Saturday, March 3, 2012

Susan Komen Should Reverse Its Reversal

by Ginny Mooney

I wear pink socks.
I have a pink visor with a pink ribbon.
I’ve had two cousins with breast cancer saved by early detection.
I support the tremendous work The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation is doing to raise awareness of breast cancer, increase early detection, and help reduce mortality rates form the disease. Yet I believe Komen should reverse its recent ‘reversal’ and stop funding Planned Parenthood—even though its support is earmarked for breast cancer education, screenings, and mammogram referrals.

Here’s why:

First, the Komen organization is all about saving the lives of women. They specifically target the female population for cancer research and prevention. Yet, Komen is funding a group that is helping to eliminate the next generation of women. Approximately 50% of abortions performed are on female infants. (About half of all babies conceived are female.) And while breast cancer kills 40,000 women per year in the United States, abortion takes the lives of 600,000 female babies in the same amount of time, or more than 40,000 baby girls per month. Isn’t it something of a mixed message to be paying the organization that is on the front lines of eliminating thousands of female lives in the name of saving some?

Second, evidence is mounting that there is a link between abortion and developing breast cancer later in life. This abortion-breast cancer link has been the subject of intense debate since the 1950s, but according to a June 2010 *Daily Mail article, four epidemiological studies since 2008 have reported a link between abortion and increased risk of breast cancer—one reporting up to three times the likelihood of developing the disease for women who have undergone an abortion procedure. (The link is due to hormonal and breast tissue changes that occur during pregnancy that are then interrupted by an abortion.) Though the American Medical Association does not accept this link, citing other studies that have not discovered any connection, I ask you: if there is even the slightest chance that there is a connection between abortion and breast cancer, shouldn’t a group whose mission is do everything in its power to end breast cancer err on the side of caution? Instead, it is funding an organization that performs 300,000 procedures a year that just may be causing the very disease they are fighting. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Finally, there are numerous other options for providing important breast cancer education and screenings other than Planned Parenthood. Medicaid covers screenings and annual mammograms for lower income women enrolled in its program. Inner city health clinics also provide the services—and with the $600,000 that Komen is providing in funding to Planned Parenthood redirected to such clinics, they could provide even more useful tools. (Planned Parenthood does not even provide mammograms—only screenings and referrals for mammograms). If Komen really want to protect the lives of all women, why not provide funds to crisis pregnancy centers to offer breast health education and screenings for those who come in for assistance. And if it is ‘too political’ to fund crisis pregnancy centers who are helping women place babies for adoption in the case of unplanned pregnancy, isn’t it too political to fund an organization whose ratio of adoption referrals to abortions is only 1 per 120. If it’s not, it should be.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Should the Mosque be Built? It's a Matter of Love

Whether to build a 15-story mosque and Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero is not an easy call.

Many have rightly said the debate over the mosque’s location is not chiefly a matter of religious liberty. After all, those behind the Cordoba Initiative, as it is being called, have a right to build the mosque on the private property in question. And, in one sense, there would be no better snapshot of our religious liberty in action than a mosque two blocks from the site of the 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks. Of course, that very liberty is something that profoundly separates America from much of the Muslim world.

Some, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have said, the issue of the mosque’s location is more a question of wisdom. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

But perhaps even more so, it is a matter of Love.

In the wake of the tragedy of 9/11, moderate Muslims worked to distance themselves from the radical Islamic attackers, standing on the long-repeated claim that Islam is a peaceful and loving religion. If this is true, now is the perfect opportunity to prove it.

Though the Qur’an does not contain the words “love thy neighbor,” as do the Christian scriptures, it does enjoin Muslims to “do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans…the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is stranger” (Qur’an, chapter 4, verse 36). In keeping with that injunction, the group Muslims for Peace has chosen the motto, “Love for All, Hatred for None.” They believe that Muslims should be the most loving and understanding people on earth, especially to non-Muslims.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam behind the Cordboba Initiative, hasn’t gone that far, but he has said: “Many of us were born in the United States. We have no higher aspirations than to bring up our children in peace and harmony in this country.”

Pollsters, however, have repeatedly told us Americans are skeptical of claims that Islam is a peaceful and loving religion. The latest survey by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies found a majority (53 percent) of Americans view Islam unfavorably. What better way for Muslim Americans to help change those numbers than to choose now to exercise Love?

Love demands taking the high road, which means not demanding one’s rights if exercising those rights would cause others to suffer. And since the families of those who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attacks are pleading that the mosque not be built, the potential suffering is already all too palpable.

Would Love really ask those who have suffered the ultimate loss to relive it day after day by seeing a reminder—no matter how distant—of those who had taken their loved one from them? Or would Love say instead, “I lay down my rights for your good”?

To those behind the Cordoba Initiative, may I suggest there are other, better locations for the mosque and Islamic Center to be built—locations that would help revitalize other parts of the city. Please prove wrong those who claim that your location choice is “an attempt to gloat” over the work of the 9/11 terrorists. Show us instead that Islam truly is a peaceful and loving religion.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Episcopal Leaders Need A Visit from Innocent Smith

“It seems to some people that you are saying there isn’t an afterlife,” a reporter recently asked the new Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

“Well,” replied Katharine Jefferts Schori, “I don’t think Jesus was focused on that. I think that Jesus was focused on heaven in this life primarily...”

The reporter tried again. “So does that mean that in your view there is no afterlife?”

“That’s not what I said. I said what I think Jesus is more concerned about is heavenly existence, eternal life, in this life.”

Never mind the conundrum of what ‘eternal life in this life,’ means, it is clear the first female leader of the 2 million-member Episcopal Church isn’t coming down on this one. And ‘this one’ is a big one. If there is no life beyond this life, if the grave is our ultimate home, then Camus was right in saying that the only question with which we must wrestle is that of suicide.

Yet the mainstream press has largely missed the enormous gravity of what is happening in the Episcopal Church. Most have labeled it a conflict over homosexuality. But those who know, know better. The debate is about nothing less than a complete overhaul of Christian orthodoxy—claim by claim of its creeds, line by line of its hymns, and word by word of its historic doctrine.

Yet to hear Jefferts Schori talk about it, it seems a bit of a sport—this fascinating armchair speculation about what might or might not be true, what Jesus did or didn’t mean and which tenets of orthodoxy to keep and which to toss on the pyre of the zeitgeist.

That’s why it’s time for a visit from Innocent Smith, not just for Jefferts Schori, but also for all the Episcopal leaders who regularly assemble in the lounge of progressive thought for a head rush of theological gymnastics.

Madman, criminal or other?

If you’re unfamiliar with Innocent Smith, you have plenty of company. He is a little-known character created by English writer and thinker G.K. Chesterton in his book Man Alive, published in 1921. The character is largely autobiographical of Chesterton, sharing the author’s large girth and boundless sense of humor.

But there is a darker side to this larger-than-life character who bounds over brick walls and turns summersaults in the grass. Sometimes he breaks into houses and sometimes he shoots at people’s feet. Is he a madman? A criminal? Or other?

In the following exchange, Innocent Smith, the university undegraduate, pays a nocturnal visit to Professor Eames who is one of the most popular professors on campus and a purveyor of the philosophy of pessimism.

Smith: “I came at this unearthly hour because I am coming to the conclusion that existence is really too rotten… And knowing you were the greatest living authority on the pessimist thinkers—“

“All thinkers,” interrupts Professor Eames, “are pessimist thinkers.”

After a few hours of this depressing conversation, the Professor lays out his philosophy plainly:

“A puppy with hydrophobia would probably struggle for life while we killed it; but if we were kind, we should kill it. So an omniscient god would put us out of our pain. He would strike us dead.”

“Why doesn’t he strike us dead?” asks Smith.

“Because he is dead himself,” says Eames; “that is where he is really enviable.”

Suddenly the professor turns to find that Smith has pulled a gun on him.

“I’ll help you out of your hole, old man,” says Smith. “I’ll put the puppy out of his pain.”

The professor makes a run for the window and the balcony, leaping onto a kind of flying buttress, high in the air and sits astride it, hugging it with his legs.

“Help! Help!” he cries. “I shall go mad!”

The day breaks. The professor begs and begs to be let down.

“Do I understand that you want to get back to life?” asks the undergraduate.

“I’d give anything to get back,” says Eames
“Then, blast your impudence, give us a song!’

“What do you mean? What song?

“A hymn, I think, would be most appropriate.”

The professor sings a song of thankfulness as instructed. Then Smith commands him to lift his hands and thank God for the things he once derided as vulgar and unsophisticated, the vain delights of the ignorant—especially the yellow spotted blinds of the house across the way.

Smith concludes the interview this way,

“In strict biological fact, you are a very nice fellow, addicted to talking putrid nonsense…I shall therefore fire off all my cartridges round your head so as not to hit you (I am a good shot, you may be glad to hear) and then we will go in and have some breakfast.”

The point is that when Professor Eames was forced to the logical conclusion of his own philosophy, he broke. The façade of his pessimism fell away to reveal a yearning for life and a heart of gratitude.

G.K. Chesterton wasn’t just writing a comically instructive story. He was fighting the battle of his life. Surrounded as a young man by the philosophies of pessimism and nihilism, he fell into a place of personal depression and despair, from which he was saved only by his embrace of Christian orthodoxy. (See his book Orthodoxy)

A new nihilism

What does the vignette from Man Alive have to do with the current state of the Episcopal Church in America?

First, its leaders are preaching a new form of nihilism. On the surface, of course, their revisionist theology is anything but pessimistic; in fact, it sounds down right optimistic. Just listen to the rhetoric about spreading ‘the love of God’ and working to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and AIDS to help fulfill the United Nations Millennium Goals. They speak of carrying ‘light’ into the world’s darkness. But one must ask how strong a light can be that is snuffed out at the moment of death.

Rather, in suggesting that Jesus did not literally rise from the dead (see quotes below) and that the afterlife is anything but certain is, Episcopal leaders are, according to the Apostle Paul, preaching nihilism.

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

Second, some Episcopal leaders are “popular professors” whose enticing rhetoric is swaying many into their new brand of pessimism. What would happen if they had to truly confront the logical end of their nouveau philosophy and to consider its real implications for themselves and others.

Maybe all it would take would be a visit with James and Emily A, Episcopalians who. last year, lost their two-year-old son to leukemia. For 17-months they held round-the-clock shifts in his hospital room so that one of them would always be by his side. All who knew them made his battle their own.

The funeral was crushingly sad, but it was not hopeless. In fact, it was full of hope. James and Emily spoke of their son’s ultimate healing in the hands of God, his new home in heaven and their eventual reunion. And today, a year later, what gets them through the day is still the hope—no, the assurance—that one day they will see their son again.

But now the leader of their church is telling them it might not be so, that the last time they would ever see their son may well have been when they closed his small brown coffin—at least, she can’t say for sure.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” said Jesus, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

For the foremost leader of the Episcopal church in America to beat around the bush when asked about the afterlife, to speculate about the resurrection of the dead, to reinterpret Jesus’ very plain statements about heaven as referring to some sort of earthly paradise is not just an exercise in innovative thought or a courageous step of honesty, it is an act of perjury, and a cruel one at that. It is an undermining of the hope of every Christian heart that longs to be reunited to a lost child, a beloved spouse or a best friend once more.

If Innocent Smith were to reappear today, perhaps he would do his work on the spires of the National Cathedral. Perhaps he would force the new nihilists not only to beg for their lives in the face of the imminent extinction they apparently believe in, but also to raise their hands and thank God for those vulgar, backward, maddening folk who are causing so much trouble by refusing to be modern, enlightened and progressive. And perhaps they, like Professor Eames, pried from the comfort of their armchair speculations, would see the façade of their humanitarian utopianism crumble away to reveal in their own hearts the longing for eternity God has placed there. Then perhaps they too might be saved.*

(Note: Given the spate of recent law suits re: the Episcopal Church conflct, let me be clear that I am in no way suggesting that anyone should pull an “Innocent Smith” on any Episcopal leaders (except maybe in the avatar world of Second Life.). Innocent Smith is fictional, and fictional he should remain.