Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bump+ final thoughts

For the past couple months, I have been following the web series Bump+. A pseudo-reality show about three women who were considering abortion, Bump+ started some controversy and even got some heavy-duty press early on, including several interviews on the Laura Ingraham Show.

I spent a lot of time posting on the Bump+ message boards and got quite involved with things over there. Though there were a lot of pro-life people involved with the the series, the producers took pains to keep things neutral in an attempt to encourage those who have had or considered abortions to post and share their stories.

Here is my final post on the Bump+ boards, which I am posting here simply so that I remember it in case they take the message boards down at some point. It may not make much sense out of context.
Florentius says:
March 26, 2010 at 1:59 PM

As one of the “wait and see” posters, I ended up being mildly disappointed with how the series ended. At the end of the day, I don’t think this format was a good way to advance the argument on anything but the most emotional level. And appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy.

We have been told repeatedly that the point of Bump+ was to foster compassionate understanding and to forge new ways to approach this debate. But I say again, as I have said over and over: To what end? So that we can all be kind and respectful to each other as nothing changes and thousands of unborn children continue to be aborted each day?

I found myself in a weird role while watching Bump+. On the one hand, I was highly critical of it here on the boards. Meanwhile, on other boards and in the real world, I found myself defending it from other pro-lifers who wanted nothing to do with it. I urged them to give it a chance and I’m not unhappy that I did.

But now that all is said and done, I think Bump+ was a clever idea that fell mostly flat. I think the viewership numbers bear that out–at least on YouTube. They seemed to spike early on and then peter out as the series went on which indicates an audience losing interest.

I happily recognize the talent and creative energy that went into Bump+. I hope in the future we will see that talent being channeled into projects that can have a more immediate, positive, and wide-ranging impact on our dysfunctional culture.

If you really want to advance an argument, you need to take a bold stance. The middle-of-the-road approach neither inspires nor motivates.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book review -- The Shack

This book was mentioned to me by various unrelated people, a few claiming that it had "changed their lives." I had never heard of it and was shocked to discover that it was a huge bestseller. Therefore, when a copy of it was put into my hands, I was eager to read it.

Well, now that I've read it, let me just say that my time could have been put to better use watching dust bunnies roll across the floor. The Shack is a maudlin, manipulative, meandering manifesto. It is a goofy heresy meant to appeal to CSI viewers and readers of "true crime" novels.

Any time an author tries to put words in the mouth of God--even a few words--readers' caution flags should go up. This book puts entire chapters into the mouth of "god"--and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and a personification of "Wisdom" for that matter. It would be one thing if these words were completely in line with Scripture and Christian tradition. Of course, they are not--far from it! The author mixes New Age junk in with Scripture to create a stew of half-truths which often sound good on the surface. But the author tips his hand in several places as to what his true agenda might be.

In short, we learn:
Our view of God as "Father" is a product of religious conditioning.
Jesus's life was not meant to be an example to follow.
God encourages us to "do our own thing".
Jesus did not come to build an institution called the Church
The real church is about "relationships and sharing life".
Jesus is "not too big on religion."
Jesus isn't a "Christian" and has no desire that others become "Christians."
God doesn't expect us to obey the Law. In fact, "all things are lawful."
Of all these pernicious lies propagated in The Shack, the last one is arguably the worst. It is also the most easily refuted, using the actual words of Christ as opposed to what the bogus "Jesus" of The Shack says:
"Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19)
There's lots more airy-fairy nonsense packed into this book, but a wise reader should figure out by this point that The Shack will not lead you to anything like a true spiritual epiphany in any Christian sense.

In my opinion, this book was meant to help rich Americans reconcile a depraved lifestyle with an external embrace of Christianity. I would also bet that it was written with the express purpose that it would end up in Oprah's Book Club. It seems to be tailor made for a movie version with Oprah herself playing God. And really, nothing could be more fitting. Oprah has as much to do with God as The Shack has to do with teaching authentic Christianity.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Augustine on contraception and abortion

I just found this today on Posting here for future reference:
Chapter 17 [XV.]— What is Sinless in the Use of Matrimony? What is Attended With Venial Sin, and What with Mortal?

It is, however, one thing for married persons to have intercourse only for the wish to beget children, which is not sinful: it is another thing for them to desire carnal pleasure in cohabitation, but with the spouse only, which involves venial sin. For although propagation of offspring is not the motive of the intercourse, there is still no attempt to prevent such propagation, either by wrong desire or evil appliance. They who resort to these, although called by the name of spouses, are really not such; they retain no vestige of true matrimony, but pretend the honourable designation as a cloak for criminal conduct.

Having also proceeded so far, they are betrayed into exposing their children, which are born against their will. They hate to nourish and retain those whom they were afraid they would beget. This infliction of cruelty on their offspring so reluctantly begotten, unmasks the sin which they had practised in darkness, and drags it clearly into the light of day. The open cruelty reproves the concealed sin.

Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or, if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born. Well, if both parties alike are so flagitious, they are not husband and wife; and if such were their character from the beginning, they have not come together by wedlock but by debauchery. But if the two are not alike in such sin, I boldly declare either that the woman is, so to say, the husband's harlot; or the man the wife's adulterer.
From Augustine's On Marriage and Concupiscence (Book I)

Friday, March 05, 2010

This day in late Roman History ... March 5

On March 5, AD 363, the emperor Julian marched out of Antioch at the head of 80,000 battle-tested Roman soldiers for his rendezvous with destiny. Known to history as "The Apostate", Julian had become emperor two years before while serving as caesar in the west under Constantinus II. There he had made a reputation for himself as a competent military commander, defeating the Alemanni a series of battles and restoring order to the Rhine frontier.

His success won him the acclaim of his troops, who declared him Augustus in AD 360. This act sparked a civil war between Julian and Constantius, but the latter died while on the march to engage Julian. As a result, Julian became the sole ruler of the empire.

Though a nephew of Constantine the Great, Julian rejected the Christian faith of his uncle and embraced philosophic paganism with an evangelical fervor. As emperor, he sought to undermine the favored status that the Church had enjoyed within the empire. He called Christ, "the Galilean" and referred to Christian churches as "charnel houses". To prove Christ a false prophet, he commenced re-construction of the Temple in Jerusalem--an effort that came to a stunning end when the works were destroyed by an earthquake.

Continuing strife on the eastern frontier forced Julian to take military action against the Persians in AD 363. After an extended and tumultuous stay in Antioch, Julian departed with his soldiers for what would be the final campaign of his career.

Though initially successful, Julian's forces were eventually worn down by hunger and constant attack while deep within Persian territory. During an ambush, Julian was struck by a javelin and mortally wounded. Before he died, he supposedly uttered the phrase, "Thou hast conquered, Galilean."

Wikipedia's entry on Julian is generally fair.

The entry on Julian in the Catholic Encyclopedia is also noteworthy.