A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A friend had been suggesting A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a while, and I was leery. The back cover literally only said that the book is a story about a young girl, Francie, growing up in turn of the century Brooklyn.

That’s it?

No apocalypse? No co-dependent vampires? No quest to Middle-earth? What was the story? The ensnaring plotline? What was the dramatic event that leads the reader on a journey to self-actualization? Even though I had hesitations, I decided to give it a try anyway.

When I first started reading I did not understand the writing style. The book is written in third person, but the narrator is almost a character itself, giving inflection and opinion where needed. In the first half, the narrator’s voice sounded like the narrator from A Christmas Story in my mind, but as the book went on, I realized that voice actually belonged to Betty Smith, the author. I could picture her writing the book, sitting at her window, and just remembering Brooklyn.

Her Brooklyn.

Although the book is one whole story, she writes in vignettes. I found myself reading a short chapter and putting the book down to think about the world that Betty had just painted. I became lost in Brooklyn, its streets, characters, and Francie’s thoughts.

When Katie has her baby and her German, superstitious, loving mother comes over and gives her advice, I catch myself paying attention, and actually learning a thing or two. Living simply was something I could not ignore as I walked through Francie’s realization that she was poor and being proud that she could be wasteful of something as simple as her coffee. And I will admit I took away the importance of education. It is interwoven in this book as a love story of learning. Education being the one thing that someone cannot ever truly take from you, and the only way to truly rise above your circumstances.

Honestly, this book needs none of the page turning fodder that readers have come to expect from a book. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is like a delicious and delicate crème brulee on my binge reading diet of book fast food. I am embarrassed to admit I don’t read enough of the books that are worth remembering.

Betty Smith writes a book that reads like a beautiful song. She isn’t (in my humble opinion) a great writer; most of her sentences start exactly the same and her vocabulary is very simple and limited. But she is an amazing story teller. She has a unique talent that makes you see and feel and hear and understand the world she is painting. I can taste the sweet buns and coffee with condensed milk. I can hear the song Johnny sings on his way home from work. I can smell the Christmas tree Francie and Neely win. And I can feel the pain when the doctor makes Francie feel small for being poor.  Brooklyn comes alive under her pen and makes you love it as much as my dear friend Betty does.

Even if this book took you a year to read, I would say it was worth it. Even if you only make it through chapter one, I would say you are better off for it. As for me, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will always have a home in my library and Francie Nolan, a place in my heart.

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Why I’m a Reading Maniac

Book people are a bit odd. I am a book lover and admittedly I am a bit odd. I love books in the same way people love art or music. I appreciate the work as a whole and also the little details. A book, to me, is three parts: the actual story, the story that the writer is inadvertently telling about himself/herself, and the story of all the people who have gone on the journey before me.

It is obvious to love the first part. If it’s a good story, you can’t put it down. You think about the characters long after you have turned the last page; you are affected by it on some level, and without even knowing it, changed a little. You see the world differently, you view a person differently, you think about what could be, and what is to come. If a book is good, I will read the whole thing right then and there. I have been known to read a book twice in one day. If a book is great, I might savor it, reading it in chunks, thinking about my “friends”. If a book is bad, I close the book. But if a book is mildly entertaining, I weep – I become a prisoner – I can’t put the book down, because if I do, I will never know what happened, and hey, maybe it will get better. Miracles can happen. But if I keep reading and trudging through the vomit of pretentious descriptions (yes we all know you own a thesaurus), and bad character development, and sub plots that make me want to poke my eyes out, I am just going to be mad. These books take me a week to read, because I begrudgingly have to finish them.  Every time I pick them up I am mad that they have held me hostage. But I digress.

The second part is about the writer. This is something that gets overlooked so often, but to me is beautiful. When an author does a story right and connects you to a character and their journey, they are unintentionally connecting you to themselves. It is obvious to see that certain authors love justice or believe that every person can make a difference. I have read authors and thought about how visible their insecurities are, or their deepest longings, and I end up praying for them. As a writer, it is almost impossible to not put yourself on the page, which is why even an amateur writer’s tome is a sacred thing. And when a book is published, a little piece of the author is on display for anyone who is looking hard enough to see.  I personally love discovering these things about the name on the cover.

The third part is a bit stranger, but by far my favorite. When you read a book – when you leave to go to Middle Earth, or turn-of-the-century Brooklyn, or into the future of space – you are not the first. Reading is a solo act, but it is something that though done alone, it is not lonely. Book clubs exist to discuss the new friends made, and the new adventures that people have gone on. Talking about reading connects our intimate experience to one another.  And when I read a book someone else has already read, I am connected to their journey through the book. I see the notes in the pages, the scribbles in the margins and the highlights of parts that spoke to the other readers and I can catch a small glimpse of what they were thinking. The coffee ring on the cover where it was used as a coaster. I can see the jelly they enjoyed while reading because they couldn’t be bothered to put the book down while eating. I see the watermarks and know they picked this book to relax in the tub with. And I see the dog eared pages and wonder, would I have stopped there?

A friend of mine recently gave me an old Encyclopedia Britannica, printed in 1892. The pages are yellow and the binding is falling apart. To anyone else this is just an old book. But to me this book is beautiful and telling. I imagine the brand new book sitting in a store window before the turn of the century, lined up next to its companions. And this book that I can hold in my hand and touch its pages has seen Prohibition, the Great Depression, world wars, hippies, the disco age, the fall of the Berlin wall, and when Bill Clinton famously denied … well, you know. This book sat quietly on a shelf and witnessed love, and loss, and life. Maybe a lawyer owned them, or a professor. Maybe a mother bought them as an investment for her young children? Who owned this book? Who has touched its pages, or ran a finger down its spine?

A book is so much more than words on a page. It’s more than even the story that it’s telling. A book is a gift.

Editor’s Note: Kristin is an avid reader (and by “avid” we mean she reads multiple books per week, if not per day) with a great appreciation for the author and his/her literary work. No doubt, you can likely tell that by the intro article above. If you ever wonder if a book is worth reading, ask Kristin – she’s probably already read it … at least once. That being the case, we thought she’d be perfect to write book reviews for On the Willows! So keep an eye out for a review once or twice a month on a book Kristin thinks you should know about. The first one will be posted tomorrow! 

And, of course, if any of you would be interested in submitting a review, let us know!

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Bringing Kony to Justice, and other things…

A little over 3 years ago, I was walking my dog, Luther, around Cambridge (so many of my stories are from a time where I was walking my dog!). I looked over and saw a group of young college students looking confused and kind of trying to get my attention. It’s a look that I recognize on the faces of many tourists who are lost. So, I made my way over to see how I could help. First, they told me they were looking for a place to park their big, white, 12-passenger van. Being a local, I was happy to show them a safe place to park. It only took a few seconds of interacting with them before I asked, “you’re from California, aren’t you?”

I came to understand that they were volunteers for a non-profit, based out of San Diego, called Invisible Children. They were bringing their film to a variety of crowds in Boston…universities, churches, etc. I was thrilled to meet them, and let them know I had been following their work for years. For those of you who are learning about Joseph Kony for the first time, and are wondering if this is a good “band-wagon” to jump on or not, I would like to share some history with you, as well as some helpful internet resources, if you would like to investigate further.

War has been raging in Central Africa for years. The causes of war would be another blog post entirely (and is highly debatable). I am sure we can all agree, whatever the reason, that we live in a fallen, broken world that is in desperate need of the transforming message of the Gospel. With that said, I am going to explain the injustices taking place toward the children of these war-struck countries, for those of you who are interested in reading the bottom line. The implications of war are great. Millions of men, women and children have been displaced, and sent to refugee camps for “safety”. Not only are these people forced to leave their communities, their farms, their homes burned by rebels, and everything they have known, but they live in constant fear, not knowing what the next day will bring them. In the end, some are able to return to their homes where they might have to rebuild from scratch, but some will live and die in refugee camps.

If you were one of the 75 million (and counting) who watched the viral Kony 2012 video, you know that Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He has used physical, spiritual, psychological and sexual manipulation to gain power for years. In order to grow his power, he abducted tens of thousands of children (from both sides of the war) to fight for the LRA. These children have been enslaved to his corrupt army. The young boys have been forced to kill their parents, their people, and participate in ethnic cleansing by cutting babies out of pregnant women’s stomachs. Young girls were abducted to be sex slaves for Kony’s men. The children that refused to kill their own would be killed themselves in front of their siblings and other children. The children that were fortunate enough to escape were left psychologically and physically traumatized.

Last week, I was on campus studying around the time Kony 2012 went viral. I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea to watch this video on my break! Around the seventh minute of the video, I was already crying when a boy named Jacob was trying to describe what he would say to his dead brother if he could see him again (this footage was on the original 2006 full-length documentary). I was awkwardly tipping my head sideways and repositioning my iPad so that people couldn’t see me cry in the cafe! He was weeping, and that made me weep.  I don’t know what it’s like to lose a brother or sister due to violence, but I felt a glimpse of his pain for a moment. It’s hard for me to imagine fearing the night – every night (for years) – and looking for ways to hide myself amongst thousands of other children in small spaces to feel a bit of protection.

Discover the Journey (DTJ) is another way that I stay informed on what is going on with the LRA and the children of Central Africa. Lindsay Branham, a filmmaker for DTJ, has captured unbelievable footage of Sudanese children who speak of their time with the LRA. Please take a few minutes to watch this reportage to hear from the children directly. Another helpful video is this trailer for a documentary by DTJ called, Let Us Be Free.

When I first saw these videos, it killed me to know this was happening in our world, even now. A sense of urgency rises in me…something must be done now. I am guessing this was the urgency that has energized Invisible Children to do what they do. After years of hard, grueling work to bring awareness, they have taken their efforts to another level. For those of you who have followed Invisible Children from the beginning, you probably know about the countless volunteers who traveled the U.S. to bring awareness via their 2006 documentary entitled Invisible Children. In 2009, Invisible Children camped out in the heart of major US cities to bring awareness. They camped in front of Harpo Studios (Chicago) until Oprah gave them airtime on her show. She is now an advocate of their work.

If you watched Kony 2012, you know that Invisible Children lobbied congress until their voices were heard. Last May, Invisible Children joined President Obama in the Oval Office to sign the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament” and “Northern Uganda Recovery Act”. I was thrilled to see this little grassroots non-profit from San Diego making such headway to bring justice. In October of 2011, Obama deployed military advisors to help protect the region from further attacks. While there is question as to how effective this is, I do believe it is a good start. Not only does it make a statement to the corrupt leaders, such as Kony, but I’m proud to see our government take a stand for these injustices toward children.

What about the kids? Invisible Children uses their funding not only to make documentaries that bring awareness and fundraise, but they use their funds also to bring aid to the devastated regions. Some people have had a problem with the way Invisible Children has allocated their funds for filmmaking. However, if it were not for the films, which was their method of bringing awareness, they would not have money to give for aid. You can see the breakdown of their finances here. If you were a musician, you could use your music to bring awareness to these issues. Invisible Children uses documented footage. I believe, from what I have seen, that Invisible Children has stayed true to their mission of bringing justice to the situation in Uganda, specifically. Their viral Kony 2012 video is evidence of hard work and dedication to these children in Uganda.

Kony’s army. Yes, it has decreased, thankfully! Some children are still finding their way home, some children are reunited with their families…but there are still children enslaved to the LRA. Kony needs to be stopped. I am aware that Joseph Kony is not the only corrupt leader out there, and there is much work to do. But how can I not stand behind this effort to bring Kony to justice? If we don’t find Kony, and forget, and if American gives up on their efforts, Kony could regain strength and continue to do what he has done. Renewal takes hard work, time, effort…this is a good place to start.

Personal Note. As I look around and see the atrocities and corruption all around the world, I can easily feel small and helpless. Maybe you have felt this way, too. Henri Nouwen says that these feelings “depress us”. But he encourages us in this reflection on “calling”: “We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people.  But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world.  We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust.  Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.”

Christians and Kony. As Christians, it’s important to educate ourselves before we support different ministries or non-profit organizations. I believe in wholistic ministry. I believe in the transforming power of the Gospel message. I believe in loving through social justice efforts. I believe in seeking the peace and prosperity of the cities of this world. There were times when Jesus would pause His teaching ministry to serve the needs of those sick and dying. We can learn from his example, that there is a great need for both.

The Kony 2012 initiative might not be wholistic in its approach, but they are making visible these children who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, who bear the image of Christ. They are suffering and desperate… and need physical relief as well as a chance to hear the life-saving message of the Gospel. These are children… that Jesus loved well, and asked us to protect. I think it’s strategic of us, as Christians, to support an effort like this, that is well under way and on the verge of making a huge difference! Pray for Kony to be found. Pray for these families and children who are suffering. Since it’s rolling fast, it’s a good band-wagon to jump on! Not for the sake of following a trend, but for the sake of these children.

Photo Credits: Kids from Uganda, Cover of 2006 Invisible Children Documentary, Picture of Joseph Kony, Document from White House,

Posted in Culture & Media, Politics, Social Justice | 6 Comments

A Philosophical Defense for the Personhood of the Unborn

Abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, InVitro Fertilization—all are procedures that involve the unborn.  I have read many articles on these topics and I have heard numerous people defend their position, tell emotional stories, discuss women’s rights and give poorly executed defenses that are neither logical nor consistent. In my mind there is only one question that is relevant to these discussions. One question has the potential to make everything very clear. Is the unborn a person? That’s it. If it is a person, then whatever argument you are going to give for the destruction of the unborn needs to be just as persuasive as an argument for a 2 year old to succumb to the same fate. (I am sure that some of you are alarmed that I included InVitro in this list. I will get back to why I did so at a later point.)

For simplicity, I will use the term “unborn” to refer to a human being throughout all its stages in the womb (zygote, embryo and fetus). There are two competing views when it comes to the question of personhood. One view defines personhood as being the sort of thing that is in our human nature and involves the capacities that are tied to that nature, even if they are never actualized. So in this view, personhood is tied to our essence. I think Dr. JP Moreland said it well: “Personhood is constituted by a set of ultimate capacities of thought, belief, sensation, emotion, volition, desire, intentionality and so forth….none of these ultimate capacities is physical, and therefore neither is personhood itself” (Body & Soul, Dr. Moreland & Dr. Rae, 2000, pg. 25). Under this view, I am the sort of being who, if given time and the right environment, could have emotions, beliefs and engage free acts of my will. It is the fact that I have the capacity for these acts that makes me a person. The second view of personhood is to define it based on ones functional level. So I become a person when I am able to reason, have emotion, act freely etc. The former view of personhood includes the unborn and the latter view disqualifies the unborn. My goal is to give a fairly intuitive and accessible argument for the personhood of the unborn in which I will argue for the first definition of personhood. I will try and demonstrate that our personhood is tied to the sort of beings that we are and the capacities that follow from that (whether they are actualized or not).

Before I flesh out this argument, I want to make clear what I mean when I talk about “capacity” and what I mean when I talk about “functional”.  By way of example, I have the capacity to learn and speak German. I am not presently learning German nor can I speak it. However, I am the sort of being that has the inherent capacity to learn it if I chose to do so. I could get in a car accident tomorrow that damages my brain in such a way that I am unable to learn and speak German even if I wanted to. However, just because I am not able to perform that function of speaking in German does not change the fact that I am the sort of being that possesses the capacity to do so.  “Humans are rational even if through defect (e.g., being a defective newborn) they cannot exercise that power, because the power of reason is possessed simply in virtue of having a human nature. It is important to distinguish between having a power and being able to exercise or develop it” (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Moreland and Craig, 2003, pg. 85). When I refer to one’s “functions” or “ability” I mean the expression or act of that particular power.

This argument for personhood will center on the idea that the only differences between me as a 29 year old person and the unborn are four things, none of which are relevant to the issue of personhood.  They are as follows: 1. Size, 2. Level of development, 3. Environment and 4. Degree of dependency; (the acronym SLED; borrowed from Fetal Tissue and Embryo Stem Cell Research, Scott Klusendorf, http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/stemcell.pdf?docID=130 ). When most people defend the idea that the unborn is not a person, they will give one or all of these criteria but they all fall under a functional view of personhood. My goal is to demonstrate that the commonly adopted view regarding personhood as being functional is a faulty one.

Size – Objection to personhood of the unborn because it is too small: How can something as small as the period at the end of my sentence be a person? I would ask: when has one’s size had any correlation to the rights that we give or do not give them? I am 5’ 10” and taller than most women. Does that mean that I am more of a person or have more rights than other woman who are shorter and smaller than me? If I am more of a person than them do I have the right to do with them what I want? What happens when someone taller than me walks into the room? Abraham Lincoln summed up this problem perfectly in a speech he gave on April 1st, 1854: “If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B.—why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?—You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own” (Abraham Lincoln http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=50).

Level of development – Objection to personhood in regards to development: The unborn is not a person because it is not developed; at early phases it does not even have a functioning brain, feel pain etc. This objection is in the same vein as the “size” objection. I agree that the unborn is not as developed as the newborn. But in the same token my 3 year old daughter is not as developed as a 12 year old girl. Does that make her less of a person than the 12 year old girl? I have another problem with this. What about those who are born with mental retardation? Or those who lose their mental functions due to a car accident or old age?  Does the level of my intellectual functioning or my level of consciousness determine whether or not I am a person? This question may sound rhetorical but there are many in the philosophical and scientific world who have come to this conclusion by defining personhood as such. Some agree that humans who do not meet these developmental qualifications should be killed because while they are humans, they are not persons. Peter Singer is the most well known advocate of this idea and has even written a book called Should the Baby Live? In which he defines personhood based on function/development and says that it is morally permissible to kill handicapped babies because they do not meet the criteria of personhood (which he defines as a list of functions). While this is morally despicable, I do have to commend him for being intellectually consistent. For those who adopt a functional view of personhood I would urge them to follow their belief to its logical conclusion. I think that there is a clarity that comes with what I heard one professor call “destination sickness.”  People will often adopt beliefs not based on their intellectual merits but for emotional reasons. However, when you take an idea and pull out all the implications it has for other beliefs (in this case personhood as applied to the unborn), I think that the vast majority of people would not like the conclusion. The logical conclusion of this view of personhood justifies infanticide, and the killing off of the elderly and handicapped. Does this sound familiar? It should, a German man named Adolf Hilter espoused this view of persons and the elderly, the handicap, and races that were considered functionally inferior, were deemed as non-persons and were exploited and killed.

Environment – Objection to personhood of the unborn because of their location: The unborn is not a person while it is inside its mother’s body. The question that arises in my mind is how does my location or environment have any relevance to the sort of thing I am? Does a 6 inch journey down the birth canal change the ontology, or in other words, the essence of what the unborn is? Can I gain or lose my personhood based on where my address is? Let’s say that there is a baby girl named Ashley and she is born at 23 weeks weighing only 1 lb. The doctors work fervently to save her life and they are successful and now she is a thriving 3 year old. The doctors would be hailed as heroes. But let’s change this story and say that instead of saving her when she was born pre-maturely the doctor intentionally killed her. This sort of response would elicit such an outcry from everyone on both sides of the life debate, not to mention a prison sentence. Yet, an abortion at 23 weeks is legal. What is the difference? In the first example, Ashley was inside her mother’s womb and in the second scenario she was outside of it; a mere 6 inches.

Degree of dependency – Objection to personhood of the unborn because it is dependent upon its mother’s body to live. How can the unborn be a person while its life is completely dependent upon another, namely its mother and her life and body? If this is what qualifies us as persons than some of you reading this may not meet the mark. Does your body need something or someone else to live? Just because my body may depend on another or something to keep it living does not make me less of a person than someone who doesn’t have this need. “If viability is what makes one human, then all those dependent on kidney machines, heart pace-makers, and insulin would have to be declared non-persons.  There is no ethical difference between an unborn child who is plugged into and dependent upon its mother and a kidney patient who is plugged into and dependent upon a kidney machine. Siamese twins do not forfeit their right to live simply because they depend on each other’s circulatory systems” (Fetal Tissue and Embryo Stem Cell Research, Scott Klusendorf, http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/stemcell.pdf?docID=130 ).

If we were to apply this same view of personhood to our everyday lives we would end up with people walking around who are non-persons as well as people who have degrees of personhood. In Klusendorf’s defense of personhood as being tied to our nature, he states: “These absurd conclusions follow from defining persons based on what they can do rather than what they are.  To cite another example, if robots could do all that persons can do behaviorally, they still would not be persons.  And if personhood is only a developing, gradual thing, then we are never fully human because we continue to grow intellectually and emotionally…It follows, then, that the ability to perform human functions is not a necessary condition for human personhood.  Rather, a person is one with the natural, inherent capacity to give rise to personal acts–even if she lacks the current ability to perform those acts.  People who are unconscious do not have the present ability to perform personal acts.  We don’t kill them because of it.  Nor should we kill the unborn” (Fetal Tissue and Embryo Stem Cell Research, Scott Klusendorf, http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/stemcell.pdf?docID=130  ).

When does personhood begin? It begins at conception. Any other starting place is arbitrary and falls under a functional view of personhood that cannot stand up to logical scrutiny. Such alternatives, when allowed to play out in society, lead to a definition of personhood that justifies murder, slavery, infanticide, euthanasia and genocide. What relevance does this have on our beliefs regarding the unborn? If the unborn is a person, then is it relevant that its conception was a result of the mother being raped? While it certainly is tragic that such events take place, how the unborn came into existence is completely separate from the sort of thing that is. If it is a person, then it qualifies for the same rights that we do, especially life. What about embryonic stem cell research? Which, very simply is using and then killing embryos for their stem cells so that they can be used to help treat and cure diseases. Sounds like a great plan! One problem, this plan involves killing a person. Not someone who is partially a person, but a full-fledged person. So unless you have an argument that justifies killing a 2 year old for their parts to be used to advance science, then this too does not hold its ground. (On a side-note, the really exciting research and advances that are being made in stem cell research are not from the embryonic stem cells but using adult stem cells that can be harvested without killing the donor.)

What do we do with the ever growing infertility treatment InVitro-Fertilization? In case you are new to IVF, it is when a doctor takes eggs from a woman and sperm from a man and place them together in incubators to create embryos to be implanted into the woman. So far, so good.  Given that we now know that embryos are persons, here is where it gets problematic. Because of how expensive and difficult it is to retrieve the eggs from the woman combined with the low chance that they have of implanting it is very common to take 10-15 eggs, out of which maybe six or so will result in viable embryos. Most doctors will only implant two to four embryos at a time with the hopes that one will implant and grow to term. Let’s say that one of the embryos does implant out of the three that were placed inside the woman. That means that two embryos (two persons) died. At this point, the couple has a decision to make as to what to do with their leftover embryos. They can freeze them for a later date (costs around $2000 per year), destroy them or donate them to research. However, freezing embryos is not only costly but decreases their chance of surviving. According to the Genetics and IVF Institution, “Approximately, 65-70% of embryos survive thaw, 10% partially survive, and 20-25% are atretic. Our data suggests that embryos with 100% cell survival are almost as good as embryos never frozen, but only about 30-35% survive in this fashion. ” (http://www.givf.com/fertility/embryofreezing.shtml) In light of their 30-35% chance of dying and 65%-70% chance of not being “as good” as an embryo that was not frozen to begin with, the leading question in my mind is: would we run this risk if it were 2 year olds that we were talking about? Imagine you are considering an unnecessary procedure for your two year old. The sole reason for this procedure is to save you money, but your 2 year old has a 30-35% chance of dying. Would you do it? The obvious answer is “no”, so we shouldn’t consider it with embryos either.

There are a lot of different circumstances that could surround IVF. A few of which I can see as being ethically permissible since we now know that we are dealing with persons. Use your own judgment but this is something I have given much thought to and here is what seems responsible in my understanding of IVF. Circumstances in which I can foresee IVF being done in an ethically responsible manner: If (a) the woman has every reason to believe her womb is a hospitable place for an embryo to implant and grow; (b) the number of embryos implanted in her in a given cycle does not exceed the amount that her body would be able to grow and sustain (in another words, you don’t implant four knowing that statistically speaking only one will be able to “make it”). These are odds we would never consider if we were dealing with 2 year olds and so we shouldn’t consider them for embryos as well; (c) implanting more than one embryo at a time does not compromise the success of the other. So if you implant two, each of their survival is just as strong as if you implanted just one; (d) Avoid freezing embryos for later use, due to risk of killing the embryo in the thawing process; (d) lastly, limiting the number of embryos created to no more than two, for all the reasons stated above.

I have given a very logical, and what some might view as cold, case for the personhood of the unborn. I know that there are women reading this who have had abortions, gone through IVF and destroyed or frozen embryos with no intention of using them. The intention of my heart is by no means to condemn you. I fully believe that no matter how you have treated the unborn there is hope and healing to be had. But that all starts with the acknowledgement of what has really occurred. Some of you may be fired up and ready to do something about the babies down the street from you who are being killed in abortion clinics. You don’t just have to feel bad, there is something you can do!

I have been involved with an organization called 40 Days for Life. They just started another 40 day campaign and they need volunteers. You can go here to learn more and sign up for a time slot in your area:http://www.40daysforlife.com/location.cfm If you have had an abortion and you want freedom from the pain and guilt, there are recovery groups. The Alternatives Pregnancy Center has 10-12 week sessions for Post-Abortion healing. You can call 916-807-4188 for upcoming dates and locations. Or if you know of someone who is pregnant and considering an abortion, there are organizations that can provide free resources to those women that does not include ending the life of their unborn child. Here is one of them: www.svpregnancyclinic.com. If you are troubled by all the embryos that are frozen and awaiting a sure destruction, you can visit this site about adopting an embryo: http://www.nightlight.org/adoption-services/snowflakes-embryo/default.aspx , which, simply put, is done by taking another person’s unwanted, frozen embryo and implanting it in you.

My hope is that what you will take away from this is that we cannot define who is a person and who is not based on our functional abilities. Rather, the most logical definition for personhood is that it is tied to the sort of beings that we are and the capacities that follow from that. There are no human non-persons or potential persons, only full persons from the moment they are created. “….as a substance matures it does not become more of its kind; rather, it matures as a member of its kind, which guides that maturity. Thus puppies are immature dogs and not potential dogs; human fetuses are immature human persons and not potential persons” (Body & Soul, Dr. Moreland & Dr. Rae, 2000, pg 25). The acronym SLED is an easy way to think through this concept and refute the common misconceptions about the personhood of the unborn.

Photo Credit: the photo above is taken by Sarah Maizland, herself. Click here to see/read more.

Posted in Being a Woman, Culture & Media, Family, Grief & Loss, Parenting, Social Justice, Theology & Philosophy | 7 Comments

This Means War

1. Theater-worthy! See it!
2. Definitely rent it.
3. Stream it on Netflix, if you must.
4. Don’t even bother.

I know in my review of The Vow I said I’m not the kind of girl to see every chick flick that hits the big screen, so I may be accused of misrepresenting myself with this review, but, believe me, I went kind of kicking and screaming. Some of my close girl friends wanted to see This Means War, and they are so much fun to be around that I couldn’t refuse. Maybe it was the fact that they are so much fun that I thought this movie was thoroughly entertaining, but nevertheless, I quite enjoyed it! I don’t usually think romantic comedies require a huge screen and a $10+ ticket to be enjoyed, so go ahead and rent it for a buck and enjoy it from the comfort of your own couch if you’re interested.

Just by watching the previews and trailers, you know that this movie is about two guys (played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) who are dating the same girl (played by Reese Witherspoon). Because the plot isn’t particularly complex, I won’t give too much away. But the two guys are best friends who work for the CIA, and they agree to let the girl make the decision about who she ultimately wants to be with. They then proceed to try to sabotage each other’s efforts in wooing her. Some of those parts are pretty darn funny.

Now, I’m not a Chris Pine fan, though most of my girlfriends would call me a crazy person for admitting that. And Reese was my favorite during the Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama days, but her movies and roles have fallen so painfully flat since then that I just haven’t been enticed to see any of her films as of late. However, I thought she did a good job of redeeming herself in this one. She was refreshingly funny. Like genuinely funny. She was a little more risqué this time around than I’ve ever seen her before, which I was a tiny bit disappointed by, but there are no scenes that have to be fully fast-forwarded through, which is a plus. Chelsea Handler plays the inevitable best friend. I happen to think Ms. Handler’s comedy is absolutely foul, and while she did bring a fair amount of crudeness to her parts of this film, she actually did quite a commendable job acting, and I ended up kind of (really) liking her character (not to be confused with her morals).

My major beef with this film is in part of the resolution to the crisis, which I will not divulge. Ok, it’s about who she actually chooses in the end. It made no sense to me. Let’s just say my girlfriends and I had to hash it out afterward to figure out why things happened the way they did, and in the end I was annoyed (with the movie, not my friends). The actual ending of the movie was delightful though, I must say.

What I loved about this film was an aspect that one of my BFF’s pointed out in passing as we were discussing it over a late night dessert following the show. She said, “At least it portrayed men actually pursuing a girl.” As I thought about it, I agreed; it was refreshing. Even though the context was comedic and sometimes just a little wrong, the whole movie is about these two guys pulling out all the stops to pursue this woman. It seems too often these days men either don’t have the guts to properly pursue a woman (this is called cowardice) or they have some twisted notion that a woman and loving relationship will somehow fall into their lap. These guys went all out to try to convince the woman of their dreams that he was the one for her. They had to fight for her. What a desirable, attractive quality in a man. That part alone made up for any other qualms I had about This Means War.

Photo Credit

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