Pro-lifers need to think bigger

In the abortion debate, I find it hard to give my support to anyone.

I believe the pro-lifers: we should not simply kill the unborn for being unwanted. I believe the pro-choicers: Sometimes, the circumstances of a woman is such that it is not in her interest, or the child’s, for her to become a mother.

I do not believe pro-lifers: They cannot reason that any woman who did not refuse intercourse should raise her children. Really? Should a slightly mentally handicapped 14-year old girl, who was pressured but not forced by her 16-year old boyfriend into the act, be given the task of motherhood? Should the abused

If we believe this is two people, we should consider the long-term well-being of both.

If we believe these are two people, we should consider the long-term well-being of both.

woman who don’t think she can make it on her own if she leaves her abusive boyfriend be made to raise children in that abusive home? Should a married couple who lost their jobs and cannot afford children right now refrain from intercourse? And what about fathers: Do they likewise believe any man capable of using his penis should be left with his children? Children are not a punishment for sexual activity. They are human beings whose best interest we should look out for.

I don’t believe pro-choicers: The best solution, when a pregnant woman has hard circumstances, is very seldom* an abortion.

I am in favor of life, but I think the rethoric if pro-lifers is too small. They curse darkness and do not put on lights. Life is not just about babies not being aborted.

Life is also about children groing up loved and wanted and provided for – materially and emotionally. Life is about mothers’ health, and everyone including mothers reaching their highest potential, living out their gifts, and raising children (if they have them), in a healthy, loving enviroment.

If we want a culture of life, we should talk about how to affirm life, provide for life, and care about life. The life of the unborn child, the born child, the mother and, depending on the circumstances, even the father or adoptive parents. If we make it hard for a poor mother to provide for her child, are we affirming the life of the mother and her little boy or girl? If pro-life conservatives shame the girl who get pregnant out of wedlock, are they not encouraging the next girl to rather get an abortion? If bosses make it hard for mothers at work, if they assume mothers have divided loyalties, do they affirm the value of her work input, her life and the life she is raising? If we make no way for women to get out abusive relationships, do we really care about the children born into the abusive home?

Do pro-choicers talk about how abortions is not really a “free choice” by the woman, but influenced by her circumstances, and by people like boyfriends and fathers? Do pro-lifers provide pregnancy care, and good, safe day care so mothers can go back to work? Do pro-lifers promote adoption as vehemently as they oppose abortion?

Do debaters (on both sides of the debate) notice that many of the Western nations where abortion is completely legal has lower abortion rates than many of the places where it is legal? It seems the best thing to do if you are against abortion is not to curse the darkness, but to turn on some lights. Forbidding abortion does not work as well as policies by which women have visibly better future options, for themselves and their children. Creating visibly better options? Options are choices. Better options are pro-choice. And pro-life.


* Very seldom: A tubal pregnancy is one example of when it would be very hard to reason that any better option than abortion exists.


Good News Clubs and their critics, part 4: Good News Clubs are not linked to American politics in the way Katherine Stewart claims

First, a few facts: Child Evangelism Fellowship was started in 1937. It teaches clubs in 170 countries, in homes, community centres, schools, or wherever children gather. America is only one of those countries. In America, laws about prayer on school grounds have existed since 1962. Good News Clubs predate American laws about religion in schools, and are held in 169 countries  which have different laws.

Here is how Katherine Stewart, writer of “The Good News Club: The Christian right’s s stealth attack on America’s children”, think about the clubs:

How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

Good News Clubs’ evangelism in schools is already subverting church-state separation. Now they justify murdering nonbelievers …

Pretty much every lesson that the Good News Club gives involves reminding children that they must, at all costs, obey. If God tells you to kill nonbelievers, he really wants you to kill them all. No questions asked, no exceptions allowed.” – Katherine Stewart

This whole accusation is a mis-characterization of one lesson out of all the many CEF has: Saul killing the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:3) is part of the Bible, and since the group of lessons was about that period of Bible history, was included. The message the material taught from it was to obey God, while the writers of these books know God, in the new, covenant, does not ask people to kill. Therefore, obeying God – in the form of Jesus, the character most promoted in even Old Testament CEF lessons – will not lead to genocide. As far as I could know the minds of others, the possibility of God asking genocide of Christians is the furthest thing from the minds of club teachers. The problem is largely in how Katherine Stewart looks at this.

Reese R Kauffman President of Child Evangelism Fellowship, answered her too. In my opinion CEF should, however, learn one thing from Katherine: They should mention the new covenant, and how God would not call Christians to kill, when they reprint the book.

Public schooling, indeed the public at large, is an enemy, a war is being fought, and the prize is the hearts and minds of children. Entire legal teams have been created to open the doors to these schools, and Supreme Court members such as Clarence Thomas have made it clear that the doors won’t be shutting anytime soon... I say it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to enjoy a deeper understanding of today’s political climate…- C. Schink in an Amazon review of Stewart’s book.

I do not live in the US of A. But if the clubs had a main goal of linking to American politics, they are pretty unsuccessful and very much side-tracked. Children in Mozambique, Peru or the Ukraine, or any of the 166 other countries CEF work in, cannot help the American religious right at all.

Of course, many of those Americans who want the laws regulating religion in schools to change will be in favour of Good News Clubs in schools. But such clubs don’t have to be – and often are not – held at schools. All in all, the biggest link between American church/ state politics and Good News clubs is that the Good News Clubs are, in one of the many countries where they happen, affected by it.

But Stewart soon discovered that the Club’s real mission is to convert children to fundamentalist Christianity … by a seemingly anonymous reviewer of Katherine Stewart’s book, repeated on several Internet sources to advertise her book.

While the point of the clubs are to convert to Christianity, I find the word “fundamentalist” spurious here, for two reasons:

1) The big problem that even I have with these clubs is that they spend too much time saying: “You should accept Jesus and therefore become a Christian, should become a Christian, become a Christian, you should, you really should, accept Jesus, accept Jesus and become a Christian…” This means they have too little time to talk about how to live as a Christian after accepting Jesus. That means that the club hardly promote “fundamentalism” or, for that matter, any other form of Christianity.

2)“Fundamentalism” is misleading, as it has two meanings. When people speak disparagingly of fundamentalism, they mean cultural fundamentalism. Most of the ideas of cultural fundamentalism are never taught in Good News Clubs at all. The confession of faith that Good News Club teachers sign is doctrinal fundamentalism. Almost all evangelical and Protestant believers agree, largely agree, or at least know that the majority of believers around them agree, with doctrinal fundamentalism.

…and encourage them to proselytize to their “unchurched” peers, all the while promoting the natural but false impression among the children that its activities are endorsed by the school. – by the same seemingly anonymous reviewer of Katherine Stewart’s book, repeated on several Internet sources to advertise her book.

As I explain in my book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, the club exists mainly to give small children the false impression that their public school supports a particular creed. – Katherine Stewart

This claim is downright ridiculous. I have never heard of any good news club teacher promoting the idea that club activities are backed by the school. I have never seen anything in CEF teaching that tell anyone to try and promote said impression. It is not the mission either on paper or in practice. And since CEF is active in 170 countries, only one of which have that particular opinion of school/church division, and meet in many places like churches and private homes and community centres, and since CEF never even encourages – AFAIK – to rather gather at schools than other places, that charge could, at most, be laid before a few private individuals who may be CEF volunteers, but have a different motive from CEF itself. I myself have often used CEF materials to teach in places that are not schools. If such clubs existed mainly to give children an impression about what the school teaches, CEF would have taught me to promote that impression, and discouraged me from teaching anywhere that is not a school.

The Good News Clubs are not about modern-day American politics. It is not about genocide, nor even about “fundamentalism” in the sense people use the word nowadays. Katherine Stewart has, at most, a local problem about which she generalizes. I suspect that even my previous sentence gives her propaganda more honor than it deserves.

Who treats sex as dirty?

I tried to tell her what I find wrong with pornography and BDSM. “Don’t tell me you are one of those people who think all sex is dirty”, she spat back.

Who thinks sex is dirty? Let us see:

> Pornography and BDSM say women are sl_ts and wh_res and b_tches. (On occasion it uses the same slurs for a male, but then the degraded partner is compared to a woman.) The implication is that sexuality is dirty, that women should be ashamed of their sexuality. Logically, it reflects back on their partners too: If a woman is dirty because you touched her, what does it say of your hands? Continue reading

I wish Christians would stop calling homosexUALITY a sin

Kelvin is a respectable church-going single man. Kelvin appreciates church involvement more than most, because he would be even more lonely without it.
But Kelvin has a secret: He is not actually attracted to women. He is attracted to men. No, Kelvin is not sexually active. But he knows that, were the church to know his attraction is to men, they would reject him. God, Kelvin knows, does not reject him. God loves him with his struggles and all, the same way God would love a straight man or woman, or a lesbian, with all of their struggles.
Kelvin believe God calls him to be involved at church, but the church is a lonely place in itself. Kelvin would never be accepted there if they knew about his sexual attraction to men. The others members of his church continually talk how sinful homosexuality is, and how God hates it.
Somewhat ironically, there is an understanding community where Kelvin’s loneliness will be silenced, somewhat: A gay teen usually grows up with many peers not wanting to play with him, and often with his dad rejecting him. In the gay community peers will play with him and older men will give him attention…
Julie is a 14-year-old girl in Sunday School and realizes that she likes girls, not boys. She is ashamed of that – her church calls it sinful. It is hard enough to be a teenager already, without hearing she is (without ever having acted on her desires) more shameful than her peers.
The gathering of believers is supposed to be a family for the lonely, but Kelvin’s church, and Julie’s church, are not. Churches does not have room for the Kelvins and the Julies to be honest, to admit their circumstances and feelings. If they knew the truth about Kevin, he would be stripped of the church tasks he currently does well. If they knew the truth about Julie, she would be ostracised at an age where finding a way to fit in is the big identity struggle. Is this the reflection of a Christ who would not break a bruised reed, who gives life and hope, who calls us to give honour to all members?
The church’s actions needs to change, but so does it words. For a start, I suggest to never use the words “homosexuality is a sin”. What you are probably trying to say is that homosexual intercourse is a sin, so say that instead.
Why? What is the difference? The difference is that “homosexuality” is a part of a life outlook which most likely also have non-sexual components, like an interest and aptitude for things the culture associate with the opposite sex. But God-given gifts – even if we associate it with the other sex – is irrevocable. (Rom. 11:29)
Calling a certain act (homosexual intercourse) wrong is one thing. Calling someone’s way of being human, with its combination of good and bad qualities, sin in its entirety, is very different.
Even better, do not say it at all. The gay community already know what you think of their actions. “Love the sinner, hate the sin“, you say? Fine. Let us learn to love the sinner.
Maybe you know want to say now: “It is loving to point out that what someone does is wrong…” Depends. If he don’t know what he does is wrong, and you can get him to stop, it may be. But there is a gazillion other things that are also loving, like – for a start – having a friendly conversation with him, the same way you would with anyone else. Or inviting him to your home for dinner – not to lecture him, but the same way you invite any other friend. The other people you invite for dinner certainly have their own sinful desires too, and God does not see the sinful desires of the gay man or lesbian as any worse.
And when you hear anyone else say “homosexuality is a sin”, be quick to tell him that he should stop trash talking a gay person’s personhood, character and (even non-sexual) desires. Insist that the trash talker should at least limit his judgement to the sexual acts he regards (by his Bible understanding) as sinful. Straight people also have sinful sexual desires (and many of us act on it), but we never say “heterosexuality is a sin” when we hear of sinful heterosexual desires. We do not make people unwelcome in a faith community when we hear they are heterosexual, when we suspect they may have a propensity for illicit acts with the opposite sex.


Please do not, from this article, try to deduct my opinion of gay intercourse. This piece is aimed at those making church a place where homosexuality cannot be admitted, not an opinion in the debate on whether the texts used to denounce gay acts apply to the gay community as it exists today.

Religious trama syndrome? What?

A new idea is doing the rounds among atheists: They claim there is something called “religious trauma syndrome.” (From here on, I will call it RTS for short.) Well, that proves “religion” is bad, does it not?

But it is wise to question what you hear, so I will ask what evidence exists for these claims.

1) Is there actually a condition named “religious trauma syndrome”?

RTS is not an accepted psychological definition. It certainly does not appear in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals). By my understanding, psychology tends to not need syndrome names like “religious trauma syndrome” or “rape trauma syndrome”, because they learn to recognize and deal with trauma, whatever the source. Continue reading

Marriage, health and wealth – which is cause, which is effect?

Does anyone have data to say if this argument is the right way round?:

“Marriage is the greatest ‘program’ to end poverty, child abuse, child sexual abuse, school dropout, college failure, health problems, drug problems, depression, out-of-wedlock births to teenagers, reduce abortions, increase homeownership and savings…” – Ken Blackwell and Pat Fagan

They say that if people marry, they are less likely to encounters all these negative things. But is there anything to prove either that, or the opposite idea. The opposite will be:

“Child abusers, the kind of people who are school or college dropouts and/or won’t encourage their (future) children to stay in school, who are ill or prone to drug problems and depression, who have nothing to save, who will waste the money of a partner rather than manage it wisely, are less likely to find marriage partners, or stay married.”

In the first idea, marriage is the cause and safety, health and wealth the effect. The married could say singles have only themselves to blame for their bad luck – they could marry and have all the same good things married people do.

In the second one, safety, (physical and mental) health and wealth causes good marriage prospects. In the first picture, the woman in the poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood could simply marry instead of having her kids out of wedlock, and everything will be better. In the second, she may be worse of with her baby’s daddy, and it could be sensible to not marry him.