Monday, March 26, 2012

The Era of Full Disclosure


...I worried greatly when the Bush administration cut back crucial supports for mothers and babies such as the Children's Health Insurance Program; Women, Infants, and Children; food stamps; and Pell Grants for college education. I predicted those cutbacks would increase abortions in 2002 among pregnant women who feared they would not have the support needed to raise their baby and keep their life together economically.
Glen Stassen

[Bank of America] is like the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend, maxing out your credit cards in the three days you spend at your aunt's funeral. They're out of control, yet they'll never do time or go out of business, because the government remains creepily committed to their survival, like overindulgent parents who refuse to believe their 40-year-old live-at-home son could possibly be responsible for those dead hookers in the backyard.
Matt Taibbi

...far above all rulers and authorities and powers and dominions.
Ephesians 1:21

Because EasyYolk has always been a blog dedicated to truth-seeking, and therefore vigilant transparency, the recent comments from Arizona State Legislator Terri Proud (R) ought to be considered:

Personally I'd like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a "surgical procedure". If it's not a life it shouldn't matter, if it doesn't harm a woman then she shouldn't care, and don't we want more transparency and education in the medical profession anyway? We demand it everywhere else.

Considered. But rejected. On the basis of two key principles: (1) the "least of these": women are tremendously vulnerable and make up a huge percentage of the world's poor and oppressed people; and (2) the coercion principle: real convictions are never coerced, but compelled. This is the crucial difference between being motivated/shaped by fear and being motivated/shaped by "unarmed truth & unconditional love." As Gandhi said:

Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.

When a policy violates both of these principles it falls short of what God wills for all humanity.

Proud's conviction that women should know what they are getting into when making the awfully sensitive decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy is understandable. Unfortunately, people consistently make important decisions without knowing nearly the full extent of what goes into that decision. Transparency is vital in this era of full disclosure. However, for a government to force a woman, in the highly vulnerable position of being pregnant, to "watch an abortion being performed" before actually having an abortion is to create a coercive, fearful situation that will not equate to real convictional transformation.

For Christians, this is where church communities have historically functioned as "a thermostat that transformed the mores of society" (Martin Luther King). Highly committed faith communities can creatively advocate for the unborn by being laboratories of transparency. When churches play the societal role of being conscience-bearing, truth-seeking hubs that are committed to serving their unbelieving neighbors, then we will see hearts and minds and lifestyles changed.

This vigilant, robust commitment to transparency will mean that pastors, scholars and theologians guide faith communities through an honest reading of Scripture. In addition, it will mean that both men and women disciples will understand the best of social scientific research on abortion and families and the structures of economic (in)justice (Stassen's compelling research claims that we ought to increase government funding for vital children's programs like health insurance, education & food stamps in order to decrease abortion rates: "Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative."). In other words, to be transparent is to be honest about what the Bible actually says about abortion (not much according to Richard Hays' The Moral Vision of the New Testament: "In sum, we have no passages dealing with abortion, though a few texts poetically declare God's providential care for all life, even before birth or conception. This gives us very little material for the construction of a normative judgment.") and what factors actually lead to more abortions.

Hopefully, this commitment to transparency will extend to areas outside the womb:

1. To the vicious disregard for God's creation within the factory farm system (which produces more than 99% of US meat).

2. To the intricacies of corporate capitalist & investment banking culture where profits trump people.

3. To the de facto racism that persists in regards to loan and job applications.

4. To the money that flows from lobbyists to political leaders in Washington and state capitols.

5. To the corporate donations that flow from the wealthy patrons of political leaders.

6. To the real causes of terrorism: America's own imperialist policies.

7. To the real causes of immigration: Western countries like the US robbing the developing world of vast amounts of resources and forcing economic policies that benefit El Norte.

8. To the choices that consumers make at restaurants and grocery stores in regards to what they put into their precious bodies.

9. To the interest rates & fees that banks levy upon their most vulnerable customers (as Matt Taibbi lamented last week).

10. The prison-industrial-complex that keeps an overwhelming number of racial/ethnic minorities locked up for petty crimes.
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In short, we want transparency everywhere. Where Terri Proud's abortion proposal differs from my 10 pleadings is who is being kept accountable. The litmus test is simple: the powerful & wealthy elites must have a force more powerful that shines the light on their actions. Historically vulnerable people groups like women, on the other hand, should be protected and given rights to make highly sensitive decisions about their own bodies and the life in their wombs. This decision becomes even more painful and sensitive when women are raped or suffer repeatedly in heavily patriarchal marriages or whose own lives may be at stake during a high-risk pregnancy.

Those of us committed to living out the way of Jesus are called to consistently criticize the powers that govern society (political, social, economic & religious--this means "government," but also corporations, media outlets and, yes, even sacred institutions like churches and religious non-profits) and energize "the least of these" among us. Surely, we have great respect for those in authority and we believe that God often works through them to organize our world (the alternative would be utter chaos), but on the cross, God "disarmed" and "exposed" these powers--and we are called to be the people who nonviolently & creatively "triumph" over them (Col 2:15), laying down our lives for the Cause of the least of these so that new life will be the result for them.

The Gospel is all about a whole new world of light birthed out of the shame and shadows. Christians are those who take both personal inventory (truth-telling, confession, etc), but also commit to a process of redeeming the structures that keep millions locked in the basement of poverty and death and disease and 2nd class citizenship. We need a real mechanism to hold back the destructive forces of patriarchy, corporate greed, homophobia, de facto racism, militarism & a complete disregard for the welfare of animals in our quest for cheap, abundant meat. As Martin Luther King said 50 years ago:

But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.

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