Doublespeak about Life

Everyone is pro, or for, life. Who could be against living? And so this “pro-life” label is nonsense.  So called “Pro-Lifers” usually seek only to control women through reproductive Big Brother-ism. These self labelled Pro-Lifers promote control of others (women) through the mechanism of the State. In a way, these crafty people actually exhibit mostly anti-life behaviors.  In any case, the reality of abortion is extremely complicated and two things are true:  Abortion means taking a human life in utero: The State has no business controlling a woman’s choice to make that moral decision.

Why do thinking people allow the false “pro-life” label to continue?  Why does the media allow it by publishing articles describing the two “sides” of the issue as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” as if they were mutually exclusive?  Why does no one challenge this erroneous false dichotomy?  Is it because the issue is too complicated?  Are we afraid of the truth, the real truth of what is going on?  Is it just too convenient for us to have a this/that conception of the world?  Are we really that simple?

Yes, I think we are.  Because it is complicated.  And there is much more to promoting life than abstractedly protecting a collection of cells in an autonomous woman’s body.  The truth is painful — abortion means a woman makes the choice to end human life.  Liberals have to come to terms with this truth.  The other truth is that the State does not have a compelling interest in forcing that woman to keep that pregnancy going to natural childbirth.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  If there is a compelling State interest, it is the preservation of the woman’s autonomy, privacy, and agency.  In any case, it is none of the State’s business what choices the woman makes about her body.

The person who wishes to use the State to force a woman to lose her autonomy is not actually pro-life.  The misnomer is so painful that I don’t know how it stays in use — for instance, these so called Pro-Life people usually do not condemn the State from taking human life through the death penalty; they rarely oppose wars; they eat meat, wantonly contributing to the misery, suffering, and wholesale slaughter of living sentient God created creatures world wide.  No, these “pro-lifers” are anything but for life.

What they are for, sadly — and they cover up with this horrendous doublespeak — is biblically based domination of women.  They only wish to force women to submit, to shed their individuality.  They seek to employ the State to carry out their devilish desires to subjugate women.  It’s made even more sinister when they also trouble the State to also oppose contraception, support for women’s health, and welfare for children and women already living.  These people cannot possibly be thinking of the welfare of others no matter how much they cover up their motives with confusing language.

Yes, abortion is almost always wrong from a purely moral standpoint — it is, after all, the conscious choice to terminate a living creature.  But it is not the state’s right to take away that moral choice from a woman. This is the important distinction.  Abortion should stay legal and safe, even if most often the choice to have an abortion can be seen as immoral. “Pro-lifers”, who really are not pro life, should simply not have an abortion if they are opposed to them.  I know I am opposed to abortion.  But I will not condone the State taking away a woman’s right to do with her body what she needs to do.  That is wrong, simple and clear.


So Very Cold

An allegory for the addicted

so coldYou’re cold.  And you look down at that radiator heater nearby.  It’s the one with the oil inside that heats up so nicely and puts out strong heat.  It’s on, but far away.  So you pull the radiator heater closer.  It doesn’t really help because it’s still too far away.  You could get up and run around to warm up or make something warm to drink or maybe even, you know, put on some more clothes.  Or heck, your family is upstairs with a cozy fire in the fireplace.  But you’re lazy.  And you’re still cold, so, even though that little voice in your head says it’s not a good idea, you pull that heater even closer.

That does feel better, now.  You’re warming up a bit.  But in time, you feel like it’s just not enough.  You can’t really get it any closer, but you need that heat because now you’re feeling colder than you were before, even though it’s obvious that the heater is warming you up more than ever.  But never mind that.  You’re cold.  So, you pull it even closer, ignoring that stupid voice.   The one saying how stupid you’re being and why don’t you just go upstairs and be with people near the fireplace.  You’re just going to end up even colder later, you know, when the heater stops working or you have to leave the room.  But you don’t care about that.

The heater is nearly touching your leg now and that little voice keeps chirping.  So annoying.  Who put that voice there?  And again, the heater works for a bit as you bring it perilously closer.  You were feeling ok for a moment. But now you’re cold again even though you could swear your leg is burning. So, you try to take the heat a different way thinking this will make all the difference.  You push the radiator heater away a few inches – there, that means I’m not being so irresponsible.  I’m thinking about this, controlling it.  But part of the new idea is that you’re going to pull a blanket over the heater and over your lap to trap more heat.  Ok, this is good.  This is working.  Now you’re getting the heat in a rapid, deep pipeline and you’re warm all over.  And you’re not letting the heat get too close to your leg!

This new rapid heat idea is brilliant.  You wonder, though, what’s going to happen when you have to get up and be away from the heater?  That little voice is telling you that you’re going to be even colder than before and you’ll probably have burns on your leg.  So silly, that voice.  And you hear other voices – that would be your family having a grand old time without you.  So, you pull the blanket away to think about maybe leaving the heater and joining your family.  But sure enough, you’re immediately freezing!  Colder than you were before you even looked at the heater.  Ok. So, you can’t take the blanket away or the heater, that much is established now.

And…you’re still not perfectly heated.  Your family looks in, sees you all alone, wrapped up in a blanket tented over a heater, and they look at you funny.  Jealous, no doubt.  And, of course, that stupid voice is saying, this is not such a good idea.  You’re going to overheat you dummy, or something’s going to catch fire. But screw that stupid voice.  This is what heaters are for!  I mean seriously.  Let’s use this heater, get warm, be happy.  So, you tent the blanket so the air can pool inside.  This is lovely.  Holy smokes…you’re hot now.

This is really working.  But wow, is it working too well?  Wait, what’s happening here?  You pull the blanket away and you get a little relief for a second.  But wow, now it’s really really cold.  You can’t believe how cold it is out there without the blanket and heater. So, you put the blanket back on and just turn the heat down a bit.  Maybe if you do a little bit less, you’ll be ok. But that doesn’t work either, because of course without the heater on constantly, you’re getting cold.  Ok, so screw it.  You turn the heat up and just pledge not to move.  At all.  If you move, you will get hot.  Of course, you’re getting really hot anyway.  So hot that you’re getting sleepy.  Well, maybe a little sleep won’t be such a bad thing.  It’s better than being cold.  And if you turn off the heater, you’re going to freeze.  You can’t live without that damn heater now.  Who the hell gave you this heater?  It’s going to be the death of you.  This is, of course, the last thing you really think as you pass out from your core body temperature climbing so fast.

The fire is what brought them to you.  It’s small, thankfully, and you had smoke detectors.  So, your family — who had wondered why you were isolating yourself with the heater and blanket when they had a perfectly warm fire burning in the fireplace upstairs with hot chocolate — find you on the ground, unconscious, with second degree burns from the heater on your leg and third degree burns from the oil that burst out when you fell on the heater.  And the fire, it’s just a little fire from the cord that you bent.  So, not a lot of damage.

But as you come to, you’re cold.  You’re so damn cold.  And the family tells you, no more heaters.  You can’t be trusted.  And that is terrifying.  But you know that with enough work, you can make it. But right now, it is so very cold.

Going Somewhere?

Maybe it’s the rushing around that gets us so lost.

Where are you going?  Don’t you have somewhere to be?  You’re on your way to something, aren’t you?

These are questions most of us find absolutely normal.  Expected even.  But have you ever really thought about this idea – that it is expected that you always should have somewhere to go?  That you can say where you are going?

I can stack, scores of times over, all of the places I will go stretching on for weeks; I’m going to lunch in 16 minutes — I’m going to present to my staff in 76 minutes.  I’m going to another meeting after that.  At about 5 pm I’m getting on my bike and going home.  I’ll go to my couch soon after that and then to my Xbox for some Destiny and then I’m going to bed.  I’m going somewhere!  Life must be great!

I usually think that it’s a good thing to have somewhere always to be going.  I usually believe that this “going somewhere” brings meaning and belonging to my life; But as I was hustling around Portland the other day, I noticed a person who seemed to have nowhere to go and I started wondering.

You see, late last summer, the Mayor of Portland, OR, USA “cracked down” on homeless camps. So, I’m seeing homeless folks around my work area a lot. And I thought the other day, as I was bustling about, that they have nowhere to go!  More than being lost, more than not belonging, these people seemed stuck in place with no place to go.  In being lost you do have somewhere to go- home or something you know. But the homeless destitute person is not lost. He or she just has nowhere to go. Imagine what that must feel like?

To do this I had to truly grasp what it feels like to know I have somewhere to go — to really think about this reality of mine. I know I don’t even think about it. I just go. To my next appointment. To catch the bus. To the movie. To dinner back home. To work. And so on. What does that feel like?

Am I happy because I always have somewhere to go?  Does that mean if I had nowhere to go I could not be happy?  So what would that then mean for the homeless man with nowhere to go?  Does this make the homeless person unhappy?    So the homeless man got me to thinking more closely about my assumptions regarding the state of happiness and having somewhere to go.

Nietzsche said “if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how.”

Sapiens author Yuval Harari suggests, “happiness is not the surplus of pleasant over unpleasant moments.  Rather, happiness consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile” (p. 390)

Maybe the why can be also the where. For by having a place to go, I also have a why for going. And that implies meaning and worth. It has to be worth it to muster the energy to go, right?  And so it must be meaningful.  It must have a why.  Right?

So the poverty of the homeless maybe isn’t lack of a home or food or cash. It is maybe just having nowhere to go and therefore being unhappy.

But I think this is the easy and incorrect answer — one that most of us would auto-jump to based on all the biases of our Calvinist society of “do, do, do and go, go go.”  And so I challenged myself (and I challenge you now if you don’t already) to look at it the other way.  That by creating constant places to go we chain ourselves off from where we can truly be free which is the here and now — the always present and yet chimeric current moment.

“So often times it happens, that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.” (Strandland & Tempchin, for the Eagles)

As I considered the “plight” of the homeless person and how sad it was that they had no place to go, I thought that I was really projecting onto him my cultural assumptions about happiness.  This person may be sad, but it has nothing to do with having nowhere to go. I may be happy, and it also has nothing to do with having somewhere to go.  In fact, it is despite having somewhere always to go to that I am happy, if I am happy.  And the homeless person might be much happier than I!

This expectation — that it is right and good to always have somewhere to go —  belies our foundational cultural belief that we should always be seeking, always searching, always on the move toward — happiness, good feelings, not suffering.  We crave and chase these interior feelings we think we must have so much.  In that chase we spend almost all of our time on the move — either avoiding that which we think causes us pain or towards that which we think causes us happiness.  But in constantly going somewhere, we never ever experience the miracle of the moment. And believe me, every moment is indeed a miracle.

The homeless experience some types of poverty no doubt — hunger, lack of shelter, poor health, being untouchable.  But spiritually a homeless person may be very rich, richer than I who always has somewhere to go.  Those of us rushing around going somewhere are not rich because we have somewhere to go. Those of us constantly on the move, always craving that next feeling of worth or meaning, we are actually the spiritually poor.  Because it is the craving of the next feeling of numinous happiness that creates a Heisenbergian human situation — the more we try to grab the next better feeling down the road, the more that thing changes and becomes impossible to actually have.  And so we keep moving on and on when in reality, we should stop, not try to grab the thing or go to it, but just watch it from our place in the moment.

Like I used to say to my toddlers,  and I should remind myself now: “stop moving around so damn much, you’re going to miss the show.”

Heaven on Earth

Mollycoddling Franco the Fiat just past sunrise on my quintweekly grind towards the monthly cashout, my pre-caffeinated gaze found purchase upon the most startlingly ridiculous question to consider so early — “If you die tonight? HEAVEN or HELL?

First of all, why tonight?  Why not if I die right now?  Because right now is the point.  But more on that in a moment.

First, well, damn.  What kind of perverted  mind conceives of such a billboard?  And right on my morning commute. Granted, most mornings I have made the far wiser decision to pedal my bicycle to my daily labors rather than use Franco…so, this particular billboard does not invade my usual daily existence.  Still, startled I truly was.

I mean, first of all, how the hell am I supposed to know the answer to this ultimately ridiculous question?  And who is the corrupted soul that believes he or she has the answer to this question — a question that completely misses the entire point of existence?  Also, how much money did they waste in making this inane billboard?

I am a Christian — a Catholic Christian to be exact (of course, many Protestant types out there would argue to their death that I am not even a “Christian.”  So much for their souls).  I am a Christian who does not prop myself up by this fantastical notion of “an afterlife.”  The concept of something coming after this incredible life — where every moment is literally a miracle — is so radically insulting to this moment that God gives us that I have never been able to understand why so many theologies rest themselves ultimately on this concept of “an ultimate reward.”

People.  The Ultimate Reward is right here.  Right now.  From the Christian theology, Jesus Christ even said it himself — Heaven is on Earth.  When he spoke about the “coming of the Kingdom of God” he meant it as it sounds — that the Kingdom of God is here on Earth when we as puny humans deign to actually act in the way of God…that is, to love each other IN THE MOMENT.  He was not pointing to some celestial reward, some pie in the sky nirvana, some cloudy angelic resting place among the cherubs, some lullaby land of virgins.  Some place we go to after we die.  No. We don’t.

If a person is going to “go to hell” rather than heaven “when they die” it is because they are already dead — at least symbolically they are dead.  They are already in Hell. Though they may breathe, their heart beat, according to the theology of my understanding of God through Jesus, they are dead to the reality of God here among us.  They refuse to live precisely because they focus on what may or may not come after.  How ridiculous and sad to have missed the grace filled gift of life right here.

It then, therefore, is a choice made by a person in the moment here on Earth; a choice to ruthlessly fixate on a reward that, by its nature, reveals the destructive selfishness of that person’s soul — a soul so wrapped up in protecting itself after the body dies that it fails entirely to heed the doxology of all religions — love one another. NOW.

There is nothing after this life here on Earth.  This impressive expansive gift that we have in our hands right now is the reward.  If anything happens after we are gone from this Earthly plane, it will not be anything that relates to what we call human consciousness.  Billboards like the one that startled me this morning are mere, but profound, distractions placed by depraved souls attempting to keep us hurtling on the highway to hell — the highway we ride when we fail to realize that the kingdom of god is here and now and that every moment is a miracle.



The Way of Love

San Francisco Catholic teachers have been girding their loins for battle against their Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, who wishes to “include morality clauses in their handbook and labor contract” in “which a teacher could face punishment or dismissal for ‘escorting a woman into an abortion clinic, handing out contraception to students,'” or supporting gay marriage.  The Archbishop hopes to control his employees lives both inside and outside of the classroom with this approach.  Certainly the Archbishop has this prerogative, though the legality of making the morality clause a part of the employees actual contract might be questionable.

Legalities aside, though, the central question for me is how can we evaluate this morality clause in light of radical Christianity?  That is, if we go back to the root (radical) of what Christians believe Jesus wants from us –  to love God and our neighbor — how does this morality clause hold up?

First, it should be acknowledged that each of the three issues listed above are different.  For instance, one could argue that regardless of Church teaching, handing out contraception and/or fomenting an abortion for a child could be prohibited on the grounds that it would interfere inappropriately in the agency of the parents.  If nothing else, such a prohibition might save the archdiocese from many lawsuits properly filed by parents incensed that a teacher would circumvent their parental authority.  But this prohibition could hold up despite church teachings, not because of it.

The issue of gay marriage, however, stands in contrast to those two issues and is where Cordileone and his Club stands on very weak ground, indeed.  Nicholas Senz, a conservative Catholic blogger and student of theology, represents the thinking involved in this Club of Cordileone that serves as the sodden Terra non firma upon which the Church’s decidedly Un-Christian view of gay marriage rests.  And there are two problems with this worldview.

First, Senz writes that “[there] are some actions that are not good for human beings to do and that do not lead to their flourishing and fulfillment; and when we see others doing such actions [being gay], it is precisely our love for them, our desire for their fulfillment, that causes us to disapprove of those actions.”

This thinking is the jumping off point for the first problem with the church hierarchy so transfixed and confused by all things sexual: The problem is this — there is no evidence that homosexual “acts” are “not good for human beings.” In fact, plenty of evidence exists that gay men and women, freed to unite in love, actually do flourish!  And the converse is true as well — that gay men and women oppressed by a prohibition from uniting in love suffer.  Therefore, there is no reason to disapprove of these “actions.”  In fact, one could argue that disapproving of these actions is immoral.

Sadly, however, church doctrine has obstinately held fast to ridiculous human made beliefs about sexuality that have led to great pain and suffering. Human made suffering of humans — precisely what God and Jesus teach us to fight against.

To defend these decidedly anti-Christian views towards human love and sexuality, the Club of Cordileone employs a false dichotomy to invalidate those of us who believe in love as Jesus taught.  Senz describes us thus:

“These are the sort who see Catholic identity as a tribal designation as opposed to being rooted in a relationship with God in Jesus Christ through his Church and holding to certain beliefs about him”

And so this is where the second problem begins.  Senz, and the old school Church hierarchy, represented by people like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, describes an immoral zero-sum world that does not actually exist.

What does exist is the fact that those of us who are Catholic and celebrate the love of two consenting humans — regardless of their gender — do both.  We belong to a community (tribe) of love and we are radically aligned with what Jesus wants for us all.

Senz concludes his essay by saying to us that “This is not the Catholic faith, and it is not heading that way.”  But the truth is that, albeit slowly and inexorably, this is actually where the Church is headed — finally.  We are headed on the path of love laid by Jesus.

The State of Marriage

Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about “whether same-sex couples enjoy a constitutional right to marry.”

There are many specious arguments being used in an attempt to convince the justices that gays and lesbians should be denied the rights accorded by the state for their unions — or marriages as we commonly refer to them.

The most specious of these arguments is the old Procreation Rationale — that marriage is meant for procreation.  The Procreation Rationale relative to “marriage” when it comes to the state is ridiculous, though, for a number of reasons.  For instance, for most of human history the protection of procreation was paramount to the survival of the species.  That is, if we did not reproduce, the species would die out.  From an evolutionary point of view, it made sense that humans would create a sacrosanct unbreakable institution to promote procreation — this is what we call marriage.  But with 7 billion humans on the planet, this ancient need for procreation is not necessary anymore.  And neither is the ancient definition of marriage being about procreation between a man and a woman necessary.

The Procreation Rationale is specious, though, mostly because the state — being a utilitarian entity —  does not, nor should it, care why people get married, except inasmuch as it is a legal contract between two consenting adults.

Indeed, the whole concept of the state recognizing marriages completely annihilates any romantic, sexual, biological, or theological understanding of this human relationship. The State is robotic, mechanistic, and most importantly, utilitarian — The State does not even care of you love each other. Marriage to the state is simply a legal agreement between two consenting adults which grants exclusive rights and privileges offered by the state to that couple. The state has an interest in this coupling which is why it offers these exclusive benefits. It stands to reason that if the state benefits from heterosexuals marrying, then it benefits from gays and lesbians marrying.

For people who want something more — endorsement that the marriage is sanctioned by God, for instance — he or she must go beyond the state, to the church, which stands separate from the state. A couple can do both, for sure, but only needs to be recognized by the state to take advantage of the benefits of state sanctioned marriage; and that should not be denied to our gay and lesbian neighbors by the state. Nor does granting them what is legally and constitutionally due to them have any affect on anyone else’s marriage.