I love the topic of free will. I love it so much because everyone thinks they know all about it, yet few really do. It is a difficult topic about which to be confident because it is so complicated. But since most tend to embrace a libertarian notion of the will (the will is as free as can be), I have found an odd enjoyment in arguing for a more constrained version of the will. "Love Shackled" explores some of the main constraints of the human will, though it doesn't even begin scratch the surface - and it's a very early rendition of the arguments I was just beginning to encounter. As I studied more, I ended up writing a 100+ page compilation of arguments against libertarian free will - for fun. I have come to understand that the whole argument largely centers around a definition of the term “freedom”. As one friend explained to me, some of the Church Fathers viewed the freedom of the will not as the ability to choose anything. Rather, the will was free in proportion to the ability to choose the best things - to order one’s preferences where they should be. That makes sense to me. I'm not free simply because I have a choice present – a notion to which the addict can attest. The addict is most free when the choice to do drugs isn't even on the table either because of its absence or because they have an absolute aversion to them. Freedom doesn't come from the ability to choose apart from our preferences, but rather from appropriate ordering of our preferences. We are most free when we can only desire to choose the good - that for which we were made. We are most free when we can no longer say, as the Apostle Paul did, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” The day we will be most free is the day most libertarians would have to say we are most constrained - when we are with God and can no longer choose sin because our natures are as such that we want nothing to do with it.
Today’s poem takes a look at the issue of abortion. I understand that the issue is a hot button for just about everyone, but I am hoping here to create openness. My attempt is to edify humanity by addressing important concerns about our views on human rights and value. I am not inciting condemnation but inviting to participation in dialogue. Before delving into the poem, I’d like to provide you with a little background on my heart and my thoughts.
For as accurate as people try to get the issue of human rights, it seems that even the best activists always leave some group out of the discussion. Conservatives in the United States tend to focus their advocacy on citizens who they feel are law-abiding, or on certain moral and religious groups. This generally means you will lose some of your voice and rights in conservative eyes if you are part of a group like ex-convicts, illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, refugees, Islam, or you are impoverished. Your situation represents differing morals and/or irresponsible choices, since in conservative eyes, one’s situation is always reflective of their work ethic and moral compass. To conservatives, one’s situation is almost always indicative of their moral choices. That means conservatives feel that they can forgo love to individuals in these aforementioned groups. While conservatives may say they love everyone, James might have something different to say to those whose words are not accompanied by actions.
At the same time, the Liberals tend to take up the banner of the historically downtrodden. Liberals understand that there is more to one’s situation than personal choice. They understand that there are often all kinds of constraints placed upon individuals within their society - and even where personal choice is the main component in making a horrible decision, Liberals tend to understand that people can make mistakes. Liberals, therefore, often extend a hand of charity (unless, of course, the one at fault is a conservative). However, liberals focus so much on the historically downtrodden that they are willing to themselves trod on groups who would dare to impinge on the progress of the historically marginalized. As a prime example, women, a historically marginalized and currently marginalized group, cannot have a fetus get in the way of their progress. Where the liberal mindset is so wonderfully steeped in curative charity, it can be a blind charity that is unwilling to dole out human rights to groups that get in the way of progress.
And here we are, a nation of the blind leading the blind. One side wanting to conserve rights for those who inherited or earned them through some sort of moral or traditional success, and the other side seeking progress at the cost of those who get in the way. As a Christian, I find it hard to be a conservative because I believe we need to be willing to lay down our lives and our rights for the marginalized and even for those who are our enemies, and I recognize that I am no better than anyone else. We all choose evil, and any good I have is the grace of God towards me, not my earned reward. We are fallen, but we are all still image bearers of the divine. But as a Christian, this notion of image bearing also means that I can’t sacrifice another group to make an agenda of love and action happen. So when it comes to the specific issue of abortion, as a conservative, I must make it my aim to lay down my life for a mother in duress who has a very difficult choice, regardless of what her choices were in the past, and regardless of what her choices are in the future. And as a liberal, I must take care that I don’t give into affirming a choice that harms others.
It is so important that we think through such difficult issues, like abortion, now. It is only by thinking about these issues before difficulty arises, and deciding on the right course of action apart from emotion and bias in the moment, that we will be able to think clearly in discerning a moral dilemma. At the same time, we Christians need to also think about how we will treat those who we believe are morally compromised by having made the wrong choice. Loving the guilty, like loving the innocent, should not be a choice for the Christian – though this tends to be a problem for conservatives. Love and grace must prevail in the Christian life. We will not be able to truly say that we have loved until we have laid down our lives for the people who we don't think deserve such a sacrifice. If I refuse to dole out love and grace in this manner, then I, an undeserving sinner, will never know such a thing myself.
I highly recommend that you read my footnotes for this poem, as it has a lot of content woven in. Essentially, I compare the old notion that certain humans being property and were less than human. I do this by alluding to the case of Dred Scott and the three fifths compromise in the 1800’s. I equate abortion with these instances and ask how abortion is any different. If we can take away a child’s right to life – a human right – then why not be more efficient in our subjugation of this class of humans? Why not utilize them for all we can? It seems ironic to see articles like the one [http://www.teenvogue.com/gallery/post-abortion-gift-guide] in Teen Vogue magazine where the life of a human in the womb is trivialized. And if a fetus is a human and we continue with abortions, why not mourn each human killed? If a fetus isn’t a human, then why not sell the body parts and utilize them in any other way we see fit?
There seems to be a double standard here in the pro-choice community, where they want rights to be intrinsic to all humans (men AND women, straight AND gay, white AND black, etc) – but at the same time, remove rights from human beings in the womb. How can you hold to intrinsic human value – that the value of a human follows the human and is not circumstantial - while at the same time devaluing a whole class of humans? There are some who acknowledge that children in the womb are humans, but say that the mother has the right to kill her child because the child is infringing on her bodily autonomy. While I think that is the most tenable argument a pro-choice individual can hold (though I still strongly disagree with it), I have to ask how abortions could then be so trivialized? If a mother is killing a dignified human being in self-defense, shouldn’t we all mourn? Shouldn’t we all be trying to prevent this and advise against it? Shouldn’t we be able to acknowledge that mothers who make such a decision can suffer trauma? We acknowledge all the time that those who take life in a justified manner can suffer trauma.
Most can acknowledge that justified war, justified police shootings, and justified self-defense CAN be the best moral option at times – yet we can still mourn the horror at the destruction of life in these situations, and acknowledge how those who have chosen to take a life are permanently marred. We recognize that brandishing steel against another human being should be done in only the most dire of circumstances, and only when one's life is feared to be in imminent danger. And when we feel a life must be taken for the preservation of the innocent's life, we still acknowledge the sad fact that a life was taken. Yet when the scalpel is brandished against a child in the womb, or when we release chemicals to destroy this child, not only is this loss of life not mourned and the atrocious manner of its destruction not deemed appalling, it is celebrated as progress. When we consider that most children killed in abortions were not an imminent threat to their mother's lives, this travesty of taking a human life is magnified even more. We are told that there is no need for remorse. If I am to say that such a thing as remorse and sorrow is good in this circumstance, I must be anti-woman. But whether abortion is right or not - if a child in the womb is human, how can the burden of 60 million lives not weigh on our society's souls? The silence of sorrow and the clamor of celebration indicate to me that we have a society who has blinded themselves to both the truth of what abortion truly is, and the implications such a system brings to the ability to attribute intrinsic value upon humanity. This "progress" for women is really just the dissolution of the foundation for rights and value for the human race. If a child in the womb is a human and human rights are intrinsic, then you should mourn the aborted child and work to counsel against and prevent future abortions – even if you believe abortion can be the best choice. And if you celebrate abortion without mourning, I have to ask whether you truly hold to intrinsic human rights and value, or whether you are ok with defining which classes have rights bestowed upon them.
Interestingly, this was written well before the controversial Planned Parenthood videos came out. When the videos came out, I assumed they were true because it seemed like a logical conclusion for anyone who condoned the practice of abortion without any sorrow. Ideas have consequences. The selling of or utilization of a fetus's body parts seemed to be only a logical progression of an ideology that allows you to celebrate the killing of another human being as progress. “Miss Yuri’s Compromise,” then, seeks to parallel the running travesty in our country – humans as property. It simply attempts to show some of the inconsistencies with the majority of pro-choice thought. We know that a fetus is a human being, so with what rationale can we diminish one’s human rights? Can one be a percentage of a human? Can any human be another’s property? I don’t here explore and rebut the Violinist Argument for abortion, but rather seek to undercut the major base of most pro-choice individuals, which is that simply being human doesn’t confer full human rights.
I want to say that this poem in no way intends to condemn women who have made the difficult choice to have an abortion. While I believe that is an objectively wrong choice, I also know that I have made wrong choices and I would have made the same choice as anyone else did given their circumstances. My goal is not condemnation, but clarity.
Let’s take an honest look at where some of our thoughts and actions lead us and see if we’re willing to be consistent. In the end, I hope you will agree with me that human rights are ubiquitous and intrinsic. Wherever a human is and wherever a human goes, rights go with them – regardless of gender, age, ability, sexuality, etc. Rights are not dependent upon an individuals size, location, development, or some government’s outside determination. They are objective and inalienable. Saying such a thing doesn’t make me against women, it makes me for tens of millions of women who never had a voice, and millions who never will.
I love Hebrews 6. It is a passage that keeps the best theologians humble, and the best Christians working out their salvation with fear and trembling - looking for the fruit that should be in their lives. I don't think my version of the passage really expounds on anything or clarifies the issue of the preservation of the saints, but I like the way it worked out and think it's a good synopsis of one of the most interesting passages in the New Testament.
A number of years back I decided to go through Hebrews and write a sonnet for each segment of the book. I thought it would be a good way to process what I was reading. I really enjoyed it. "Hebrews 4" is one of my favorites because I got to use my chemistry material at the time. There are many mysteries of God that are difficult/impossible to explain. One is that God is a God at rest, yet God is also a God who is at work.The concept I used to embody this mystery is that God is like an "allotrope." Now I am sure if you broke this down it would lead to some sort of accusation of trinitarian modalism or something, though I'm not using it here to explain the trinity. I'm just saying that like a diamond and charcoal are both carbon - just rearranged a little differently, so it is with a God at rest who is at work. He is both. There is more content in this short sonnet, but that's my favorite part.
After college, the reality of the world began to hit me more and more. As you hear about ministries going on around the world, become more interested in world news, and see the horrendous evil that goes on around the world, it makes you feel helpless. In fact, going to do missions in Romania has just exaggerated this feeling in me. When we go to a mission's conference, we hear about what all of the other missionaries are doing in that church. I always end up thinking, "we should go there, and there, and there." Every work needs more people and more money. I want to do everything. That's why I wrote, "the Body." It expresses my frustration with being so limited, but also defers to the wisdom of God in his decision to use the church as a whole rather than just you or just me.
Today is Easter, so I thought "Deathblow" would be as appropriate a poem as any to share. The poem compares two types of individuals - the recluse and the eccentric - and shows how they're really not much different. The recluse fears so much, they avoid contact with the world. They pull into their own life and don't allow anyone to touch it. Their fear manifests itself in a life of defense that attempts to ward off death, disappointment, and pain. The eccentric is fearful just like the hermit, though she expresses fear differently. The eccentric attempts to drown out fear. By surrounding herself with noise, the eccentric is able to ignore death, disappointment, and pain. There is always another friend, another party, or another excitement to fill the hole. Both the eccentric and the recluse are motivated by self-interest, live in fear, and repel true life. While they both attempt to keep death at bay and live life to their definition of the fullest, they both end up living lives devoid of life. They, like all men and women, are in need of a quickening by God which allows them to push out into the world in love, and fear not even death, for it has been conquered.
I had a friend in college who received an unexpected message that her best friend had died. It was devestating news, and though I didn't know the individual who died, it was one of my first personal experiences with the problem of God''s omnibenevolence and the fact that evil and death continued. "Dialogue: Betrayed" was me placing my feet in the shoes of those who experienced the greatest evil - death - and asked God where he was in it all. I am leaving out the reading of God's part here, as since I wrote the piece awhile back, I'm not sure how I feel about attributing words to him. I think the response in the dialogue is biblical, but I wouldn't attribute it to God in the future - not even loosely.
I always want to be careful about helping others. My normal response to problems is an attempt to fix them. When Catalina began struggling with depression, I wanted to first make sure I listened and empathized. However, as time progressed, I felt the urge to write a response to "Moonstruck." i didn't want to leave depression and despair in the driver's seat. At the same time, I didn't want to simply try to fix a problem - especially since such a thing would be extremely arrogant. Who am I to think that I am the one person with the insight to fix depression. "Sunstruck," then, acknowledged that there was hope even in the midst of the problem, even if the problem always persisted. It is not an attempt at a resolution or a fix, but rather a call to perspective that is meant to soften the blow.
"Angel of Light" was written a few years into my teaching career. I was always so amazed that some parents could be so blind to their child's faults. This particular year I had a student who all of the teachers had issues with, but the parents were completely unsupportive. The parent thought their child was an angel. I wrote this poem where each stanza hides "Lucifer" in it, and points out that being an angel isn't necessarily a good thing. The father of lies was himself an angel.