April 26, 2003

(why i am) Pro-Life

This is the last transfer from my old site. It was originally posted in the spring of 2003.

I'm personally quite pleased when I see the title of this entry right next to the title of my last entry.

I should add, though, before you read this, that the intended audience for this article is Christians, specifically the "Christian Right." The article is pretty biased (especially about environmental issues) and I think I overstated some issues rather too strongly. But I hope that for my intended audience, the message might come at them in a way that it hasn't been presented before and that they'll be able to see issues that are often considered "liberal" *gasp* in a different (and more spiritual) light.

I should also add that I've modified some chunks of this article. I must have been in a hurry (or very distracted) when I wrote it. Some sentences were so ungrammatical that I couldn't make heads nor tails of them. So I fiddled with them a bit, hopefully enough that you can at least get the gist of what I was getting at.

(why i am)
I like to eat. And when I eat, I don't generally like to sit around thinking about where the food came from. But I'm also pro-life. And it just doesn't make sense to feast on something that may have been sprayed with pesticides, increasing the cancer rates among those who picked the food. I want to eat to sustain my life. A byproduct of my food consumption shouldn't be to decrease someone else's.
"And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man." -- Genesis 9:5
And, because I am pro-life, it makes sense that I am also concerned about bio-diversity. (Bios means life -- life diversity.) To support bio-diversity means supporting efforts to protect species that are endangered as well as to promote means of living which encourage other species (besides humans, their pets and food animals) to thrive as well. Being pro-bio-diversity means to appreciate and live in harmony with all of God's creation, seeing it as something to protect and guard rather than as something to be used up and tossed out.
And, as the term pro-life is most often used, I am also in favor of women carrying their pregnancies to term rather than aborting their children. It only makes sense to me that once a woman has made the choice to have sex, that she then stand by her decision, even if it means nine months of discomfort for her. (Granted, there are exceptions that people love to dwell on, such as when the women didn't have a choice in the first place. But exceptions are not the rule, and the general rule I'm addressing is life.)
Lifestyle Choices
We declare something about our beliefs in choice vs. life through our every day decisions.
A person who consciously decides to walk, bike, or drive a small, fuel-efficient car has shown through that decision a belief in life. (Granted, a decision is really a choice. But I'm not the one that came up with these terms. I'm just trying to stretch them into areas that they should logically be stretched.) That belief, shown through such decisions, extend even to moderating one's own convenience and style in order to enable others to live a better life. By choosing to have a low environmental impact in terms of one's transportation, one reduces the chance that someone else might get asthma, cuts down on the chances that another person may be involved in a fatal accident with a vehicle, and reduces the need for our country to go to war over the need for fossil fuels. I've also found that these people (myself included) tend to be rather dogmatic about these lifestyle decisions, believing that they should be adopted by the majority for the betterment of mankind.
On the other hand, the person that chooses to drive their vehicle even when they're only traveling a few blocks, the person that chooses to live far from work and thereby requiring a long commute, the person who chooses to drive an SUV or other large vehicle even when they're only using it for small trips (or for a single passenger), is making a choice based on convenience and style to the detriment of others. In general, these people are usually very pro-choice in terms of these sorts of decisions. They feel very strongly that their purchase and lifestyle choice is their decision and they care very little how their decision might affect others. These people tend to be strongly pro-choice. They feel that they should have the freedom to do as they please and they will allow others that same freedom.
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life...." -- Deuteronomy 30:19-20
To choose life, then, means to consider one's actions carefully, both in terms of what it will mean to oneself but also what it will mean to others (even others that one may never come into contact with or know that they are affecting). To choose life means to live responsibly. To support choice, in this case, means to live selfishly. (Granted, we all live selfishly in some area. We may be entirely environmental, but we're selfish with our time. Or we could be generous with our belongings but stingy with our love. And, in fact, more often than not, we are selfish but entirely unaware of that fact. But just because we're all living selfishly doesn't mean that we shouldn't have it pointed out to us once in awhile.)
"Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." -- Psalm 50:10
"I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps." -- Jeremiah 10:23
Decisions one makes in terms of transportation is just one example of a lifestyle choice. Whether we choose to eat organic or conventionally grown produce is another example. Choosing to support local business rather than large chains. Eating food grown or raised locally rather than something that was shipped 1300 miles or so to get to us (using up fuel and other energy sources in the process). Even relational decisions such as spending time with an international student or even just with our neighbors can be something that brings life to others rather than leaving us enveloped in a cloud of selfishness.
The recognition that our life is not our own, but is God's, affects every decision we make. If my life is my own, then I'll choose to do and to buy whatever makes me happy. But if I realize that I am God's, and that I live on God's earth, then I'll want to nurture the earth and those around me, because in nurturing those things and people I am nurturing God's things and people.
Bio-Diversity and other Environmental Concerns
Sustainable agriculture is a biblical concept. Its not some pie-in-the-sky hippie dream thought up by a bunch of tree huggers. It is foundational to way that God has set up this planet. Every seventh year the land was to be left fallow. In the law the Israelites were commanded, "For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.... The land is to have a year of rest." (Leviticus 25:3-5) In fact, not only was the land to be given a rest every seven years, but every fiftieth year was called the year of Jubilee in which the land would again be allowed another rest. And these directives were followed by this promise, "Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety.... The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants." (Leviticus 25:18,19,23)
If I recognize that the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, then it should be easy to take the next step in reasoning that all life on this planet is valuable. Even the microbes in the soil are God's, and God has given even the microbes in the soil a purpose on this planet. Who are we to determine that one species is any more important than another?
"[Thomas] Lovejoy argues that such wholesale alteration of ecosystems is disastrous not only in biological, but also in human terms. He is convinced that failure to protect biological diversity is closely connected with failure to maintain a reasonable standard of living for human inhabitants. The vicious circle of poverty, of overexploitation of natural resources, and of degradation of water and soil must be broken if the unhappy results now observed in nations such as Haiti are not to be repeated throughout the tropics." -- Bryan G. Norton in his introduction to an article by Lovejoy (The Preservation of Species: The Value of Biological Diversity (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey) 1986)
And yet, our global economy is bringing with it global homogeneity. Decisions are being made as to which breeds of animals shall live and which shall be left to eventually die out. McDonalds has a stake in the fact that all of its hamburgers, from Maine to California, taste the same. However, when cows (of many breeds) are raised in different parts of the United States being allowed to graze on the grasses that are native to those regions, the meat is just plain going to taste different (in part because it is from different breeds of cow and in part because those cows are eating different varieties of grass). What to do? First of all, raise only one breed of cow. Then raise those cows in large factory farms, feeding them one variety of corn, and then ship the meat from that central location to all of the McDonalds nationwide. Viola! Every hamburger tastes the same! And in the process, one type of cow thrives while the others die out. And one kind of grain thrives while the native grasses are plowed under.
"Our history is rich in examples of highly useful discoveries based on species previously perceived as worthless. Aspirin, as standard an ingredient of most modern medicine cabinets as any, consists of an organic molecule originally derived from a willow; indeed its chemical name, salicylic acid, is derived from the Latin Salix for willow. The recent discovery of a powerful antiviral substance from a sea squirt is another such example. Some discoveries have an enormous impact and some minor. There is nothing about abundance (or, therefore, rarity) that correlates with usefulness. If anything, there are arguments that rare species may be more useful on the average than abundant ones. Much is made of the potential and present contribution of wild species. A recent analysis of the United States economy shows that 10 percent of GNP is derived directly from wild resources." -- Thomas E. Lovejoy "Species Leave the Ark One by One" (from The Preservation of Species)
The Bible doesn't deal directly with the issue of pesticides and factory farming, but the principals laid out in the Bible concerning God's land are clear. We are to "take care of" the garden, as God determined for Adam. (Genesis 2:15) Each of the Israelites was given land that was to remain in their family through the centuries. If the family fell upon hard times and had to sell their property to make ends meet, that sale was not permanent. During the year of Jubilee, all land was to be returned to its rightful owners. With this principal in mind, the formation of factory farms would be impossible. Every 50 years the big agri-businesses would have to give back the land to its rightful owners. Jubilee! The land is too important to us, too central to who we are and how we live, for it to be out of the family for more than fifty years. God knew that. He designed us that way. In fact, according to the Biblical story, we were formed from the land. In Genesis we are told, "the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)
"The most worrisome aspect of the endangered species problem comes from a disturbing observation that exists for the most part independently of the foregoing arguments: those nations which are unsuccessful in maintaining their basic diversity of plant and animal life are also the ones least successful in protecting decent standards of living for their people. Notable examples in the Western Hemisphere are El Salvador and Haiti and the latter is of particular interest in comparison with the Dominican Republic on the other half of the island of Hispaniola" -- Thomas E. Lovejoy "Species Leave the Ark One by One" (from The Preservation of Species) (with more great info. on the countries in particular just following... p. 18-19)
It is not our land. It is God's. In the same way, we are God's as we were formed from God's land. This is both a marvelous and a foreboding thought. I am exhilarated to think that God created me to be in such harmony with the world in which he has placed me. And at the same time, I recognize the incredible responsibility we have to the land and to God. It is one thing to mismanage a small plot of land that I rent from another person. It is an entirely different thing to be complicit in the mismanagement of an entire ecosystem belonging to an omnipotent and jealous God!
Who are we to try to understand the mind of God? And yet in our deluded human minds, we think that we can look at one animal, plant or bug and say, "this one is valuable," then turn to another and say, "this one is expendable." How do we know that the loss of Black-Tailed Prairie Dog won't have catastrophic affects upon our children's and grandchildren's lives? We don't! But we presume that their loss is no great thing when we support suburban sprawl and fire suppression policies. (The NYT had a recent article about a cactus called hoodia, in South Africa, that Pfizer is hoping to develop an appetite suppressant from. What a perfect description of a nondescript plant, that has been "discovered" before it dies out. --> NYT 1/1/2003)
I am pro-life because I recognize that all life is from God. He made dolphins and hummingbirds, cactuses and Spanish moss, microbes and spiders, and he made me. And he didn't make just one kind dolphin or one kind of hummingbird, but he made many, many varieties. God is the author of all diversity. And he set Adam (mankind) in the Garden (earth) to take care of it. What an awesome and marvelous responsibility!
"A person's a person, no matter how small!"
"Please don't harm all my little folks, who have as much right to live as us bigger folks do!"
-- Horton in Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who!
I want to be consistent in my support of life, and therefore I oppose the use of abortion as a method of birth control. I don't, however, think that as a race we can keep procreating willy-nilly and expect this planet to continue to support us. It seems that already Earth is creaking and groaning with the weight of our abuses. As Romans 8 expresses, "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."
Opposing abortion does not mean opposing responsibility and sensibility. On the contrary, I believe that far too often, abortion allows us a way out of having to face our responsibilities. And likewise, the knowledge that abortion is an option leads far too many to behave irresponsibly. In my mind, there are far too many options available to women today, for them to rely upon the worst of all options, abortion. Abstinance, birth-control, and adoption are ample tools for behaving responsibly.
I find it ironic when I hear environmentalists speak about the harmful affects of pesticides upon unborn babies. Miscarriages and birth defects affect farm workers in greater proportions than they affect those who are not working around pesticides regularly and that is a problem. But to then turn around and suggest that a perfectly healthy baby be aborted is completely contradictory to all that that person believes environmentally. Likewise, for someone who opposes abortion to have no concern for the unborn children of migrant workers is also completely contradictory. We need to examine our beliefs and opinions and attempt to line them all up together lest we earn the label of hypocrite.
Perhaps if we, as Christians, spent less time buying into systems of big business and hyper mobility, we could help stop the crumbling of communities. Our loss of communities (through our own self-centered behaviors, our individualism and our greed) and our consuming materialism have led to the destruction of large portions of the environment, to loneliness and depression, and to irresponsible sex and abortions. We can't just blame the loggers and the SUV drivers. We can't just blame the mom's who choose to abort. We need to understand that we are complicit in this system. We need to acknowledge our own culpability and begin taking steps toward choosing life.

"The nation behaves well if it treats resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired, in value." -- President Theodore Roosevelt (1910)
"In a way, what they're doing [farmers with a penchant for monocultural farming] -- and as consumers, what we're doing -- is homogenizing the landscape. We're losing the special places around us because we didn't see the invisible connections that bind them together." -- Pam Matson
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. -- John 1:4
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. -- Romans 8:19-21

April 13, 2003

Going Native

Its finally warm enough out that I can start thinking about planting a few things. I'd like to go native (at least for the mostly non-edible stuff). But I've found that even catalogs that flaunt the fact they're for the Southwestern US with many drought tolerant plants, most of them are anything but native. There's plants from Japan, Russia, England (how often do they have droughts?).... Every once in awhile they list one as being from Arizona... though they've hybridized it. What I want is a web site that will tell me exactly what NATIVE plant to plant in each part of my yard. (And which will go together nicely and which will draw butterflies, etc.) I've looked but haven't found. Well, I'll just have to rely on the local nursery.

April 7, 2003

RIP Michael Jeter

I just got around to reading last Wednesday's paper and saw that Michael Jeter died. He did a great rendition of the Sesame Street bedtime song with the tap dancing sheep. (I can't remember what it was called. sigh) You'll be missed, Michael. edit 8/14/12: this post used to have a picture of Jeter, but it 404'd. so i've removed it and replaced it with this video of Jeter doing the bedtime song. :-)


April 2, 2003

Ditching the Training Wheels

Nathan really wants to ditch his training wheels, but when we tried it, he pretty much road sideways and we had to run alongside holding him up. There's got to be a better way. Anyone got suggestions? Drop me a line --> twinbearer@attbi.com