12.19.2009

Genetic Lessons from a Prolific Sperm Donor

The ethical consequences of sperm donation and IVF catch up with a donor, from a recent Newsweek post.
It's a crisp fall day in Northville, Mich., a small suburb of Ann Arbor, and Kirk Maxey, a soft-spoken, graying baby boomer with a classic square jaw, is watching his 12-year-old son chase a soccer ball toward the goal. Maxey is doing what he does every Saturday, along with hundreds of other family men and women across the country, but he's not your average soccer dad. Maxey, 51, happens to be one of the most prolific sperm donors in the country. Between 1980 and 1994, he donated at a Michigan clinic twice a week. He's looked at the records of his donations, multiplied by the number of individual vials each donation produced, and estimated the success of each vial resulting in a pregnancy. By his own calculations, he concluded that he is the biological father of nearly 400 children, spread across the state and possibly the country.
When Maxey was a medical student at the University of Michigan, his first wife, a nurse at a fertility clinic, persuaded him to start donating sperm to infertile couples. Maxey became the go-to stud for the clinic because his sperm had a high success rate of making women pregnant, which brought in good money for the clinic. Maxey himself made about $20 a donation, but says he was motivated to donate more out of a strong paternal instinct and sense of altruism. "I loved having kids, and to have these women doomed to wandering around with no family didn't seem right, and it's easy to come up with a semen donation," he says. "You would get a personal phone call from a nurse saying, 'The situation is urgent! We have a woman ovulating this morning. Can you be here in a half hour?'"
Maxey, now the CEO of Cayman Chemical, a 300-person global pharmaceutical company, says back then he just "didn't think about it a lot." He didn't have to. When he began volunteering, he wasn't asked to take any genetic tests and received no psychological screening or counseling. He merely signed a waiver of anonymity, locked himself in a room with a cup and a sexy magazine, and didn't consider the emotional or genetic consequences for another 30 years. Both his cavalier attitude and the clinic's lax standards, Maxey says, explain why he may have so many offspring. But now a fierce conscience is catching with his robust procreative drive. When he's not running his company, Maxey has become a devoted advocate for better government regulation of the sperm-donor business. He is also making his genome public through Harvard's Personal Genome Project, and hopes that the information collected there might one day help his offspring and their mothers. "I think it was quite reckless that sperm banks created so many offspring without keeping track of their or my health status," he says. "Since there could be [many families] that could have to know information about my health, this is my effort to correct the wrong."
via Genetic Lessons from a Prolific Sperm Donor

12.14.2009

The Road to Hitler Was Paved With Abortions (and Contraception)



See http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=1209-gardiner for the full review of Cultures of Abortion in Weimar Germany. By Cornelie Usborne. Berghahn Books. 284 pages. $90.

The following is an excerpt:
In her research for Cultures of Abortion, Cornelie Usborne examined literary works, movies, trial documents, medical records, social workers' notes, police interviews, and newspapers from the years of the Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. She consulted archives both in Protestant Prussia and Saxony and in Catholic Bavaria and the Prussian Rhineland. Although she is pro-abortion and thinks reality is "socially constructed," her research is valuable because it shows how the groundwork for Adolf Hitler's eugenic-abortion policies was laid.

But even before abortion was an issue, contraception was "big business" in Germany prior to World War I, due to "Neomalthusian propaganda." In 1913 Max Marcuse interviewed 100 women in Berlin and found that all but three used contraceptives — forty of them also admitted to having had "one or several abortions." In 1914 Oskar Polano interviewed 500 women in W├╝rzburg and found that 81 percent of the wives of civil servants and 72 percent of the wives of workers used contraceptives. No surprise then that in 1927 the law was changed to allow contraceptives to be advertised, though some of these, like the uterine coil, were also abortifacient.

A steep decline in the population was inevitable: those who married before 1905 averaged 4.7 children per family; those who married in 1925-1929, only two. The top civil servants who married before 1905 averaged 3.5 children; those who married in 1925-1929, only 1.6. In Protestant Ohren in 1910, 389 villagers had 86 children in school; in 1925, 382 villagers had only 36. Two million men had died in the trenches in World War I, yet in 1919 a feminist hailed the decline in the birthrate as "the greatest, non-violent revolution" achieved by women, one that gave them "control of life." No wonder the Weimar Republic was distinguished by "the lowest birth rate in the Western world." With this fall in birthrate came "a new hedonism in women's sexuality."

Contraception, of course, was not foolproof, so abortions multiplied and "official disapproval" of them faltered. In 1917 new guidelines set forth by the Reich Health Council allowed abortions "on the strictest health grounds," only if approved by two doctors. In 1926 the law on abortions was mollified, and in 1927 the Supreme Court allowed doctors to perform "therapeutic" abortions. German law on abortion became "one of the most liberal in the world" because doctors could easily convince officials that any abortion was necessary for "health" reasons.

Men find it hard to look evil in the eye and call it by its true name. It was no different in early 20th-century Germany, where women spoke of the need to "curb coercive procreation" by legalizing abortion. Coercive here meant having to bear to term a child who was already in the womb.

* * *


12.10.2009

You Big Fundamentalist Churches with all your Darn Kids are Ruining the World for the Rest of Us

This article at the Financial Post left me completely slack-jawed.

Readers of this blog need no convincing that the population scare is mere myth. But feel free to suggest other policies from China that would work on a global scale as well. Judging by the the author's thoroughly thoughtful article, Chinese suppression of information is off the table since it's already been implemented. Freedom from religion, a vital component of any "healthy" regime, is also not open to discussion, since it would have to come along with a global one-child policy. Er, I guess state-sponsored abortion would also be necessary, since we can't get people to stop having sex merely by telling them to limit their progeny to half the number of people required to reproduce. Hm. So what's left? Replacing "In God we Trust" on our currency with "Psalm 137:9"?

12.07.2009

Defusing the Population Bomb



Listen to "Defusing the Population Bomb", available at Catholic Answers at http://www.catholic.com/radio/calendar.php, which originally aired on Friday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m. ET.

11.30.2009

Adventide Beichtspiegel

There are other, somewhat simpler versions of "confessional mirrors", as well as this Pruefungs-Tafel from 1914, but the "teeth" of this particular Beichtspiegel ("confessional mirror") are particularly helpful in my penitential season devotions, not to mention regular self-examination for Holy Communion and Confession. This past Lent was the first time this particular Beichtspiegel was made available online. If you find any typographical errors, please let me know in a comment below so that I may correct them.

This Beichtspiegel is published in The Brotherhood Prayer Book, Emmanuel Press, 2007 (www.emmanuelpress.us). The authors, Rev. Michael Frese and Rev. Benjamin Mayes, compiled this "confessional mirror" from the writings of the best American and German Lutheran father-confessors. The text is public domain and therefore may be formatted, copied, and distributed as much as you wish without copyright concerns. You also have the blessings, explicit permission, and even encouragement of the authors to do so. Though it is not required, please acknowledge the authors and The Brotherhood Prayer Book. However, if you modify this text in any way, which you may certainly do if you wish, kindly do NOT mention the source. May God bless your use of this Beichtspiegel with fruit according to His will.

Free Beichtspiegel download links:

PDF

MS Word

Senate Health Plan to Provide Surrogate Fatherhood?

MSNBC reports that the Senate version of the proposed health care overhaul would fund educational programs that, so far as I can tell, would not even be under consideration if it weren't for the plague of fatherlessness infecting our nation's body politic. That such programs as those described below would be seriously entertained suggests that those with the primary responsibility for helping teens become adults--their parents--have done an inadequate job or, as too often is the case, no job at all.
Learning to be an adult
Being a teenager is tough. The Senate wants to help with a provision allocating $400 million from 2010 to 2015 to help teens make the transition to adulthood.

The money goes to states primarily to set up sex education programs. But the money can also be used for "adult preparation" programs that promote "positive self esteem, relationship dynamics, friendships, dating, romantic involvement, marriage and family interaction."

In addition, the programs can teach financial literacy and other skills such as goal setting, decision-making and stress management. About $10 million of funding would go to "innovative youth pregnancy prevention strategies" in areas of the country with high teen birth rates.

The Personal Responsibility Education for Adulthood Training funding was approved as an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee. Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine joined all the Democrats in passing it.

I recognize, and appreciate, the benevolent intentions that appear to be motivating this proposal. I worry, of course, that "sex education" is anything but "chastity education," i.e., that the Senate bill would fund the standard endorsement of contraception, abortion, and sodomy. But I'm not posting this to point a finger of blame at the liberal-progressives in Congress. I'm simply acknowledging that they are offering a solution to a problem that, sadly and starkly, is real. Let this fact humble all of us into a heartfelt search of how we can manage our own homes better, and reach out to mentor and assist those in need. The teen years, there's no denying, are challenging. Contraception and abortion are as tempting as premarital intercourse. Perhaps you can serve as a "big brother" to someone you know who is struggling through these issues. Otherwise, Big Brother will do it for you.

In Utah, Down syndrome is more prevalent



By Heather May
The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah babies are more likely to be born with Down syndrome than in nine other states studied by the federal government.

The study, published online today in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics , showed one in 730 babies born in Utah had the genetic disorder, compared with one in 848 among the 10 states studied.

The study didn't explore why. But a Utah expert on birth defects says it's likely because of Utah mothers' ages and attitudes.

Many continue to have children into their late 30s and 40s, which increases the risk of the chromosomal disorder, said Lorenzo Botto, a medical epidemiologist at the Utah Birth Defect Network, which provided data for the study.

And Utah women are less likely to have abortions once the condition has been detected prenatally, he added.

The higher prevalence is "not because there is something wrong with Utah," he said in an e-mail, "but is basically a function of family choices."


Amy Moore, whose 14-year-old daughter has Down syndrome, was not surprised by Utah's ranking. When she lived here -- she now lives in Wyoming -- Kenly had friends with the condition and Moore had a larger support system.

Moore said her teenager is a cheerleader, swims and after years of speech therapy can "say whatever is on her mind, for better or for worse. She's nothing but a blessing in our lives."


In a word, why does Utah have more children born with Down syndrome? Love. It's sad that Mormons, as a whole, have a more biblically sound understanding of life and the value of children than do many "orthodox" Christians.

See http://www.sltrib.com/News/ci_13891834 for the full article.

11.26.2009

A Heritage from the Lord

Mike and Abigail have three children aged three and under. Going through the potluck line at the church picnic requires some advanced planning. Mike finds a table for the family, holding the infant in his arms while putting bibs on the other two children, the younger of whom is trying to climb onto his lap while the older one sits precariously on the edge of a chair. Meanwhile, Abigail goes through the food line, getting one plate that will be split among the children and another for herself. Afterwards, Mike will get his food and bring drinks for everyone. Complicated? Perhaps at first, but Mike and Abigail are getting used to the challenges of parenthood. The three year old, ironically, is even messier than the 20 month old, and suddenly Mike realizes he forgot the extra napkins. Even so, they are building family memories. Thankfully, an elderly couple sitting across from them makes funny faces at the children to keep them occupied between bites of food.

As Mike reaches to save a glass of milk from the toddler’s reach, Jim and Pam walk by. “Boy, do you have your hands full!” Mike, still working on damage control, does not reply, but his wife looks up meekly and says, “Perhaps our hands are full these days, but our hearts are not empty.” Smiling nervously, Jim and Pam continue to the next table, where they sit down opposite of Jeanette, the congregation’s volunteer coordinator for the local pro-life pregnancy counseling center.

“Their children are spaced far too close together,” says Pam under her breath to Jim as they begin to eat. Jim and Pam have two children, both grown and out of the house now. They were separated by four years, which worked out well when only one of them attended the parochial high school at a time. “Can you imagine if we would have had to pay tuition for both John and Beth at the same time?” Changing the subject, Pam asked Jeanette how things were going at the pregnancy counseling center.

“At the center itself, things are going really well,” she said. Then she told of two recent girls who came in, neither one married, both pregnant and confused. One had been raped. The other had been promiscuous. The victim was having trouble dealing with all the “Why me?” worries, but the Christian counselors reassured her that keeping the child was the right thing to do, and that they could refer her to the support she would need. The other one had stopped attending church and did not really understand the love of Jesus—that even a sin like hers could be forgiven at the foot of the cross—indeed, that in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism God already had bestowed to her all of the blessings of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. “It’s such a blessing to share the good news with these girls, and to see their children come into the world,” explained Jeanette.

“But not everything is going so well?” Jim asked. “You said ‘at the center itself’ things are okay, but did you mean there are outside problems confronting the center?”

Jeanette sighed. Her face fell. Then she began to speak in a slow whisper. “These days, people—even in the church—have such a low view of God’s gift of life.”

“I know what you mean,” quipped Pam. “Like those Catholic politicians. Their church is as pro-life as we Lutherans are, but then they get into office and support abortion funding.”

“Yes,” said Jeanette, “there’s that.” Her voice slowed even more, as she softly continued, shaking her head in despair. “But it’s worse. Even people who think of themselves as pro-life, too often are not.” Just then everyone’s attention turned to the neighboring table. Mike stood up suddenly, a screaming infant in his arms, purple grape juice dripping down his shirt, Abigail reaching for a napkin hopelessly too late, two other children painting chocolate frosting all over the table. As the commotion subsided, Pam and Jim turned their faces back toward Jeanette.

She smiled at them. “You know, that’s a perfect example of what I mean. Mike and Abigail certainly have their hands full.”

“I’ll say,” interrupted Pam.

“And in these days of ‘planned parenthood’ I’m sure they been criticized—branded irresponsible for having them so close together.” Pam’s smile dropped into an expressionless face, caught in an emotional limbo, uncertain how to feel or what to say. “But the Bible,” continued Jeanette, “says that ‘Children are a heritage from the Lord.’ and that it is God who opens and closes wombs. Look at Mike and Abigail’s three children—they’re beautiful. Which one would you take away from them? Shall we call the middle child a ‘mistake,’ and keep the others, since they are spaced farther apart? The volunteers at the center are pleading with young girls not to abort their babies. We assure them that every child is a blessing from God, that God does not make ‘mistakes.’ Yet, too often being anti-abortion falls short of being pro-life—too many Christians would tell unmarried girls not to abort, but then would expect their married friends to plan to avoid pregnancy until it is ‘convenient.’ How convenient do you think pregnancy is for a seventeen year old who hasn’t even finished high school yet? We don’t counsel her with advice on convenient timing. We tell her about love—God’s love for her, for her child, and the love that Christ can empower her to have for her child, whether she’s a rape victim or a promiscuous girl who needs to repent of her sin. We tell her that in Christ her guilt is gone forever, and that God her heavenly Father will watch over both her and her child. If God can care for an unwed pregnant teen, then surely he can help a married couple raise their children, too. After all, it was to the first married couple that God said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”

Just then Mike returned from the restroom, his shirt a little wetter, but still just as purple. “Honey,” he said to Abigail, “I don’t think this stain will come out.” She smiled. “That’s okay. We’ll just call it your ‘badge of honor.’”

“Excuse me,” said Pam to Jeanette, as she slowly stood up at the table. She looked down toward her feet for a moment, then over at Abigail, who had soothed the infant back to sleep, then back at her feet. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, then let it go. Walking over toward Mike and Abigail, Pam held out her hands and offered, “Would you like me to hold him, while you get the others cleaned up? I know your hearts have more than enough room for all the children in the world, but sometimes parents’ hands can only do so much at once.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” smiled Mike, still drying his shirt with a napkin. Just then he felt a brotherly pat on his shoulder.

“Enjoy it while you can.” It was Jim. “They grow up too quickly. It must be a challenge with three little ones. Hey, Pam and I sometimes felt challenged with only two. But there will never come a day when you’ll look back and say, ‘I wish we had not had so many children.’ If anything, you’ll wish you had more.”

Pam caressed the baby’s soft cheeks and smiled. “And wasn’t it Jesus,” she chuckled to herself, “who said, ‘Let the little children come to me’?”

11.20.2009

The Manhattan Declaration

See http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/.

From the Manhattan Declaration web site:
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Stem cells: the first human trial



Revolutionary treatment using human embryos for patients with incurable blindness

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

People suffering from a form of incurable blindness could soon become the first patients in the world to benefit from a new and controversial transplant operation using stem cells derived from spare human embryos left over from IVF treatment.

Scientists working for an American biotechnology company yesterday applied for a licence to carry out a clinical trial on patients in the US suffering from a type of macular degeneration, which causes gradual loss of vision. They expect the transplant operations to begin early in the new year.


For the full article, see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stem-cells-the-first-human-trial-1824099.html

All I could think of was the words of our Lord, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell."

There is no bottom to the abyss into which our "civilization" is falling. Lord have mercy.

11.16.2009

Vasectomies and violence inside India's Maoist camps



For a curious example of contraception, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6580237/Vasectomies-and-violence-inside-Indias-Maoist-camps.html:

Vasectomies and violence inside India's Maoist camps
A quick exchange of guns and a pledge to have a vasectomy is customary for India's Maoist 'comrades' when they wed in their isolated forest hideouts.

By Rupam Jain Nair, in Jagdalpur

11.10.2009

Evil Revealed



Here is a bumper sticker you don't see everyday, thanks be to God. I did see it today and took a pic with my phone.

It is of course beyond our comprehension that someone would rejoice so in the murder of children, but also express such love for their murderers. This is course is no love at all. This is nothing but Evil.

"For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" Romans 13:9-11.

"The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse" Proverbs 10:32.

Bursting the Economist's Population Bubble



From The American Spectator, available at http://spectator.org/archives/2009/11/10/bursting-the-economists-popula:

By Joseph Meaney on 11.10.09 @ 6:07AM

The Economist magazine's cover story for October 31, 2009 [see cover here] "Falling fertility: How the population problem is solving itself," is notable both for its eminently sane rebuke of population control extremists, and for its nearly unqualified optimism with regard to plummeting fertility rates in the developing world.

The unsigned article posits that since economic prosperity tends to correlate with lower birth rates, the move toward replacement and below-replacement level fertility in the developing world actually bodes well both for them and for us. What the author calls a demographic/economic "Goldilocks moment" is a boon because with fewer children women are empowered to advance in education and work outside the home, there are fewer net dependents on society's tab, and the rapid population growth and the commensurate environmental damage that so concerns neo-Malthusians is curtailed.

Oddly, the article makes only a passing mention of the fact that "eventually developing countries will face the same problems of ageing as Europe and Japan." Eventually may be coming very quickly indeed, especially since in the Economist's (sic) own words, "what took place in Britain over 130 years (1800-1930) [a near-halving of fertility rates] took place in South Korea over just 20 (1965-85)."

What The Economist calls a "boon" for the developing world is more akin to a bubble, as in the recent housing bubble in the United States. Below replacement fertility which appears to come with economic prosperity will likely have even more devastating consequences for the developing world in a few short years than it will have in the rich nations. The economies of poorer countries will not be cushioned by foreign workers willing to come and work for low wages as currently happens in aging industrialized nations. Pensions (in the rare cases that they exist), health care and other forms of social security are even more likely to be woefully underfunded in countries with no tradition of government-supplied support for the elderly.

It will be no picnic in the rich countries either. In Japan, the "pop" of their supposedly optimal economic/demographic ratio now rings in the country's ears like a bomb blast: its leaders are in a panic over what to do with a population that has not stabilized at replacement level, but is falling precipitously.

The article correctly refers to the fact that the United States is the only developed nation that has raised its fertility rate above the replacement level after falling below it. Some European nations have seen slight increases in their childbearing by dint of enormous social spending, but not nearly enough to stave off rapid ageing and a population crash in coming years. And more fiscally conservative leaders are now looking for ways to roll back the massive social entitlements that they rightly see cannot be sustained as fewer workers are born into the economy to pay for them.

Russia is the proverbial canary in the coal mine of below replacement fertility demography. This nation's mounting losses numbered 6,622,000 inhabitants just in the period 1992-2006 despite increasingly frantic efforts by their government. Population losses as high as 20% or more are already "programmed in" for the next few decades in Japan, Germany, Italy and many others thanks to longstanding below replacement fertility. The fact that the remaining inhabitants in these countries will be disproportionately elderly shall only serve to perpetuate the crisis until long after fertility rises above replacement levels again.

The subtitle of the Economist's (sic) article is exactly wrong. The population problem is not solving itself. Neo-Malthusian overpopulation ideologues have dominated the public discourse and the policy arena for decades, and they achieved their objectives. In half of the world the next generation will not replace their parents. Human suffering on a massive scale in graying societies is sure to follow as many of these countries have generous social programs; programs which are unsustainable without a growing population and commensurate increasing tax base.

It is past time to embrace more responsible approaches to the current demographic situation of the world, including a complete reversal of the wrongheaded anti-fertility mindset of the last four decades. The Economist rightly chastises Green radicals who increasingly call for draconian population control measures like those which have wreaked havoc on China. But the magazine errs in only considering what they see as the economic boom which tends to follow plummeting fertility rates. It is wise to consider readily available evidence that there is no reason to believe that declining fertility is a boon for Africa any more than it is now considered one in Russia and Japan.

Children are not the source of our problems. More than ever before, they are the irreplaceable resource to heal our world.

Joseph Meaney is director of international coordination for Virginia-based Human Life International, which has affiliates and partners in over 100 countries around the world.


11.01.2009

Falling Fertility

“When people got richer, families got smaller; and as families got smaller, people got richer. Now, something similar is happening in developing countries. Fertility is falling and families are shrinking in places— such as Brazil, Indonesia, and even parts of India—that people think of as teeming with children. As our briefing shows, the fertility rate of half the world is now 2.1 or less—the magic number that is consistent with a stable population and is usually called ‘the replacement rate of fertility’. Sometime between 2020 and 2050 the world’s fertility rate will fall below the global replacement rate.”

10.28.2009

Crazy




I saw this today at a grocery store and took a pic. Don't these people know that they will sell lots more diapers and such if they sell less of the "family planning"? Wouldn't "Big Grocery" make more money that way?

All in all, I think that it is pretty sick to put the condoms across the aisle from the baby food. Crazy, I say.

10.26.2009

Anglicans, Married Priests, and Contraception



For an interesting aspect of the recent efforts of the Catholic Church to make conversion by disaffected Anglicans more palatable, see Anglicans, Married Priests, and Contraception at http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=5076.

As the writer of the article observes:
If Anglicans are fleeing their communion because they reject the ordination of practicing homosexuals, they need to see that the Roman Catholic Church rejects contraception for much the same grounds that it rejects homosexual acts.
Will Anglicans tempted to swim the Tiber be willing to trace back to its source the train of events that has led to its current crises and repudiate their communion's abandonment of the historic Christian teaching on contraception which took place 80 years ago next summer?

Baseball & Babies



An old post from Mere Comments related to the subject of this blog, available in full at http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2006/04/baseball_babies.html, with a brief excerpt as follows:
First day of the 2006 Major League Baseball Season. I am sitting in the back of a taxicab riding past the baseball stadium of the Philadelphia Phillies (I don't know its corporate brand name, and even if did I wouldn't give them the plug). "Have you been to a baseball game there?" I ask the driver. As soon as I ask, I realize my mistake; my brain is impaired by the early hour, too little sleep, the latter made all the worse by the unanticipated (when I booked the flight) fact that I would have to move my clock forward an hour before going to bed.

To my stupid question the cab driver, in an Arabic accent, said, "No, sir." Of course not. I doubt the reason he gave--"It's too expensive"--explains it all, but I would not wager a nickel on the likelihood of any immigrant from the Middle East bothering to pay to attend a sporting event as foreign to him as curling must be to a Sudanese Anglican.

But I was on the same page with him when he said, "Too expensive." I thought about it for a minute and said he was right, it's way too expensive. Indeed, one must shell out a small fortune to bring a couple of sons or more to watch the national pastime.

You know what's coming next: it didn't use to be that way. I'll be brief: when I was a teenager I could attend 21 Detroit Tiger home games in the summer of 1967 and hardly notice an adverse effect on my modest bank account, which grew week by week through profits made delivering newspapers. For one thing, doubleheaders were abundant, and that helped a lot.

Now you have to bring the credit card. I don't have much sympathy any more for the steroid-enhanced egos and paychecks of major league players turned into multi-bulti-millionaires when tickets to a game for many families with kids, if they choose to go, really can be managed once a year, if at all. For us, baseball games were attended when we got freebie tickets from school when the children got good grades.

So I thought about "the kids" and realized, looking back, just how limited our disposable income was by having them. I told the driver I knew what he meant about "too expesive." I doubt he believed me at first, me with my suit and tie (I was heading to church--in Chicago), being picked up at a nice downtown Philadelphia hotel.

But when I said my wife and I had six children, he became animated and said, "You are blessed by God!" He said he had five children (so far)

* * *


I knew I stood on familiar ground with the cab driver when it comes to welcoming and desiring children. He knew it, too, and was both surprised and eager to talk to this unusual, to him, American. Sadly, it's a ground that has been rapidly abandoned by many of my fellow Christians, and the taxi driver (and his friends) know it. I wish I could have told him that millions of American Christian families are having large families.

We inject chemicals both to drive up batting averages (and thus bank accounts) and to suppress the birth rate. More is better seems to be an American creed, but more of what? Not children, and certainly not virtue--or so it would seem to those who view America from afar through the images we export in order to grow our bank accounts, but not our families.
My own smaller family than either the cab driver or Jim Kushiner (four children) also enjoy sports, generally going to free games at the college where I work (or on cheap season passes for the kids for the games that are not free -- football, basketball and baseball), usually taking along a few friends of my children as well, and with an occasional minor league baseball game thrown in for good measure. Somehow, I find watching college athletes and hopeful minor league professionals more satisfying when surrounded by children than I ever found attending major league sporting events without them. I guess it comes down to what you value more.

10.22.2009

Conscience, Courage, and Children With Down Syndrome



From the First Things blog, available in full at http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2009/10/conscience44-courage44-and-children-with-down-syndrome

Oct 22, 2009
Charles J. Chaput

What kind of people are we becoming, and what we can do about it?

A number of my friends have children with disabilities. Their problems range from cerebral palsy to Turner’s syndrome to Trisomy 18. But I want to focus on one fairly common genetic disability to make my point. I’m referring to Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is not a disease. It’s a genetic disorder with a variety of symptoms.

* * *

Currently, about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle. And the reason why it may decline illustrates, in a vivid way, a struggle within the American soul. That struggle will shape the character of our society in the decades to come.

Prenatal testing can now detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies with a strong risk of Down syndrome. The tests aren’t conclusive, but they’re pretty good. And the results of those tests are brutally practical. Studies show that more than 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are now terminated in the womb. They’re killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes—a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, merely undesirable.

* * *

Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential. They’ve seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits of parental love and faith. Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others. These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect. They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.

Raising a child with Down syndrome can be hard. None of my friends who have a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it. They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism. It’s a realism flowing out of love—real love, the kind that courses its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God. And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.

The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. The real choice is between love and unlove, between courage and cowardice, between trust and fear. And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.

* * *


I am the father of a special needs child, who has a rare chromosomal abnormality knowns as Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. I have always opposed abortion for any reason, but I now have personal reasons to oppose the abortion of unborn babies with special needs. We are at a frightening place, having hardened our hearts to the point that we murder our own children when they need us most.

May God have mercy.

10.19.2009

Was Having Kids Ever a Paying Venture?


Friday, October 16, 2009, 9:00 AM
Joe Carter

Full post available at http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/10/16/was-having-kids-ever-a-paying-venture/
Bryan Caplan asks and answers:

One popular story about the decline in family size over the last two centuries goes like this: Back in the old days, having kids paid. Children started working when they were quite young, and provided for their parents in their old age. Then industrialization and/or the welfare state came along and changed everything. Young children ceased to contribute much economically to their families, and once Social Security, Medicare, and so on were in place, people stopped supporting their aging parents.

It turns out that this story is only half true.
Upon reading Mr. Carter's full blog post, I sent the following email out to the person who forwarded it to me and a few others:
For those who believe that until the industrial revolution, children were viewed as an economic assets and they only became seen as an economic burden in the last couple of hundred years, I offer two quotes, each of which would be meaningless under this commonly held understanding:

Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, Divine Institutes 6:20 (A.D. 307):
[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife.
Martin Luther, Luther's Work, Vol. 5, p. 332:
Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: "Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want." But his blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God's goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God's blessing. For if you had trust in God's grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.
So, apparently, contraception was being used in the fourth and sixteenth century because couples (or men, at any rate) saw children as too great an economic burden. Otherwise, Lactantius and Luther wouldn't have addressed that excuse.

Having made this observation, I do believe that it is true that having children is much more of an economic burden today than it need be. Without question, the federal income tax code was much more favorable to having children in the late 1940s and the 1950s than it is today. Further, our Social Security and Medicare systems favor the childless and those with few children over those with many, allowing the former to free ride on the latter. In addition, in recent decades, the phenomenon of small families who spend the money saved by having few or no children on luxury homes and automobiles, exotic vacations, etc. has put further economic and social pressure on those with more children. In each case, however, it is the public and private choices we have made which have pushed up the relative cost of children. We could make different public policy choices and live different lifestyles and afford to have more children. In the end, we choose not to because we love things that rust, rot, burn down and are soon forgotten over children.


10.15.2009

Sex Ed: Hazardous to Your Child’s Health?



Sex Ed: Hazardous to Your Child’s Health?
The primary goal of sex education is not eradication of disease, it’s social change.


An [National Review Online] Q&A

Is sex-ed hazardous to your child’s health? The industry line is, argues Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who has worked on college campuses and seen too much pain and illness that the sexual revolution has wrought. She’s the author of the new book You're Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child, and took questions earlier this week from National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

For the interview, see http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YTQwY2U1ZDExN2QxNjAxYjlhYjE5MWFkOWE1YjcwZmI=&w=MA


10.12.2009

Family Retreat August 2010

Head up! The second annual family retreat at Redeemer-Fort Wayne is scheduled for Tuesday August 3, 2010 through Thursday August 5, 2010. Don't miss it!!! Make sure you schedule around this if at all possible, and figure out your housing ahead of time. Details below.

2010 Retreat Theme- The Catechism: the Heart of the Lutheran Home

Main Speaker: Rev. Peter Bender

Cost: $25/adults, $20/18-12, 11 and under free, maximum cost per family: $90.
2 meals and Square Dance and lesson included, daily eucharist, activities for all ages.

There are a number of housing options available in and near Fort Wayne for those who are attending the conference:

Downtown Hotels are the closest to Redeemer and include the Fort Wayne Hotel (a Clarion Hotel) and the Hilton. These are about five minutes from the church. There is also a reasonable bed & breakfast downtown, the LaSalle B&B. The number for the LaSalle is: (877) 422-0851.

Hotels at Interstate 69 & Hwy 24 are about 15 minutes from Redeemer and those at Interstate 69 & Lima Road are 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic. These two locations have most of the national chains. The Marriott on Coldwater Rd. is about 20 minutes away, and is fairly close to the seminary, for those who want to get in a visit.

The closest nice hotel with a pool is the Hilton downtown. The Ft. Wayne Inn is also downtown and has a pool, but it doesn't come highly recommended. The Hilton is 5 minutes.

There is a new Holiday Inn across from the IPFW Coliseum, with a pool. It had only been open a couple of months when we stayed there for the first retreat so everything is very nice. It is only 10 minutes from Redeemer, but we found it difficult during heavy traffic to return small kids there for naps.

The Marriot on Washington Center/Coldwater is also very nice. It is 15-20 minutes from Redeemer. They have a nice pool.

There are also a couple nice places southwest, in Aboite township, on or off Jefferson Blvd, near Lutheran hospital, that have pools and are nice. However, they are also about 20 minutes from Redeemer.

For those who wish to camp, Johnny Appleseed Campground on Coliseum Blvd. is an oasis in the middle of the city. There are camper hookups and facilities. The phone number is (260) 427-6720‎. There was also a local homeschool family last year who was willing to have people camp on their property. If you are interested in more information about that option, email secretary.redeemer - at - gmail - dot - com.

Plan to attend in August 2010!!! I highly recommend this retreat. Lots of large families attend, and it's a great time for our kids to develop lasting friendships with people who share their beliefs. You'll be nourished with Christ’s Body and Blood every day. I guarantee lots of great preaching, teaching, group discussions, and socialization time. If you want to see the schedule of the extra sectionals we enjoyed in 2009, click here.

See you in Fort Wayne August 3rd !!!

10.05.2009

The Marriage and Family of God

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! This sermon by one of this blog's authors, Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch, provides an amazingly clear and faithful exposition of this past Sunday's pericope (Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:1-18; Mark 10:2-16). Thanks be to God for His faithful servant, Rev. Stuckwisch.

Audio here.

The Marriage and Family of God

You cannot know what it is or what it means to be a man, woman or child, apart from Christ Jesus and His Church. Nor can you comprehend the significance of marriage and family, except by way of Christ and His Bride, the Church. For man is made in the Image of God, which is to say, in Christ Jesus; and marriage and family belong to that divine Image.
 
From the beginning of creation, God created man, male and female, to live in communion with Himself, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and to live in loving communion with one another within one Body and Bride of Christ Jesus, the beloved Son. That is the point and purpose and significance of holy marriage; and that is the higher purpose and ultimate reality to which even marriage and family are subordinate.
 
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who attempt to build their own. And yet there remains a larger household and family to which the Bride of Christ and all the sons of God in Christ belong; not only here in time, but hereafter in eternity.
 
The intimacy of male and female within the lifelong union of husband and wife, is an icon, a confession, and a testimony of the divine, eternal unity of the Holy Triune God, and of the loving intimacy and holy communion of Christ Jesus and His Bride, the Church.
 
Consequently, fornication on the one hand (sexual intimacy outside of marriage), and divorce on the other hand (the breaking of the marriage bond), and all other forms of adultery, are false confessions of a false Christ, which contradict the Gospel.
 
Within marriage, the children God may give to husband and wife not only point to the fruit-fulness of Christ’s Church in conceiving, bearing, giving birth to and nurturing the children of God; but children who are born to Christian parents and brought to Christ in His Church (through Holy Baptism and the catechesis of His Word) belong precisely to that fruitfulness.
 
To avoid or reject children, on the other hand, is to reject the Kingdom of God in Christ.
 
But here we do not speak of any competition or supposed merit in attempting to maximize the number of children anyone has. It is rather to speak of faith and love, by which you look to God for all good things, trust in Him in every circumstance, and receive from His hand whatever He may give you; and by which you live graciously and generously toward your neighbors, beginning with your own family and household.
 
It is in this way that Christian families are called to live, because it is in this way that God the Father gives life to the household and family of His Church, in Christ; and it is the way that Christ Jesus lives for His Bride and gives His life to and for the children of God.
 
Thus, husbands are called to sacrifice themselves in order to give life to their wives. And wives are called to trust Christ in their husbands, to receive life from Him through them, and so to bear in faith and love the children that God the Father gives.
 
And fathers and mothers together bring their children to Christ in His Church, and to God the Father in heaven, understanding that children are created and born for life with God, both now and forever. Withholding them from Christ and His Church, in order to make a life for them in this world instead, would be a grave offense and a serious stumbling block.
 
But so it is, with our children, as they grow up and leave our homes to establish households of their own, that we are reminded of what remains true for each and all of us: Here we have no permanent home, but we are strangers and aliens on earth, sojourners in a foreign land, on our way to our eternal dwelling in the city of God.
 
Hence, our children do not remain with us forever; and even the sacred institution of holy marriage is not eternal, but only as permanent as our temporal life on earth. In heaven we are neither married nor given in marriage, but, like the holy angels, our whole delight shall forever be in the one true God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
In truth, there is finally and forever one God and Father, one heavenly Bridegroom, one holy Bride, adorned and radiant with His Holy Spirit and His Righteousness. But there are and remain many sons and daughters of God, many brothers and sisters of our one Lord, Jesus Christ. So it is that marriage and family and every other human relationship is taken up into the unity of the Spirit and the bond of Peace in the holy communion of one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.
 
Already now, that divine fellowship is a present reality within the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church; even here on earth, though we cannot see the perfect unity of the Church except by faith in Christ, our Husband and Head. We do not yet experience the loving unity of the household and family of God, because we do not care for one another as we should.
 
All manner of things intrude upon the Church and interfere with her unity in Christ Jesus. Envy and jealousy and a spirit of competition, even among His disciples. Hardness of heart, even among the people of God. Sin and death. Frailty and finitude. The burdens and obli-gations of mortal life in a fallen world.
 
Give thanks to God, and Christ be praised, that marriage and family, husbands and wives, parents and children, all point beyond themselves to something more, to something even more blessed, to something divine, eternal and holy.
 
For that very reason, and also for the sake of the Church on earth, God has not called every-one to be a spouse or a parent, but He establishes other vocations and stations in life, which serve His household and family here and now, while also pointing beyond themselves to His heavenly Kingdom in their own proper fashion.
 
Perhaps it is to such a vocation that God has called you, or will call you. Discerning your place in life is largely a matter of listening to your parents and other authorities, whom God has placed over you. So, if you are a child or a young person, talk to your father and mother, and to your pastors and teachers, about the path that you should pursue. Even if you are an adult, do not despise or disregard the counsel and guidance of your parents, but talk to them and listen to them, as well as to your pastors and teachers, your peers and colleagues. All of this belongs to living in the Kingdom of God like a little child, that is, by faith in His Word.
 
If you are not married or given in marriage, be patient and proceed in faith, but also consider and discuss whether you may be given the vocation of celibacy. That is to say, perhaps you are given to live the heavenly life already here on earth, devoted to the service of Christ and His Church, and to your neighbors in the world, in purity and chastity, faithfulness and love.
 
Likewise, if you have been widowed, perhaps there is then an opportunity for you to serve the household and family of God in ways that you would otherwise not have been able to do.
 
In these circumstances, whether as unmarried or widowed, you are able to live unto your heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, in the service of His Bride, the Church; whether you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor. You thereby anticipate the consummation of all things in the Resurrection of the faithful departed to the life everlasting.
 
Similarly, if the Lord has not granted you the blessing of your own children, or if your children are already grown and out of your home, you have the opportunity to receive and care for the children of God within the household and family of His Church.
 
Especially by those Christians who are unencumbered by the responsibilities of their own marriage and family, the Church is able to care for orphans and widows in their distress, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and to visit the sick and imprisoned, the lonely and forsaken.
 
Whether married or unmarried, and with or without children, you are called to live by faith toward God and in love for your neighbor. You are called to live as belonging to the Bride of Christ, and as a child of the heavenly Father, whether within or without a family on earth.
 
You are called to repent of your sins, and to live by faith in the forgiveness of your Lord Jesus Christ.
 
So then, if you have been lazy or unfaithful in your marriage; if you have committed adultery or gotten divorced, repent of your sins, and be joined to Christ, who cleaves to you in love and does not cast you off or send you away.
 
And if you have refused to receive the little children in His Name and for His sake — even if you have put them to death by abortion — or if you have neglected the children God has given you, repent of your sins and return to the waters of your Baptism. Be drowned and die in the depths of that great sea, and be born again as a little child of God.
 
Have you heard how Jesus takes them in His arms and blesses them? So He does for you. His hands are stretched out to you here at His Altar, in love, to receive you to Himself like a little child. It does not matter how old you are, how big or small you are, how smart you are, whether you are a boy or a girl, a man or a woman.
 
The Kingdom of God belongs to such as you, because it belongs to Christ Jesus, who gives Himself entirely for you.
 
So has He cleansed you and sanctified you by the washing of water with His Word in Holy Baptism. He has clothed you in His righteousness and holiness, His innocence and blessed-ness, without any spot or wrinkle or blemish or flaw. Beautiful, that is what you are. And you are His, and He is yours forever. He has given you His Name, and He will never leave you nor forsake you. His God and Father is now your God and Father.
 
Do not shy away from this, that you are now one flesh with Him: bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, blood of His blood, and a member of His own Body and Bride. For God the Father has caused Him to sleep the sleep of death upon the Cross, and from His wounded side, by the water and the blood, the Lord your God has recreated you to be His companion. The Father walks you down the aisle in this new Garden of Eden, and gives you to this Groom, the most handsome of men, to be His very own.
 
Dearly beloved, here He receives you to Himself, to have and to hold unto eternal life. With His own wounded hands, and by the bloody sweat of His brow, He has built you a house that shall remain. His labor has not been in vain, but He shelters you with His good work and His perfect righteousness. Whatever hardness of heart you have harbored, He has opened to you and given to you His own beating heart of flesh and blood. In this there is the love of God the Father, which is from the beginning to the end, even from everlasting to everlasting.
 
Even death shall have no power to part you from Him, for He has tasted death for you and for all, and He has been vindicated, raised from the dead, and exalted high above the highest heavens, to the right hand of God the Father, forever and ever.
 
If you shall be like the angels in heaven, neither married nor given in marriage, but wholly devoted to Christ; nevertheless, in Him, in His flesh and blood, you are crowned with glory and honor exceeding that of all the angels. For He is not the Savior and Bridegroom of angels, but He is your Savior and your Bridegroom; here in time, and hereafter in eternity.
 
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

10.01.2009

Thanks Duggars




Duggar Economics: The Costs of 19 Kids

By JONATHAN V. LAST

available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203917304574413792994350108.html?mod=googlenews_wsj#articleTabs%3Darticle

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar made headlines recently when the Arkansas couple announced that they are expecting their 19th child. The news about the reality-show stars was met with quiet condescension by polite society and impolite mockery in the trendier parts of the Internet. The dirty jokes write themselves.

* * *


There are scores of reasons for society's decreased fertility.

* * *


Even as economic incentives for childbearing have diminished, costs have grown. The welfare state required an enormous new tax burden, for instance. When Social Security was first instituted, in 1937, only 1% of earnings up to $3,000 were taxed. Today Social Security and Medicare eat up 7.65% of earnings up to $106,800. According to a study by the Tax Foundation, the median American family in 1955 paid 17.3% of its income in taxes. By 1998, the median two-earner family paid 40.9%. All of which makes family formation much harder. As demographer Phillip Longman observes, young white men since the 1970s have seen a 40% decline in income relative to their fathers—for young black men the figure is 60%.

While the government started taking more of a family's money, the expense of raising a child shot to the moon. The Agriculture Department estimates that the costs of raising a child from birth to age 18—that is, clothes, food, health care—averaged $207,800 in 2007. In real dollars, that's a 15% increase since 1960. But the department's numbers leave out three big-ticket items: child care, college tuition and forgone salaries.

* * *


During the past 35 years, the real-dollar cost of college has increased by 1,000%. That's not a misprint.

Finally, there is the opportunity cost of a parent not working. Every family's situation is different, but demographer Phillip Longman gives us an illustrative example: If a parent making $45,000 a year stays home with a child until the child begins school, and then returns to work part time until the child graduates from high school, she is forgoing more than $800,000 in lost wages (counting normal inflation and raises).

When you add it all up, it's not uncommon for a single child to cost a normal, middle-class family something like $1.1 million, from birth through the undergrad years.

* * *


The Duggars have mortgaged their financial futures for their children. Yet we're the ones who will benefit. In 1940 there were 160 workers paying the tab for each person collecting Social Security. By 2006, there were just 3.3 workers supporting each pensioner. The Social Security Administration estimates that by 2034, there will be only 2.1 workers for each person collecting a government retirement check.

In an era when it is rare for a bourgeois couple to have even three children, the Duggars are helping subsidize our retirement at considerable costs to themselves. Instead of mocking them, we ought to thank them.


9.24.2009

Consistency

This post at Mere Comments from Anthony Esolen got me thinking about the Consistent Life Ethic. The idea is largely attributed to Cardinal Bernadin, who argued that life issues are to be considered and treated as a "seamless garment." That is, if you tear one piece of the garment out, you've irreparably damaged the entire garment. If you're pro-life when it comes to abortion but not when it comes to other life issues (euthanasia, war, poverty, death penalty, contraception, etc.) your pro-life garment is ruined.

The criticism of Bernadin is that his approach has been misused by pro-abortion politicians to justify their support of abortion. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, for instance, can justify spending federal dollars on "family planning services" because reducing the number of poor people (by keeping them from being born, presumably) has an economic payoff.

But that approach is indefensible using Bernadin's logic (and, no matter what Pelosi says, not Catholic). If you tear opposition to abortion out of the "seamless garment," your position on poverty, global warning, or whatever is ruined. If you don't care about the life of an unborn child, your defense of the lives of the poor is diminished at best, destroyed at worst.

The local ministerial association has a book club. We were exiled from the monthly meeting because not everyone wanted to allot part of our 2 hour meeting to discussing a book. Nevertheless, a few of us continue to meet to discuss an agreed upon book between regular meetings. Most recently, we read Pope Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

The encyclical deals with the global economic crisis, but it does so with what seems to be a "seamless" approach to life. Central to any discussion about human development, economic recovery, environmental protection, business ethics, etc. has to be an openness to life. "Openness to life is at the center of human development," argues the pope.

While Esolen's warning about missed opportunities is well heard, the misuse of a consistent life ethic doesn't make it invalid. It only makes those who misuse it look foolish.

What is Marriage?

This article from Touchstone is incisive, cutting like a surgeon's scalpel through the cultural mileu surrounding marriage to expose the cancer beneath.

The premise of the article is that marriage, in addition to being the union between a man and a woman, is two other things that have largely been forgotten today: procreative and indissoluble. Because the church has forgotten these things--that marriage is life-long and that it ought to be fruitful--and has instead allowed couples to marry who hold onto the option of divorce (even if looked at diaspprovingly) and who use contraception so as to avoid God's gift of life through their one-flesh union, she has already lost the debate on same-sex "marriage."

If Christian couples can separate marriage from having children, there is no socially defensible reason to exclude same-sex couples from having a culturally recognized marriage.

Is the Church willing to say that divorce is just as sinful as adultery or that contraception is as sinful as divorce? Is she willing to admit that divorce and cohabitation are cut from the same cloth, just as contraception and and abortion hail from the same anti-birth, anti-child mindset?

The article concludes:

If we are truly to defend marriage in this country, and not the contractual couplehood that has for some time now been disguising itself as “marriage,” then it is imperative for us to recover the full meaning of that beautiful covenant whose embodiment is now clandestine and highly countercultural. This will, I think, have to be done from the ground up, and it will take generations to succeed, if in fact it succeeds at all. It will have to be lived out first in small communities that embrace and support the self-giving, procreative, and indissoluble nature of that union, and who do so not as an unjustifiable exclusion, but as a positive commitment to protect such an important, difficult, and beautiful undertaking.

Don't take my word for it, go read the whole thing.

Choice, the Dragon



See another excellent post by Tony Esolen over at MereComments at http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2009/09/choice-the-dragon.html:
[W]e should conceive of abortion existentially: we should ask what the act is, or does, to the woman who procures it. It is not simply the killing of innocent human life. It is a mother's taking of a life which, unless she has been raped, she herself has conceived, by voluntarily doing what we all know is designed biologically to produce new children. It is therefore deeply unnatural, and is related, alas, to other acts which are now promoted, which are also unnatural; indeed the very category of the "natural" for human behavior is quickly being erased from our common consciousness, and with it any natural end for which human beings strive.

* * *


We should, I think, beware of using the language of the enemy; and the enemy has been bandying that word "choice" about, while political partisans clear across the field assume, without thinking too deeply about it, that choice is an unalloyed good.


9.08.2009

Shrinking populations bode poorly for world economies



The Kid Issue

Joel Kotkin, 09.08.09, 12:00 AM EDT

Shrinking populations bode poorly for world economies.

The full article is available at http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/07/japan-elections-birthrates-opinions-columnists-joel-kotkin.html. For an excerpt, see the following:

Japan's recent election, which overthrew the decades-long hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party, was remarkable in its own right. But perhaps its most intriguing aspect was not the dawning of a new era but the emergence of the country's low birthrate as a major political concern.

Many Japanese recognize that their birth dearth contributes to the country's long-standing economic torpor. The kid issue was prominent in the campaign of newly elected Democratic Party Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised to increase the current $100 a month subsidy per child to $280 and make public high school free. The Liberal Democrats also proposed their own pro-natalist program with a scheme for free child day care.

Japan's predicament seems obvious. Its fertility rate has dropped by a third since 1975. By 2015 a full quarter of the population will be over 65. Generally inhospitable to immigrants, Japan could see its population drop from a current 127 million to 95 million by 2050, with as much as 40% of the population over 65 years of age. By then, no matter how innovative the workforce, Dai Nippon will simply be too old to compete.

While Japan's demographic crisis is an extreme case, many countries throughout East Asia and Europe share a similar predicament. Even with its energy riches, Russia's low birth and high mortality rates suggest that its population will drop 30% by 2050 to less than one-third of that of the U.S. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of "the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation."

Russia's de facto tsar has cause for concern. Throughout history low fertility and socioeconomic decline have been inextricably linked, creating a vicious cycle that affected once-vibrant civilizations such as as ancient Rome and 17th-century Venice.

Persistently low birthrates and sagging population growth inevitably undermine the growth capacity of an economy. Children provide a large consumer market and push their parents to work harder. By having children, parents also make a commitment to the future for themselves, their communities and their country.

In contrast, a largely childless society produces other attitudes. It tends to place greater emphasis on leisure activities over work. It also shifts political pressure away from future growth and toward paying pensions for the aging. An aging society is likely to resist risky innovation or infrastructure investments meant to serve future generations.

* * *


As the Japanese increasingly recognize, it's better to experience some population growth than to become a giant nursing home. A somewhat youthful, gradually growing population certainly may create considerable environmental and social challenges, but a scenario of persistent decline and rapid aging seems far worse.


9.06.2009

Luther to Several Nuns

To Several Nuns
by Martin Luther

(Translated by Erika Bullmann Flores)

From Wittenberg
6 August 1524

Excerpts:

. . .You are correct that there are two reasons for which life at the convent and vows may be forsaken: The one is where men's laws and life within the order are being forced, where there is no free choice, where it is put upon the conscience as a burden. In such cases it is time to run away, leaving the convent and all it entails behind. . .

. . .The second reason is the flesh: Though womenfolk are ashamed to admit to this, nevertheless Scripture and experience show that among many thousands there is not a one to whom God has given to remain in pure chastity. A woman has no control over herself. God has made her body to be with man, to bear children and to raise them as the words of Genesis 1 clearly state, as is evident by the members of the body ordered by God Himself. Therefore food and drink, sleep and wakefulness have all been created by God. Thus He has also ordered man and woman to be in marital union. Suffice it to say that no one needs to be ashamed over how God has made and created him, not having been given the high, rare mercy to do otherwise. All this you will amply learn and read and hear proper sermons about when you come out. . .

9.05.2009

Welcome aboard the Black Pearl

There is another interesting discussion over at the blog Four and Twenty Blackbirds showing the error of modern epistemology and ethics that give lip service to absolutes, but functionally end in nothing but moral relativism.

...it reminded me of this dialog from Pirates of the Caribbean:

Elizabeth: You have to take me to shore! According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren.
Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I 'must' do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate's Code to apply, and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner!

9.04.2009

I Pledge

I Pledge Obama





I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Obama States of America
and to the stem cell researchers for which he stands
one ideology under UNICEF
imperial
with licentiousness and contraception for all.

P.S. Avoiding bottled water to reduce the number of plastic bottles polluting the environment still leaves another problem unsolved—polluting the environment with non-biodegradable condoms. Some advice is available from Columbia University, but note that the suggestion in favor of lamb-skin condoms may grate against the consciences of those who take seriously the prohibition stated in Leviticus 18:23.

Ah, but such thinking would be so pre-Twentieth Century Project, wouldn’t it?

“Unchastity in general is a homicidal waste of the generative powers, a demonic bestiality, an outrage to ancestors, to posterity, and to one’s own life. It is a crime against the image of God, and a degradation below the animal. Onan’s offence, moreover, as committed in marriage, was a most unnatural wickedness, a grievous wrong, and a desecration of the body as the temple of God.” Johann Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scripture (1864, yep, pre-Twentieth Century)

8.29.2009

The Doctors' Office





Yesterday I went to the baby doctors' office with my wife. It is a practice of 4 MD's and 1 nurse practitioner. I give the Lord many thanks for these people, one reason is that they have taken excellent care of my wife in the births of our children thus far and are now taking care of her and the one not yet born. But also for the reason above. This is a sign that is posted in their office. When anyone comes in, they know where these physicians stand, and for this I am thankful. I wish that more doctors would do the same.

The "Life of the Mother" Exception

In the comment from Rev. Robert C. Baker I shared below, he states in part:

"The world was changing. Because believers also use the language of the world, which brings with it ideas and concepts foreign to the faith, they begin to reflect and write on their faith in a different way."


The concept of a "life of the mother exception" commonly used in both abortion and contraception arguments is a prime example of modern theologians co-opting the language of modern culture, bringing with it ideas and concepts foreign to the Christian faith.

I confess that I once fell into this same error in thinking when discussing the principle of conflicting absolutes here on this very blog. I used the example of an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy as being a case when "abortion" is the "lesser evil." This goes to show just how far this faulty modern epistemology has taken us. This has led to one of the most egregious errors modern theologians in the Missouri Synod have fallen into.

Let me start out with this statement: It is never, I repeat NEVER, justified for us to take it upon ourselves to end one life so that another may live. However, the death of an unborn child may be a tragically unavoidable byproduct ("double effect") of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of the mother. It is absolutely crucial, though, to distinguish any such procedures from "abortion" because it is not the intent of any such procedure to kill the baby.

This important distinction will seem too subtle to some without further explanation of the principle of double effect.

We may not do evil so that good may come. But this does not forbid doing a necessary good work even when an evil secondary effect may result. Taking this essential Christian doctrine into account, the principle of double effect would, for example, justify the common practice of continuing to give pain relief medication to a terminally ill person near the end of life, even though such medication may hasten the death of the individual through suppression of respiration, etc. We would never equate such end-of-life medical care as murder. My sister has been in this situation as an intensive care nurse too many times to count.

To borrow a brief explanation from a very instructive Roman Catholic explanation of this issue:

However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother's life, is applied to her organism (though the child's death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked. Moralists agree that we are not always prohibited from doing what is lawful in itself, though evil consequences may follow which we do not desire. The good effects of our acts are then directly intended, and the regretted evil consequences are reluctantly permitted to follow because we cannot avoid them.


In the case of ectopic pregnancy, the principle of double effect would justify a salpingostomy, which restores the fallopian tube by re-sectioning the obstructed portion. Without this medical procedure, the fallopian tube is at extreme risk of rupturing and causing the mother to bleed to death. Ideally this surgical procedure would also include an attempt to induce the embryo that has become lodged in the fallopion tube to implant into the uterus. A salpingostomy aims at preserving the mother’s life (the desired effect). Although it almost always results in the loss of the child’s life (an undesirable second effect), it does not use the destruction of the child’s life as an evil means toward the good end of preserving the mother’s life.

Abortion is NEVER a moral option.

Now, contrast this with with the LCMS CTCR opinion from 1984. The influences of the Twentieth Century Project are painfully obvious in this horribly flawed statement:

We have emphasized as strongly as possible the protection to which the unborn child is entitled. We do not overlook, however, the fact that in the gestation and birth of children mothers bear by far the greatest burdens. The child's life is dependent upon his mother in a unique manner, a manner which calls for an act of self-spending on her part. Indeed, we may even say that in the manner of human gestation and birth we see a deeper truth than our attachment to independence and individualism can reach. The life-giving burden carried by mothers, and only by mothers, must be kept clearly in view throughout our ethical reflection. This fact alone gives the mother's claims a certain preeminence in those cases where the life of the unborn child and the equal life of the mother come into conflict. ... In the rare situations of conflict we must recognize the permissibility of abortion. Despite the progress of medical science, there are still unusual circumstances in which a mother will die if an abortion is not performed. ...Even in such circumstances a mother may choose to risk her own life as an act of love, but such an act of self-giving cannot be required. It must be freely given, not imposed.

This error is even included in the most recent Synodical Explanation of the Small Catechism on the Fifth Commandment:

"Since abortion takes a human life, it is not a moral option except to prevent the death of another person, the mother."

This is a HORRIBLE statement. The "life of the mother" exception is based on a fallacy that has been used to justify countless abortions.

“Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years of pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life. If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will either induce labor or perform a Caesarian section. His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”
C. Everett Koop, M.D.
Former U.S. Surgeon-General

For important additional supporting facts and explanations, see these links:



In addition, the modern concept that the use of birth control is sometimes necessary to preserve the life of the mother flows directly from this false argument used to justify abortion. There may be rare legitimate conditions for the avoidance of pregnancy in which the life of the mother is in danger, but I now believe total abstinence (and perhaps NFP, though I'm still uncomfortable with this for all the reasons I have argued on this blog before) is the only moral option to consider, as other methods are intrinsically sinful. We may not do evil that good may come.

8.28.2009

All shall be poor



All shall be poor
How today’s sexual narcissists insist on propagating their dreary values
.

See the complete article at http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/all_shall_be_poor/

A hot new must-read book making the rounds is Frenchwoman Corinne Maier's No Kids: Forty Good Reasons Not To Have Children. Having read her embarrassingly superficial Maclean's interview and perused the jejune list of what constitutes "reasons" for Maier --kids cut into your "fun," kids are "conformists" --I'll pass on actually reading the book. Yet, because it would seem there was both money and celebrity to be gleaned from time Maier might otherwise have idly frittered away in an afternoon nap, I'm tempted to give the idea a whirl myself.

Since wisdom clearly isn't a prerequisite for success in this genre, but a knack for "shocking" hopelessly retrograde traditionalists is, how's this for a book concept: Forty Reasons Women Should Love the Burka (1--No more pesky skin cancer fears! 17 --Size 2 or 14, who's to know, so goodbye dieting! 31 -- You're out of that whole beauty rat race thing! etc.).

Does this parodic riff exaggerate the inanity of Maier's thesis? Just a tad. I wouldn't normally dignify such lifestyle bumf with a column, but it struck me that the hoopla around this silly book falls into a cultural pattern, according to which the media eagerly aggrandize purveyors of utter banality, as long as they are advocating for the abandonment of demonstrably valuable social norms.

The 19th-century Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem commonsensically pointed out what seems obvious to me: "It's no sin to be poor, but it's no great honour either." The problem is, in this age of self-esteem uber alles, in which all must have prizes, being known as "poor" is no longer acceptable to the, er, poor. Or at least not the evolutionary version of poor -- those bent more on their own pleasure than the producing and raising of society's future citizens: you know, the ones paying for Corinne Maier's Parisian nursing-home bed.

* * *


Non-reproductive sexuality-pride, infidelity-pride, divorce-pride, anti-children pride: In this topsy-turvy politically correct world, the media have glommed onto the mantra that poor is rich, even if it's only the exhibitionistic, the immature, the egotistical and the narcissistic who keep repeating it.

Barbara Kay is a columnist for Canada’s National Post, in which this article was first published.