Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Abortionist of Arkansas

Since 1973, when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, there have been 46 million legal abortions in the United States. Where have they all occurred? Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a good place to start looking.

On January 11, Nightline profiled an abortion clinic in Fayetteville, run by Dr. William Harrison. A few scenes (with comments):

  • Dr. Harrison, who had "performed" somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 abortions in his career (he had lost count), tried to tell the reporter that the fetus was a "blob of tissue." But under sharp (and surprising) questioning, he was forced to concede–when confronted with the scientific realities of brainwave activity and the beating heart within weeks of conception–that the unborn are human life. He fell back to the old canard that, well, they are not "persons." (And how does he know this? And if he doesn't, what gives him the right to kill these living "blobs of tissue"?)

  • The doctor said giving up a child for adoption is harder than having an abortion. He said adoption is "not like giving a puppy away." (So, by this reasoning, you might as well kill the puppy.)

  • He said the women who get abortions from him are "born again," with new leases on life. (He said nothing about the many real risks to their psychological or physical health via abortion, nor the fact that many of the women who make this choice feel subtle–and sometimes not so subtle–pressure to abort from boyfriends and others.)

  • The doctor said that abortion is "just another form of birth control," and that the life of the mother is more important than the life of the unborn. (It must be much more valuable, as he had no qualms about giving the same person eight or even nine abortions.)

  • An 18-year-old in for an abortion said she was not "ready" to be a mother. (Then why was this young, unmarried girl having sex? Didn't she know the connection?)

    Most abortion-rights people (such as Bill Clinton) at least say that they want to make it "safe, legal and rare." Hillary Clinton has even conceded that abortion is a "tragic choice." Not Dr. Harrison, who has a financial stake in making it safe, legal and commonplace.

    One could say that many women who come to this doctor's office don't grasp the gravity of what they are doing. You can't say the same for him. God, have mercy.

    Update: Here's a URL with an article by reporter Martin Bashir: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=1495429&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312

  • Monday, January 23, 2006

    Living Sacrifices

    Last week, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote in Oregon v. Gonzalez, struck down the right of the federal government to prohibit doctors from prescribing lethal doses of medication to patients who want to commit suicide. The court was weighing Oregon’s controversial, voter-approved Death with Dignity Act, which applies to patients who have been diagnosed as terminally ill and who have six months or less to live.

    The federal Controlled Substances Act, however, permits the government to permit a drug’s use only for a “legitimate medical purpose.” According to a Christianity Today news report, “In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a directive ‘that assisting suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose” and that prescribing, dispensing, or administering federally controlled substances to assist suicide violates the CSA.’"

    Apparently states now have the right to decide whether suicide is a “legitimate medical purpose.”

    Absent a push in Congress for a law specifically targeting euthanasia (not likely given public sentiment related to last year’s Terri Schiavo case), expect more states to enact such legislation now that the high court has given them the green light.

    This is a return to the paganism of ancient Rome, when the old were left to die. Yes, sometimes pulling the plug is the only compassionate option we have, such as in cases of brain death. But expect the pressure to increase on those with much less dire conditions to seek their own demise.

    As Diane Coleman of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet notes, “Making suicide easy and socially approved for people who . . . feel like burdens on their families, is discrimination against a socially devalued group. Assisted suicide is not a benefit; it’s a threat.”

    Indeed, a report on assisted suicides under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act found that in 47 percent of the cases, one of the motives in the decision was “concern about being a burden on others.”

    In the Netherlands, which legalized euthanasia in 1995, old people also feel pressure to end it all. Arno Heltzel of the Catholic Union for the Elderly supports “voluntary euthanasia,” but even he acknowledges the existence of “social pressure” in Holland toward old people because of high medical costs. “Old people have to excuse themselves for living,” Heltzel told The Wall Street Journal. “When they say that all of their friends are dead, people say, ‘Maybe it is time for you to go too,’ rather than, ‘You need to find new friends.’”

    The Oregon law also tempts doctors to violate their Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” According to David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association, “This lethal violation of medical ethics erases a prohibition that has protected patients since the time of Hippocrates. Before Hippocrates, patients couldn’t know for sure if their doctor would heal them or kill them. This decision moves the practice of medicine one step closer to ethical mayhem.”

    Beyond all this, we seem have forgotten that suffering often brings blessings to those who are trained by it, especially followers of Christ. As James wrote to suffering believers, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Pain, which C.S. Lewis called “God’s megaphone,” is a necessary part of life in this fallen world.

    Robertson McQuilkin resigned in 1990 as president of Columbia Bible College and its graduate school to care for his wife, Muriel, who was in the grip of Alzheimer’s. McQuilkin told me that one night he was wondering why the Lord had removed him from public ministry.

    “The next day,” he said, “we went out for our walk around the block. I’d have to hold her hand to balance her. I heard this shuffling behind me. I looked back and here’s a local derelict. He looked us up and down. And then he said, ‘Tha’s good—tha’s real good. I like that.’ And then he wandered off, mumbling, ‘Tha’s so good.’ And I chuckled.

    “When we got back to the garden and sat down, all of a sudden, it hit me. I said, “Lord could you speak to me through a half-inebriated voice of an old derelict? You did, and if you say it’s good, that’s all I needed to hear.’

    “So I had that assurance all along, that this was my assignment and was pleasing to him.”

    Sadly, too many Christians have absorbed the world’s pagan outlook and forgotten that life, in all its beauty and complexity, is a gift from God, and that not all of our assignments are what others would call pleasurable. Yet life does not cease being a gift even when its pleasures are removed.

    One of my relatives cared for her bedridden husband for long, lonely years before he finally died in November. I believe the assignment ennobled her and brought her closer to God in a way that a season of ease never could. No, we never look for suffering, but when it comes, God can use it like a diamond to etch beauty in our sin-hardened souls—if we will let him.

    We are not hedonists. Life is about more than simply minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure. As the apostle Paul told the church in Rome in a different context, life for the Christian involves sacrifice: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

    We are not our own. The ultimate evil in life is not suffering. It is failing to live for God, the source of life, both in good times and in bad.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Christianity, Theocracy, and Reason

    Today the No. 1 fear of the political Left seems to be the prospect of an unholy alliance of religion and state. However, these folks are not afraid of a radical Islamic government like Iran getting nuclear weapons to use in a jihad against the United States or Israel. No, their biggest worry seems to be of Christians here in the United States.

    Journalist Kevin Phillips has written a new book, American Theocracy: Oil, Preachers, and Borrowed Money—America’s Coming Catastrophe. According to the publisher, the book, which will be released in March, is “an explosive examination of the axis of religion, politics and borrowed money that threatens to destroy the nation.” According to Phillips, the real “axis of evil” involves radical Christians who are trying to take over America and institute a Cromwell-like reign of religious terror.

    Lest you think these are simply the fevered imaginings of a hard-bitten member of the secular media, then consider the heavily hyped new book by former President Jimmy Carter. The book, called Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, presents more of the same.

    Is Carter primarily concerned about the high crime or divorce rate in America? Hardly. Instead, he takes aim at the influence of conservative Christians on issues ranging from national defense to the environment to “America’s global image.”

    Carter, a Baptist who has won widespread admiration for his commitment to build homes for the poor, laments what the publisher calls “disturbing societal trends . . . as the lines between politics and rigid religious fundamentalism are blurred.”

    Curiously, Carter, who sat with conspiracy theorist Michael Moore during the Democratic National Convention, has little to say about members of his own party who show up to troll for votes in strongly Democratic-leaning churches.

    No Christian I know wants anything like a theocracy in America. Knowing how power corrupts even those with the best motives, we believe in the separation of church and state. However, we don’t believe in the exclusion of religious values from the state. In fact, we think they are absolutely vital for the healthy continuance of this grand experiment we call democracy.

    Another new book, called The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, is a tour de force. Author Rodney Stark, the eminent Baylor sociologist, makes the point that the Christian faith was not a stumbling block to our current political and economic prosperity, but its very foundation.

    “The success of the West,” Stark writes, “including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians.”

    Think about that the next time you hear that Christian belief and political freedom are incompatible. And keep in mind that the logical reasoning that people such as Phillips and Carter use in an attempt to discredit Christians would not have been possible without Christianity in the first place.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Q&A: David Dix on God and Landscape Photography

    David Dix wears two hats. He is a mechanical engineer in the Chicago area who also produces landscape photography of some of the world’s most stunning vistas. You can see (and purchase) some of David’s beautiful work at his website, www.creationswitness.com.

    Tell me about your 9-to-5 job.

    I work at a science and engineering consulting firm specializing in failure prevention and analysis. My work involves solving a wide variety of problems in design, product assessment, failure analysis, and accident investigation. Our clients include individuals, cities, insurance companies, and corporations in North America.

    How does landscape photography relate to it?

    I use photography in my engineering consulting work almost every day. I use photography extensively to document physical information. I also use photographs to analyze scenes and objects that are not available for inspection. Many investigations have been “solved” from analyzing information contained in a single photograph. The knowledge gained from landscape photography has expanded my ability to analyze engineering problems.

    How did you get started with landscape photography?

    I have always been fascinated by photography. I grew up in Africa, where the wonder of God’s creation was everywhere. Tony Dickens, my graphic arts teacher at Rift Valley Academy, gave me a solid technical foundation in photography. During college I “discovered” Ansel Adams, the very influential and superb photographer of the American West. His powerful images showed me how the landscape could be revealed in fine art photography. As I became more serious about photography, I purchased a larger camera and limited my subject matter to the landscape alone.

    What kind of equipment do you typically use when photographing landscapes?

    I use film cameras firmly attached to a tripod. During college I used an Olympus OM-1 (35mm). I upgraded to a Pentax 67 (70mm) in 1988 and then to a Toyo view camera (125mm) in 1998. Each camera upgrade increased the film size, which gave the ability to produce larger prints with finer detail.

    How do you recommend that someone get started?

    Go outside and take pictures. What do you see? The challenge of photography is learning how to capture the emotion of your visual experience. Read photography books, study photographs, and take pictures to learn the art of photography. Although technical issues such as proper exposure and sharp focus have been greatly simplified with automatic cameras, the real challenge is seeing. How do you see the world? What grabs your attention? The answers will tell you what to photograph. Have fun.

    Who are your favorite photographers, and why?

    Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell. Both were great photographers, published many books, and actively taught photography. I learned a lot from their photographs and writing. Ansel Adams is known for his photographs of Yosemite National Park in California, where he used large format cameras to make outstanding black and white images. Galen Rowell traveled the world and used his rock climbing skills to capture amazing landscape images with his Nikon 35mm cameras.

    You have added Bible verses to each of your photos. Why?

    Solitary photographs can stir the soul, but they do not communicate ideas. We need images and words to tell a story or convey ideas. God created a beautiful place for us to live. Photography makes me look and think about God’s awesome power as I enjoy his creation. This project developed as I considered how to praise and worship God using the art of photography. I wanted to combine what I read in the Bible with images of creation. I have carefully selected each Scripture passage to complement the photographic image on these posters.

    Can’t someone simply enjoy nature without reference to God?

    A person can certainly enjoy nature without formally acknowledging God, but when you contemplate the awesome size, complexity, and beauty of nature, your mind will turn toward the Creator. Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20 state that creation declares the glory of God and shows God’s eternal power and divine nature to everyone.

    What do you hope people will get out of your work?

    I hope these posters give people joy as they reflect on the beauty of God’s creation. The universe was created through Jesus Christ, and he sustains all things by the power of his word. These fine art posters are my song of praise and worship to him. May the witness of creation encourage us to declare the glory of God with our lives.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Foxman's Fear

    Before grabbing headlines with their riots in Paris, Muslims in France vented their anger with a steady string of attacks against Jews and synagogues. In one incident, two years ago, Muslims attending an exclusive secondary school in Paris began harassing and beating another student, an 11-year-old Jewish boy, shouting, "We'll finish Hitler's job!"

    The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights issued a report in 2002 called "Fire and Broken Glass." It chronicled an increase in Europe of firebombings against Jewish synagogues, schools, and homes; desecrations of Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials; attacks by skinheads; and marches by people who chanted "Sieg heil!" and "Jews into the sea!"

    In November, Iran’s president refused to retract his call to fellow Muslims to “wipe Israel off the map.” At the same time, state-controlled Egyptian television aired a new drama series based on an anti-Semitic hoax called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    So who does Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League think is the biggest threat to the Jewish people? Judging by a recent speech, apparently, it is American Christians!

    “Today,” Foxman said, “we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before. Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To save us!”

    Foxman claimed that mainstream evangelical groups have “built infrastructures throughout the country . . . intend[ing] to ‘Christianize’ all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate and amateur sports, from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants.”

    Now Christian leaders have faced ridicule for talking about SpongeBob, but I haven’t heard anyone laughing at Foxman. Of course, given the long and sad history of Christian anti-Semitism over the centuries, ridicule would be out of place.

    It’s true that to justify their anti-Semitism, Christians called Jews "Christ-killers" and said the Jews deserved their sufferings because they had rejected Jesus. Martin Luther turned on Jews with a vengeance once he realized they were no more receptive to Reformation doctrines than they had been to Rome's. And in more recent times, while some Christians heroically tried to protect Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust, too many willingly participated in the Nazi campaign of extermination—or simply looked the other way.

    But the fact is, Bible-believing Christians are some of the best friends that Jewish people have today, as increasing numbers of prominent Jews are acknowledging. Speaking of the movie The Passion of the Christ, Michael Medved, a prominent Jewish film critic, said, “In today's America, the notably philo-Semitic tone of born-again Christianity makes it more common for Christians to support and defend their Jewish neighbors than to persecute them. American Christians emphasize the Jewish roots of Jesus more strongly than ever before—a trend very much echoed in Mel Gibson's movie.”

    Talk show host Dennis Prager, who is also Jewish, had a similar take, saying, “The last thing Jews need is to create tension with their best friends. And the last thing Christians need is a renewal of Christian hatred toward Jesus' people.”

    Make no mistake. Abraham Foxman has every right to voice his opinions, however odious. The best answer Christians can give to loony conspiracy theories is to prove them wrong, day by day.