31 January 2012


Why I am pro-choice: Being pro-choice allows every woman to make the highly personal decision to terminate or keep a pregnancy. Given the wide variety of situations that individual women are in, I cannot presume to know what is best. Choice should be their right as a person.

Men have the choice to walk away from women they have had sex with. There are no biological consequences to this act. A woman cannot 'walk away' from a pregnancy. She can either choose to try to bring the baby to term or choose not to (note that not every pregnancy produces a live child-- miscarriage, accident, and severe birth defects are all things that are outside of the mother-to-be's control and may result in the loss of the baby).

In short, there is enough about having children that we as humans cannot control, but the choice to continue a pregnancy once it has begun should ultimately be made by the woman who will pay the biological price. There are as many reasons to have children or to not have children as there are women, men, and families. There is no one rule that will cover the the rich diversity of that experience. That is why I believe that choice is of paramount importance.

09 January 2012

Wheeling along

Here's a story:

When I was in college I was in a volunteer group that was run by my friends.

Lacking much in the way of practical experience we 'created' several different ways of managing our all-volunteer group, We were trying to meet self-imposed deadlines for a creative project. We spent _literally_ years reinventing basic governance structures-- discarding one and creating something else when we didn't seem to be meeting our goals.

One of our older friends took over running the organization and he put in place some very basic rules and procedures. He had professional experience in the field we were doing volunteer work in. His suggestions stopped us from flailing around and gave us the time and energy for the creative part of our project.

Experience saves time and allows energy to be put into the 'fun' part of an organization.

It was a real light-bulb moment for me to see what basic tools like agendas, standing committees, and planning meetings could do to transform an organization in a positive way.

I'm not saying those tools were a magic bullet-- it is more that a little expertise (from a source we trusted) allowed us to find and focus on the mission of the organization and cut down the amount of time we were spending to figure out _how_ we would do something.

I'm don't see this as a top-down solution, just that re-inventing the wheel is a lot slower than getting the plans and adapting the existing wheel design to your needs.

05 January 2012

'Tis the Season on Facebook...

'Tis the Season on Facebook for those "Keep CHRIST in Christmas" memes. These type of copy/paste postings annoy me for two reasons: the inevitable 'repost if you are not ashamed' or '96% of people won't repost' passive-aggressive guilt-tripping that is tagged onto the end of the message; and the lack of thought it takes to re-post them. If a person feels strongly about a topic, I would much rather hear about it in their own words with specific examples from their life than read a canned message that someone didn't even bother to proofread.

In that spirit I was inspired to think about why the "Keep CHRIST in Christmas message" provoked such a strong reaction in me. It was so strong I started writing a fairly rant-laden response to the person that posted originally. I thought the better of that and posted my rant to my own Facebook page. A few hours later I was surprised to find that a number of people had responded in the comments—apparently I wasn't alone in my reaction to the "Keep CHRIST in Christmas" message.
Here is what I wrote (edited for clarity):

"Personally I think the best thing is to live Christmas while at the same time being respectful of other religions. Having a winter holiday celebration is not unique to Christianity and in many cases we (the Christian religion) poached a local religion's holy day when Christianity moved into certain areas.

The Christmas season has become a cultural holiday and many family traditions remain associated with it. I'm not ashamed of being a Christian but the best way I can show that is not by trying to 'defend' Christmas but to live in the way that Christ taught, 365 days a year. I also respect the choices friends and family have made to be atheists, taoists, agnostic, christian, and pagan. Many of them live in ways that are closer to Christ than what I see of 'Christians' in the media. "Christmas" is a holiday (and holy day) that humans made up. We don't know exactly when Christ was born, so now he is 'born' during the darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) when the sun is just about to return.

Christmas is a creation of people and should not be the center of Christian worship. The season has been a secular tradition for a long time now. We co-opted other religions holy days and 'saints,' now it's our turn to have our holy days co-opted by the secular majority. It is perhaps an good exercise in eating humble pie and being reminded of how the first Christians started out with just bread, wine, and the word."

This still sums up my feelings on the matter. Since the time I wrote this response there have been other, more pithy and more humorous takes on the situation. Jon Stewart riffed on it (and on what religious freedom really means) on the Dec 6th edition of the Daily Show and counter-memes have sprung up on facebook.
I love Christmas. I set up my nativities starting the first Sunday of Advent (and move the holy family, shepherds, and wise men around as the events of Christmas play out in the readings). This year I'm breaking into my son's legos to make a protestant nativity < http://staff.science.uva.nl/~leo/lego/nativity.html> . This is my way of living into the story of Christ. My pagan housemate loves setting up our 'Christmas' tree every year. She picks the tree, lights it, and pick the color scheme for our holiday decorations (she is a designer and it comes through in everything she does). I would never tell her she couldn't set up a tree and enjoy the holiday because she is not a Christian. Not only would it be the height of rudeness, but it does not do anything to share the message of Christ.

Back in 2005, I went to Norway to visit my relatives and practice my Norwegian (which I had spent the previous 3 years learning). I knew going in that they were religious and that the branch of the family I would be staying with were active missionaries. I was thrilled to have the chance to stay with them, but also nervous that they would not find me 'Christian' enough and would try to convert me to their specific dogma. Within the first 24 hours of my visit, I was relieved of that fear completely. They were religious, but they lived it rather than tried to tell me what to believe. We did have some discussions about religion but they were interesting and stimulating, not off-putting or conversion-oriented. I still remember a conversation about grace that their college-age daughter and I had, partly because it was in Norwegian and I was so pleased that I mostly understood a complex discussion that taxed the limits of my vocabulary. The visit was wonderful and they were lovely hosts and very supportive of me and my attempts to keep conversing in Norwegian even when I was struggling.

A year or so later, they were in Seattle for a day at the end of a visit to the US and I got to take them around and show off a bit of my home to them. I took them to the last day of Folklife (a huge, free, festival at Seattle Center). We toured around, listening to music and watching some dancing, before we stumbled across a Christian protest group. I don't remember what they were on about, but they had signs and were of the 'you're all going to hell if you don't convert' variety. Intrigued, my relatives went over to talk to them. I hung back and watched. A fairly animated conversation ensued (my relatives are fluent English speakers). When we got back together, my relative shook his head and said that he had explained to the leader of the group that their methods would likely not be an effective way to spread the gospel.

I found it fascinating—particularly since I had originally thought that my relatives would be much more like the protestors than they turned out to be.

From this encounter I learned the difference between living the gospel, and shouting about it. My calm, quiet, faithful family caused me think about Christ much more than any protestor every has (or will). My little nativity scenes (or Christian action figures) allow me to show the story of the birth of Christ to anyone who is interested. My son and I have had more conversations about religion as a result of him asking about why I hide the baby Jesus until December 25th, than from any sermon he has heard at church.

Sharing the story of Christ is something that should happen every day in the way a Christian lives. Telling people they 'should' do something in order to be saved, in order to celebrate a season 'correctly', or in order not to go to hell is never going to be as effective as living your life in the open and letting others see Christ in you 365 days a year.

(This was originally posted at the Episcopal Cafe on Dec 13, 2010)