the abandonment of the U.N. AIDS resolution by some of "the hard-hit areas in the HIV epidemic", Christian-shaming, or at least the shaming of moral or ethical principles, is spun to look like a great service to humanity.  Thank goodness for the voice of compassion that wants to feed the starving children; thank goodness we can rest easy at night knowing that little African girls can contract AIDS with as many partners as they like.

This cloaking of evil in a semblance of charity is sickening, but unsurprising.  Our culture loves itself above everything else, and would readily sacrifice the true well-being of others to preserve its shallow facade of justification for the way it wants to behave.

Checking the AIDS crisis by promoting abstinence would force us to admit that condoms don't always work, and that there are proven benefits to sexual restraint proportionate to the disadvantages of 'early sexual debut'.  Acknowledging that Christians have the moral obligation to stand for certain moral truths no matter what ends might appear to justify the means would require us to reevaluate the concept of absolute Truth, and would certainly require the occasional sacrifice of pleasure or preference to adhere to that Truth.
It is so much easier to disguise the sins of others and pat ourselves on the back for being compassionate than to submit to a real self-examination to reveal our own sins, and reveal what sacrifices true compassion for our fellow men and women would require of us.
But we should not allow ourselves to be made to feel ashamed for standing up for our beliefs, for the Truth, or should we be tricked by the language of charity that is wielded against us to make us feel like we are somehow hurting our neighbor instead of loving him.

"Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;  and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong." (1 Peter 3:15-17)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beating a Dead Horse for Life

The other day I got into one of those unfortunate situations known as a Facebook debate.  Like reality television series, they are easy to be sucked into, nearly impossible to stop, and leave you wondering where the last hour and a half of your life went.  

On my Facebook page, I posted this article about the investigative results that revealed the incineration of thousands of aborted babies' remains to heat UK hospitals.  My intent was hopefully to alert people who either were not aware of such things happening in today's world, or to re-alert and re-invigorate the people who were.

But a friend of mine took what I intended to be a sharing of information and launched into a diatribe against the pro-life movement as a whole.  (This is not an attack post! But my friend is not alone in her perspective, and it's the perspective, not the individual person, that I'm addressing here). 

She complained that all the pro-life movement, and indeed the vast majority of Catholics, ever talk about is abortion, abortion, abortion.  We beat to death the topics of abortion, contraception, and gay "marriage", at what she felt was the expense of other important humanitarian concerns, like social justice, income inequality, capital punishment, and war.  If we were truly pro-life, she and others like her have challenged, we would be concerned with all these things and be far more even-handed in our activism. She also argued that the pro-life movement was dead anyway, because it wasn't accomplishing anything and wasn't going to. Infanticide and abortion had been around since the dawn of time, and would remain with us for still longer.  Finally, if we would insist on talking about abortion, why were we so concerned with the unborn, when the more fruitful area of ministry would be towards the mothers, towards those women who felt they had no choice but to abort?

I found myself, as did my soon-to-be sister-in-law, who had joined in the conversation on my side of the issue, arguing vaguely for hope and perseverance. Plus, there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to stop other kinds of murder, or to give love and material support to expectant mothers with crisis pregnancies. But I found myself bucking against the idea that abortion-centered pro-life ministry was dead and done, and that we were somehow wasting everyone's time and energy reminding the world that babies are still being killed.

So, following my Facebook discussion with my friend, I questioned myself squarely:
What justification do we have, as Catholics and Christians, for continued emphasis on abortion, specifically?

Two of the other big killers always brought up by the camp opposed to the modern pro-life movement are war and the death penalty. "Oh, so you only care about a human life being taken if it's a fetus? What about all the soldiers? What about all those death row inmates?"  Well, consider the following:
  • Number of babies aborted in the U.S. since 1973: at least 55,772,015 (source: the Guttmacher Institute, a liberal thinktank who is more likely to underreport or report accurately than to overinflate the numbers) 
  • Number of Americans who have died in all U.S. wars since 1776:  1,321,612 (source, which is citing all kinds of other sources) 
  • Number of people executed by capital punishment since 1976: 1,362 (source)
This means that in just 40 years, we have aborted forty-thousand times more babies than we have executed criminals, and forty-two times more babies than Americans killed in all conflicts from our nation's conception. Let that sink in.

For you visual people, take a look, or watch this video:

So as far as the more immediate concern, we have, on one side of the scale, the genocide of several generations' worth of children, and on the other...well...let's also consider the identity of the victims in all three types of violence:
  • Soldiers, who volunteer out of patriotism and courage to defend their country, knowing the risk. 
  • Criminals, who have committed a violent crime and possibly murdered others themselves, and who have been deemed unfit to be returned to society, for society's protection. 
  • Unborn babies, who are totally innocent and have no protection, no agency, and no voice.
Does this mean it's ok that there are soldiers dying in unjust wars? No! Does this mean it's ok to execute a criminal as though his life has no value? No. (Or, not necessarily. This is a far stickier issue, and until the Church actively forbids it, I believe that capital punishment has its place in our society, and its justification in Aquinas as a charity).  But it does mean that both the soldier, who has a choice to serve, and the criminal, who has received just representation in a court of law, have far more of a fair shake than the baby, who has done nothing more criminal or deliberate than to be conceived.
Not that any of that makes the unborn baby's life intrinsically worth MORE than anyone else's, but rather, that it demonstrates that it is the most vulnerable, and clearly, as the numbers show, the largest casualty by leaps and bounds, and therefore requires our continued attention.
To ignore abortion or push it aside in favor of trendier crises, is to say to the Nazis, we see what you are doing to the Jews, but we would like to talk to you first about what you are doing to the Russians.  Was the huge number of casualties in the Russian army that took place on the Eastern Front terrible? Of course! But was it larger in scale or more pressing than the wholesale, assembly-line style slaughter of innocent and defenseless Jews in the concentration camps? No.

And don't forget the collateral damage of abortion--those mothers.  One in every three women has had an abortion.  That abortion torments them--whether they realize it or not--emotionally,  psychologically, and often, physically, for the rest of their lives (the fathers, too, assuming it is not kept secret from them).  So for every one aborted baby, you have one physical casualty and one, maybe two, more psychological ones.

So should we ignore all other issues just to focus on abortion? Definitely not.  As Pope Francis said, we must have a context.  But the context at this moment in time is that abortion is taking so many more lives than any other type of moral or ethical issue against which we might, as Catholics, want to protest, that it is rightfully the most spoken-of and the most heavily activized.

I don't particularly feel obligated to justify myself now when I post pro-life things to Facebook. I don't feel the need to apologize or compromise with people who think we are 'too obsessed' with abortion.  If being  concerned about the mammoth-scale murder of children--about nine times as many children as the population of New York City in 2013--is obsession, then fine, I am obsessed.

This is not an issue where we are 'choosing' to prioritize one issue over another, any more than anyone else passionately moved to speak out against genocide feels that it is a 'priority'. One cannot simply put aside the abortion issue like an old newspaper and pick up some other cause.  To reduce the defense of innocent human life to a preference does a grave disservice to those very soldiers being killed in the wars, and the society which a system of capital punishment seeks to protect.

It is certainly the duty of a Christian to try his hardest to champion all life, from conception to natural death, regardless of age, sex, race, creed, and condition.   
But if we in the pro-life movement should be careful not to forget the born because we are so focused on the unborn, neither can those who are merely 'tired of hearing about it' neglect 55,000,000 children.
And by the way, war and capital punishment have been with us since the beginning of humanity too. ;)