Witnessing tools and resentment

In a post last week — “You might be an evangelical …” — I touched on some of the esoterica of the evangelical subculture. Much of that post was inside-baseball, jargon and references some readers (maybe the luckier ones) found a bit bewildering. Such as this, for example:

If you think the phrase “a witnessing tool” refers to something that’s good to have rather than someone it’s bad to be, then you might be an evangelical.

“What is a ‘witnessing tool’?” I am asked.

Well, it’s a tool for witnessing. OK, see, we evangelicals learn from a very young age that we have a duty to evangelize — to share the gospel of salvation with everyone we know and everyone we meet. Everyone. All the time. “Be a missionary ev’ry day,” we sang in Sunday school. “Tell the world that Jesus is the way …” This is what we call “witnessing.”

Maybe you’ve witnessed witnessing from the other side, when some acquaintance or stranger, friend or relative has asked you what would happen if you were to walk outside this very day and get hit by the Hypothetical Bus. Would you go to Heaven or would you go to Hell?

The Hypothetical Bus features prominently not just in witnessing, but in sermons reinforcing the solemn duty to witness to everyone we meet. What if that stranger next to you in line at the supermarket walks out to her car and is killed by the Hypothetical Bus right there in the parking lot? (The driver of the HB is a reckless menace who should have lost his license years ago.) You could have told her about Jesus, but now it’s too late and she’s suffering in Hell for eternity and it’s your fault.

That duty can be a heavy burden hard to bear. If you hear that sermon week after week for years, you’ll feel the weight of that urgent and never-ending responsibility to try to rescue these strangers, co-workers, friends, relatives, etc.

But that urgency doesn’t make the task itself any easier. Witnessing, as we’re taught and urged to do it seems awkward and unnatural and never seems to go as planned. For all of the emphasis on the constant duty to witness, most evangelicals remain ill-prepared to do it. They don’t know how to start such a conversation or to steer a conversation in that direction. They’ve got a vague outline of a formula or script for how this is supposed to work, but every time they try to follow it, the person they’re talking to takes some turn that the script didn’t anticipate and they find themselves lost and unable to improv the scene from there.

And so, out of desperation, they may turn to “witnessing tools” for help. A witnessing tool is any gimmick, usually something visual, that might help to start a conversation with strangers or to steer others into talking about Jesus.

It could be something like the buttons and billboards of the “I Found It” campaign, a massive effort organized by Campus Crusade — or “Cru,” as it’s now called — in the 1970s. But usually it’s less formal — a T-shirt with some famous corporate logo reworked into a logo for Jesus, or an eye-catching piece of sectarian jewelry, or a tattoo — anything that might conceivably spur a conversation that might provide the chance to rescue some poor soul from God. I mean, that is, to rescue them from God’s wrath and punishment in Hell (which is somehow different, I’m told).

The largest witnessing tool I ever saw was a 9-foot-tall wooden cross being carried by a guy on the shoulder of the highway. This was what he did. It was, apparently, all he did — wandering the highways of America as a mendicant evangelist.

I had lunch with the guy at a truck stop and came away both impressed by his quixotic devotion and worried about him, out there on his own without a faithful Sancho Panza to protect him. He was earnest and guileless — a holy fool, and to this day I’m not sure which of those words deserves the greater emphasis.

But what ever else was true of him, he had found a witnessing tool that worked. When you met that guy, even for five minutes, you couldn’t not talk about his giant cross. Everyone knew where that conversation was bound to go, but even those who would’ve preferred not to find themselves being witnessed to/at couldn’t help it. Even though you already know what his answer will be, when you meet a guy carrying a heavy, 9-foot-tall wooden cross, “What’s with the giant cross?” becomes an inescapable, irresistible question.

Please don’t take this as my advising you to take to the highways with a giant wooden cross. I think that gimmicky witnessing tools are a bad idea. I believe Christians are called to be witnesses and to bear witness, rather than doing the kind of witness-ing we’re often taught. But for those who are intent on employing a witnessing tool, then I recommend a giant wooden cross. As gimmicks go, that’s a much more effective conversation-starter than a “Jesus Christ: He’s the Real Thing” T-shirt.

But even those awful T-shirts are more plausible as witnessing tools than the ever-popular car fish. The ichthys, or “Christian fish,” has long been a Christian symbol — although it originally may have been a fertility symbol, set vertically (with the resemblance to a fish being an ancient dirty joke). Today it can be found on the cars of millions of Christians as a way of telling the traffic behind them that the driver of the car they’re following is a Christian. (Or, as Stephen Colbert joked, “I like Jesus, but can’t spell.”)

Many of the people affixing Jesus-fish to their cars tell themselves that this, too, is a witnessing tool. I don’t understand how that’s supposed to work. I can’t imagine any likely scenario in which a car-fish could function as a witnessing tool. A fish or an evangelistic bumper sticker can’t serve as a conversation-starter with the driver of the car behind you because neither of you is really in a position to chat. You can communicate only via the crude semaphore of the highway — the horn, the high-beams, the wave, the hand, the finger — and that lacks an adequate vocabulary for communicating the gospel.

I’m opposed to car-fish and Christian bumper stickers in principle. As a general rule, any one of us is more likely to create a negative impression than a positive one for the driver behind us. The light turns yellow and we have to decide, very quickly, whether to accelerate or brake. Either way, we risk annoying the person behind us. Race through the intersection with a Jesus-fish on your car and the driver behind you might think, “Oh, look, the Christian runs red lights.” Come to a stop and they might think, “Oh, great, I could’ve got through the light if I weren’t stuck behind this slowpoke Christian.” We’re all subject to moments of inattention behind the wheel and it seems wrong for Jesus to have the share the blame for our driving.

Mainly, though, car-fish aren’t really intended for witnessing. They’re not witnessing tools, they are tribal symbols. The Jesus-fish on a car is not an invitation, but a declaration of tribal allegiance. It’s a signal that the driver of this car is an “Us” rather than a “Them.” And that Us-Them symbolism has far more to do with conflict than with any attempt at conversion.

This is true as well of many of the other things we tell ourselves are “witnessing tools.” One one level, they may be intended as conversation-starters, but on another level they’re also intended as conversation-stoppers — as attempts to win some implied argument. They’re not really designed for evangelism. They’re just the graffiti and propaganda of the culture wars.

That plays into the political battles of those culture wars and the whole take-back-America-for-Jesus notion of Christian hegemony that has Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry fighting over the evangelical voting bloc. But at its root, I think it’s a response to the pervasive and inescapable guilt from all those years of sermons about the necessity to constantly be “witnessing.”

All those people are going to Hell and it’s your fault because you’re not witnessing enough. You can never witness enough. You can never escape this relentless obligation and thus you can never escape this ever-present guilt.

Such insatiable guilt is bound to fester into resentment. One expression of that resentment is our culture-war politics. Another is the popularity of books like the Left Behind series, with its gleeful delight in the abominable fancy and its celebration of the destruction of the “unsaved.”

The T-shirt designs above are taken from this site and this one. Look through their online catalogues and you’ll find many that are — however tasteless, awkward or counter-productive — innocently intended to serve as “witnessing tools.” But you’ll also find some that only make sense as tribal symbols. And you’ll find many more that can’t in any way be explained by a desire to reach the unreached or to save the unsaved — T-shirts expressing a triumphalist mockery that can only be described as attacks on those unsaved and unreached reprobates, as volleys fired in the war of Us vs. Them.

The witnessing tool T-shirts were intended as an expression of concern for the unsaved. The tribal and culture-war T-shirts are an expression of resentful contempt for them.

That resentment and contempt, I think, is in part a curdled form of what initially began as a kind of love. Love led to guilt and guilt led to resentment and resentment flowered into vicious contempt.

I think that downward cycle, which feeds on itself, becoming stronger over time, can help us to understand a great deal about the nasty tone of what many American evangelicals still strangely regard as “witnessing.” And I think it can also explain a great deal about our current politics and our increasingly stratified economy.

  • Lori

    What do those particular women think “pro-choice” means?

    They seem to think that they’re pro choice as long as they’re willing to concede that there are some situations where a woman could/should have an abortion and that in those cases the procedure should be safe and legal. It’s a step up from “they only good abortion is my abortion”—”the only good abortion is the one I deem acceptable”.

    Obviously my response to that is, “Um, no”. The amount of willful misunderstanding involved in trying to hang onto the faux choice position is getting on my last good nerve.

  • Lori

    @JJohnson: Take care. I hope that this episode is over quickly and that you’re soon feeling better and able to rejoin us.

  • P J Evans

     Sever depression – like when ‘suicidal’ is an improvement?
    (I wish that was a joke. Been there, know how bad it gets, lots of sympathy. Only advice is, hang in there, because you are NOT alone.)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    I’ve learned my mind has 3 general stages – Normalcy, which is rare, general depression, which is common, and severe depression (like now).  The middle is my default state, while the heaviest end of the depression strikes in short bursts.

    As someone who functions in roughly the same manner I wish you well and hope you are OK.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Just caught this in my mailbox while setting up my wacom* – Just to be clear, I’m not suicidal.  Just don’t want anyone to worry or anything.  In times past yes, absolutely, but I’ve got enough good supports in my life (this place is one), and I have lived with this disease long enough that, thankfully that part of the game is beat.

    It’s more like being made of lead, rapidly sinking to the bottom of a sea made out of your own failures.  Easiest description I can give.

    Anyway, just wanted to assure people that, while this type of thing is unpleasant, there’s no reason to worry.  (I appreciate the concern greatly though)

    *Drawing is easily the most soothing activity out there when I’m like this.

  • FangsFirst

    I ask that because, and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before or
    not but… I am frankly, always terrified of being misunderstood.  All
    those crazy footnotes I leave?  Those started as a means to supply
    necessary caveats to things I was thinking/saying to replace an even
    older system of caveats (wherein I’d use parentheticals that lead to
    near unreadable posts).

    My dealings with depression are consistently mild to moderate at most, but THIS, THIS I understand. Footnotes and parentheticals are not crazy, and you are not alone in (ab)using them. I think my rambling postings suggest this part at least…

    I don’t believe it. It’s feasible to induce birth after, what is it,
    twenty-four weeks? Twenty-two? Something like that, anyway. But then the
    baby is a preemie, and dealing with preemies is expensive as hell.
    Persuading the woman to hang in there a few more months costs much less
    money.

    That’s usually because I put it to her that, “Well, c’mon, why should a woman be unable to change her mind about how her body is used after a certain point?” (I argue this not because I NECESSARILY believe it, but because I’m trying to figure out what legitimate points there are either way, what makes sense to me and other people at that point)

    also:

    Thank you for feeling that way.

    Part of this also stems from a frank pragmatism. Do I want women getting safer abortions from licensed doctors (barring complications from any procedure and crappy doctors, of course, which apply to all medical procedures, but you know what…shit, see? parenthetical statements. I wasn’t even thinking about it…) or finding some illegal way with someone who may or may not be licensed (just the only option!) and putting their life at risk then possibly going to prison and in the process ruining the lives of, say, existing children and other family of said woman?

    I choose the first option, and from there, I say it’s up to women (though I do, as noted, attempt to have conversations about it, and understand that I can’t ever have an accurate perspective as I am never physically attached to a fetus for good or ill–I neither have the emotional connection part nor the demands placed on me physically/mentally/hormonally/etc)

    And the Rent-a-Womb concept, even if were realistic, ignores the fact
    that earlier trimesters can also be hazardous to a woman’s health.
    Things such as gestational diabetes.

    Not sure if this is in response to something else (that someone else said) but if not, likely my fault for failing at antecedents, so let me rephrase explicitly:

    She thinks abortion should be legal up until the last trimester (or whatever the line is for “late term”), and at that point, honestly, her usual response is, “You seriously should have made up your mind by now,” with exceptions for health and the like. Her interest in biology is tied in here (reproduction is the point of all organisms) as well as a personal desire to be a good parent…and some bad personal stuff all wrapped up in all of that.

    Don’t get me wrong: it’s fucking amazing, if you will pardon the phrasing. I would not be surprised or blame her, considering what she has been through, if she just knee-jerk said “NO. ABORTION WRONG.” But she doesn’t. She even counseled someone else through an abortion. And hates that people at her churches form prayer groups outside Planned Parenthood.
    But it does leave me a little curious about whether the “You should have made up your mind,” is a reflection of her own scars, or a reasonable POV.

  • chris the cynic

    I know it’s probably difficult, maybe impossible to understand where this is coming from;

    I think that I do know where you’re coming from (everything you wrote is very familiar to me.)  I honestly don’t know if having someone else understand helps any, but if it does for you then be aware that I think I do understand.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    I look forward to your return both because I think you make valuable contributions and because it will mean you are doing better.

  • Anonymous

    Considering that the women who abort late-term are either women who wanted an abortion earlier but couldn’t have it or women who wanted a baby but couldn’t have it, it strikes me as a reasonable POV, provided early-term abortions are easily accomplished. Which in many places they’re not.

  • FangsFirst

    Considering that the women who abort late-term are either women who
    wanted an abortion earlier but couldn’t have it or women who wanted a
    baby but couldn’t have it, it strikes me as a reasonable POV, provided
    early-term abortions are easily accomplished. Which in many places
    they’re not.

    Yeah, in a perfect world, I feel like I do agree with her but was always worried there would be–well, the above, legitimate exceptions like availability of early term (due to Not-A-Perfect-World-Ism).
    I was partly curious to drop the opinions here, as it was in reading old, old slacktivist comment threads that I came to get the whole “it’s forcing a woman to use her body against her will” thing that always eluded me in part. Mostly that and realizing, “Yeah, okay, I can see how that could be an INTENSELY offensive thing for men to legislate as there is NO equivalent at all, and that kinda makes it none of our business, to a great extent, if not a complete one.”

    (I’m wary of explaining her opinions, as I know people have berated her for a lot of them, and we’re both kind of defensive about people attacking the other, even when the other does not care)

  • hapax

    I know it’s probably difficult, maybe impossible to understand where this is coming from

    Not at all.  I understand perfectly, and feel a great deal of sympathy.  Take care;  you will be missed.

    FWIW, I have found that learning to recognize the onset of an episode, and to be able to say to myself, “It’s not reality, it’s the depression talking” is a great asset in coping with and even shortening the most severe periods.

    Although you are quite correct, one can’t “logic” oneself out of depression, it does help to protect a portion of one’s mind from the Beast’s insidious claws.

    And, because I’m playing Helpful Stranger On The Internet Today, do you keep a food diary?  I started one because of migraines, but I’ve found definite correlations with certain foods and medicines and the onset of depression as well.

  • We Must Dissent

    Being Hot for Jesus is totally biblical. See the Song of Songs (and its
    mainstream Christian interpretation) for a graphic example.

    The what now? I was raised in a German Baptist church then a more stereotypical Evangelical wanna-be mega-church. Song of Solomon was either one of those parts of the bible that was ignored to the point of practical non existence. If it was mentioned, it was as a model of pure, Christian, romantic love. Never mind it’s actual contents are bit more physical.

  • Anonymous

    More importantly, does He obey the pooper-scooper laws? 

  • ako

    I’m sorry you have to deal with that.  I haven’t noticed anything unreasonable or out of line in your comments so far.  If I do see anything, I’ll keep everything you’ve said in mind.

    I’m glad you have support to help you get through this.  And if taking a short break, or adding in footnotes or parenthetical makes a depressive episode any easier to deal with, go for it.  I don’t mind.

  • P J Evans

    Oh, I do understand. As I said – been there, done that. (It actually runs in my father’s family. When five out of seven are bipolar/unipolar, it’s not a coincidence. When it goes into a second generation, it’s genes.)

  • Brad

    “Oh dear, is he missing?”

    Did he gnaw through the straps again?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I do not know if this has been mentioned yet (forgive me for not reading through all the posts yet) but I wanted to throw up these two Penny Arcade shirts:

    Jesus Is My Guild Leader

    Jesus Says “Don’t Be a Dick”

    I think that the second one pretty neatly encapsulates Jesus’ central philosophy.  Would that more Christians kept it in mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I understand where you are coming from, and my thoughts are with you. I too have been living with depression for years, along with anxiety that has become nearly crippling during the past year.

    Best of luck to you.

  • Anonymous

    According to my brother the all-knowing,
    using contraception is a way of ensuring one feels that any resultant
    pregnancy is not one’s fault and therefore that it’s permissible to
    abort.

    Funny, I’ve always thought that planning to use contraception shows a sense of responsibility, especially when so many guys do everything to persuade a woman to have sex with or without it. Lack of contraception can provide a brake to the proceedings allowing a woman (or man) to think better of a potentially bad impulse.

    Whereas not planning on using contraception and being “overcome by passion” has a long history of resulting in unwanted pregnancies. Of course, taking responsibility for your own sexuality = being a ‘slut’ for some people.

  • Anonymous

    Funny, I’ve always thought that planning to use contraception
    shows a sense of responsibility, especially when so many guys do
    everything to persuade a woman to have sex with or without it. Lack of
    contraception can provide a brake to the proceedings allowing a woman
    (or man) to think better of a potentially bad impulse.

    Whereas not planning
    on using contraception and being “overcome by passion” has a long
    history of resulting in unwanted pregnancies. Of course, taking
    responsibility for your own sexuality = being a ‘slut’ for some people.

    Again according to my brother the all-knowing, the fact that most women who have abortions used contraception in the month of conception “speaks for itself”, and what it says is that women who don’t use contraception feel themselves obligated to continue the pregnancy and women who do use contraception do not feel so obligated.

    I’m trying to get it through his head that de-yoking sex and procreation is the whole point of contraception, that abstinence does not work, and that the sex life of any woman he is not having sex with is absolutely none of his business (and the sex life of any woman he is having sex with is mostly none of his business, unless she’s promised to have sex only with him), but he went to bed three hours ago. Where I should be, because I have work in the morning same as he does.

  • Rikalous

    Not to mention one has to wonder about how a 2000 year old guy’s
    knowledge of driving.  “… Okay I have the wheel, what do I do with
    it?!” *crash*

    Assuming that people in heaven get the cool toys invented down here, he’s probably been automobiling since the Model T came out.

    Get well soon, by the way.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mariposakitten Kristy Griffin

    JJohnson – heh, so you mean I’m not the only one who obsessively re-reads her own posts before hitting the “Post” button, terrified of saying something wrong and being misunderstood and/or pissing someone off?

    FWIW, I only rarely get to play in the comments (the antiquated browser my work computer uses can’t even read the comments here, let alone allow me to post one), so I can’t say I “know” you, but the comments I’ve seen from you in this thread have all come across as clever, insightful, and kind-hearted.  I like your comments, and I like your footnotes.  (No, seriously.  Pratchett has brainwashed me; in my mind, footnotes always = WIN!)

    In regards to your post specifically directed at me… I dunno, maybe.  I know I have a few areas in my life where I have illogical, unnecessary shame (my polyamory, my penchant for nudity), but I never thought I had it about religion.  Even though I was raised Christian, I was never raised to dislike or distrust other religions – I frequented a Wiccan/New Age store as a teenager, and no one in my family ever tried to make me feel like it was wrong or even weird.  But I dunno; odd ideas can creep in from anywhere.  (Ask me about the time I accidentally brainwashed myself into being racist!  Heh, fun times…)  So it’s possible, but (I think) unlikely.

    (Part of my thoughts on the subject come from the fact that I’m sorta trying to convince myself to buy an obviously-Pagan piece of jewelry; part of me really, really wants one, and is meeting with stubborn resistance from another part of my brain.  So I’m trying to suss out why that resistance exists [and maybe overcome it?  Cuz, shinies are nice...])

  • http://profiles.google.com/mariposakitten Kristy Griffin

    Having trouble grasping this.  I don’t have any argument with your brother’s facts – I can totally see how, if you used contraception to specifically prevent pregnancy and yet one happened anyway, you might then turn to abortion as a second attempt to avoid that thing you didn’t want to happen in the first place.  Whereas, if you didn’t use contraception, it might mean you made poor choices, or it might mean that having a kid wasn’t the worst thing in the world to you, so preventing it wasn’t your top priority – therefore, you may be less likely to seek an abortion.  I mean, I don’t know the statistics, but the logic is sound, I’ll buy it.

    But it sounds like your brother is drawing a conclusion that I’m not quite following.  Is… is he saying that using contraception is somehow bad?  That using contraception leads to a greater willingness to have abortions?  Because that doesn’t… I don’t… that… he is confusing correlation with causation and LOGIC DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY.

    *breathes*

    For me, the abortion debate is always a tricky one.  On the one hand, yes, pro-choice, women should always have the right to choose what is done with their body.  But if I’m being honest, I don’t like the idea.  I do believe that life begins – maybe not at conception, but certainly prior to birth.  If a woman I know miscarries, she mourns and I mourn with her, at the loss of the life inside her.  If a pregnant woman is killed, it’s doubly tragic, as two lives were lost.  This doesn’t mean that I think a woman should be forced to carry a child to term against her will; whether a fetus is a person or not, it’s still inside your body, which means it’s still completely your call whether or not it gets to stay there.  But it does mean that I dislike the idea of abortion in any but the most dire cases, and I want women seeking it to do some fairly intense soul-searching to make sure they’re making the right decision, and for the right reasons.  The problem is, there really is no way to legislate that.  I strongly believe that it is impossible to make a decision like that for someone else; I don’t think the law has any business presuming to do so.  And right now, the debate is divided so sharply along the lines of what the law should and should not allow, there’s really no room for dissention within the ranks.  There isn’t a way to say “I believe you should have the right to an abortion if you choose – for any reason or no reason – to have one, and I still don’t want you to have one” – at least, not without pissing off both sides at once.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I used to play a lot of DOOM, and when playing co-op, ‘He is Risen’ was our warning phrase for Cacodemon ambush, as they would often rise to attack mode. 

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Again according to my brother the all-knowing, the fact that most women who have abortions used contraception in the month of conception “speaks for itself”, and what it says is that women who don’t use contraception feel themselves obligated to continue the pregnancy and women who do use contraception do not feel so obligated.

    *fumes for a moment*

    I currently know two women – one is not having sex, and not planning to have sex any time soon, but is on the pill for medical reasons. The other is having frequent sex, and is not on the pill. Both are anti-abortion.
    Using contraception says very little about someone’s sex life or their opinions about abortion.

    (I know you know that. I just wish I could hunt down your brother and make him realise it too.)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Just read “The Roman Road”, which I hadn’t come across before (not an evangelical). Thanks, Amaryllis.

    I was surprised to see that it missed Romans 8, specifically the bit that says nothing nothing nothing NOTHING can separate me you us anyone from the love of God. Not where you come from, not who you vote for, not who you’re attracted to, not what statements of doctrine you accept, nothing. Getting that is pretty important step on the road, IMHO.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I may be a geek, but I draw the line at being a *dork*.

    For the record Izzy, wheat’s your position on nerds?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart
    I saw a calendar in Italy that…now, keep in mind I understand precious little Italian so could be wrong but…seemed to be “12 Hottest priests in Vatican City” or some such. Certainly the guy on the cover, while fully decked out in tasteful black cassock, was alarmingly Clooney-esque in the face department.

    You mean this? http://www.calendarioromano.or…

    That’s the one. Are they real priests? If so, the Vatican approved it? Yowser.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    JJohnson, FWIW I certainly haven’t thought anything you’ve said was stupid or out of line. Take care.

  • Tonio

    I don’t know “when life begins,” which itself is a problematic concept because we don’t have a precise definition of what constitutes “life.” So any attempt to frame the question in terms of moral absoluites as problematic at best.

    There isn’t a way to say “I believe you should have the right to an
    abortion if you choose – for any reason or no reason – to have one, and I still don’t want you to have one” – at least, not without pissing off both sides at once

    That’s not the fault of the debate being about what the law should allow. The legality is what the debate should be about. When you tell a woman that you don’t want her to have an abortion, the woman can very easily conclude that you see your judgment for her life as superior to her own, even when that isn’t your intention, and even when the woman would never choose abortion herself.

    The reason the debate is divided so sharply is only superficially about the legality. It’s really a proxy for a battle over two irreconcilable views about the role of women in society. Most on the keep-it-legal side rightly point out that the real problem is the number of unwanted pregnancies. Some on the other side recognize this, but they’re far outnumbered by the “You have a choice – don’t fool around” crowd, the ones whose stances amount to punishing women for having sexual desire. I’ve long felt that people who believes abortion is wrong, regardless of their stance on its legality, should automatically favor better sex education, better access to contraception, and really any measures to reduce poverty, because all three will help reduce unwanted pregnancies.

  • Tonio

    de-yoking sex and procreation is the whole point of contraception

    I’ve had a number of people insist to me that the whole concept is wrong, and reduces women to vessels for men’s desire. I’ve tried convincing them that not de-yoking them reduces women to life support systems for wombs, that contraception is almost necessary for women to have full equality and full participation in society. Even stranger, they claim that the possibility of procreation is required for any sort of sexual intimacy. They also believe that the purpose of marriage is to “civilize” men and force them to take responsibility for their children. Like I’ve said before, each time I dig deep enough, I find gender essentialism.

  • Anonymous

    But it sounds like your brother is drawing a conclusion that I’m not
    quite following.  Is… is he saying that using contraception is somehow
    bad?  That using contraception leads to a greater willingness to have abortions?  Because that doesn’t… I don’t… that… he is confusing correlation with causation and LOGIC DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY.

    His email this morning was basically him throwing up his hands and saying “you’re crazy, I’ll pray for you”, so there’s no point me trying your argument on him until the next time this comes up. And he’s Catholic. Contraception IS bad. That’s a premise, not a conclusion.

    There isn’t a way to say “I believe you should have the right to an
    abortion if you choose – for any reason or no reason – to have one, and I still don’t want you to have one”

    I hate like poison the idea of sex-selective abortion. And aborting Down’s children. I just don’t know how to express the idea that some abortions are evil without contradicting my more firmly held belief that elective abortion is at worst ethically neutral.

  • Anonymous

    Most on the keep-it-legal side rightly point out that the real problem
    is the number of unwanted pregnancies. Some on the other side recognize
    this, but they’re far outnumbered by the “You have a choice – don’t fool
    around” crowd, the ones whose stances amount to punishing women for
    having sexual desire. I’ve long felt that people who believes abortion
    is wrong, regardless of their stance on its legality, should
    automatically favor better sex education, better access to
    contraception, and really any measures to reduce poverty, because all
    three will help reduce unwanted pregnancies.

    Brother dear acknowledges that the real problem is unwanted pregnancy, with a side of poverty, but he can’t name anything his favored candidate for president is doing to reduce poverty and his idea of contraception is abstinence or Natural Family Planning. (Know what they call people who rely on those?) Didn’t ask his opinion about sex ed, but since I know damn well he believes sex should always be “open to the possibility of procreation” or whatever the Catholic bullshit is… I tried to explain to him that his arguments treat women’s sexual agency as something to be punished and women themselves as walking uteruses and that both arguments insult and demean and hurt real live women, but the other thing he said this morning was “find an argument that doesn’t involve
    pretending people are insulting you when they’re not, and then we’ll talk.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Ooh, what kind of Wacom?
    A few years ago, flush with annual bonus and tax refund money, I picked up a Cintiq.  Greatest.  Thing.  Ever.
    (Prior to that I had an Intuos tablet.)
    Of course, I can’t say that I actually find drawing to be soothing, and sometimes I think I spend my time doing it out of habit more than any sort of actual enjoyment.
    In any case, take care, enjoy the drawing, and get well soon.

  • Amaryllis

    On quickly catching up with this thread:

    @JJohnson:disqus , if you’re still reading: I hope you’re feeling better soon. And what hapax said about being able to recognized the onset of an episode.

    Discursiveness and footnoting have never been a problem around here, so footnote away. I think most of us worry about being misunderstood or unintentionally saying something stupid. It’s the risk we take when we try to communicate at all, and I’ll stick with a group that tries to keep the stupid to a minimum.

    EllieMurasaki: And he’s Catholic. Contraception IS bad. That’s a premise, not a conclusion.
    No, it’s a conclusion. And not one that inevitably follows from “he’s Catholic.”

    Mind you, I disagree with the chain of reasoning that leads to the conclusion, I think it’s a conclusion built on a kind of idealism that doesn’t work with actual people’s actual lives, I think  that ir’s a conclusion that hurts women, I think your brother is being unreasonable in refusing to consider your point of view. (So is the entire Catholic hierarchy, for that matter.)

    (Where some people footnote, I parenthesize.)

    On elective abortion: there was a sobering piece in the NY Times yesterday, on elective “twin reduction.” Logically, from the pro-choice side, there’s no argument to be made against it, but it made me very uneasy anyway.

  • Izzy

    That particular claim assumes women don’t have any desire of our own, which pisses me off even more, so…yeah.

    Me? I think anyone who’s for legally prohibiting abortion should have to watch both Dirty Dancing and The Cider House Rules . The Is This Really What You Want? Marathon. 

  • Izzy

    Nerds are cool by me. As I understand it, I’m not one–squishy English major, very loose grasp of math or science, couldn’t factor anything if my life depended on it–but they’re not the group that shuns social skills, so. 

  • John (not McCain)

    “The ichthys, or “Christian fish,” has long been a Christian symbol — although it originally may have been a fertility symbol”

    That explains its prominence on a billboard on the side of the largest porno store in western New York.  It’s not vertical, though.

  • Jim Lard

    Hmmm you can buy a “Would a just god really send sinners to hell?  YES!” top for your toddler.  Of all these things, that somehow seems to most disturbing.

  • chris the cynic

    And, because I’m playing Helpful Stranger On The Internet Today, do you keep a food diary?  I started one because of migraines, but I’ve found definite correlations with certain foods and medicines and the onset of depression as well.

    Could you go into detail about this?  Were the correlations really close (e.g. I had tuna for lunch, by the end of the day I was slipping into depression) or more distant (e.g. it looks like if I have Hawaiian pizza I’ll probably have a depressive episode the next week)?

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    “You could have told her about Jesus, but now it’s too late and she’s suffering in Hell for eternity and it’s your fault.”

    I was a shy teenager and the thought of going around knocking on doors or “witnessing” to others tied my stomach up in knots.  And the others had no sympathy.  “Jesus was TORTURED for you, and you’re SHY?!!!  Get busy you wimp!”  The conflict gets too much… you love Jesus, but feel guilty because you’re not running around with a megaphone preaching at everyone you know.

    Then some non christians I knew died… and the above quote was the sentence that kept running through my head over and over.  How can you live with the guilt that because you were a chicken, your friend is suffering unbearable torment?  Forever.

    The conflict can rip your psyche apart.  That may explain why so many evangelicals seem to be mentally disturbed.  I’ve seen plays in my church where that scenario is played out… where unchristian and christian friends are killed in a car accident, and a person has to watch while his best friend is dropped into the Pit.

    “And when we ask ‘How much should we give?’ the only answer is More and More and More!”

  • chris the cynic

     so you mean I’m not the only one who obsessively re-reads her own posts before hitting the “Post” button, terrified of saying something wrong and being misunderstood and/or pissing someone off?

    I used to think I was the only one.

    Do you also get a feeling of dread when returning to a thread where you’ve said something and you’re wondering how, if at all, people have responded?

    @sandeagozu:disqus (Where some people footnote, I parenthesize.)

    I do both.  Why choose?

  • Tonio

    think it’s a conclusion built on a kind of idealism that doesn’t work with actual people’s actual lives

    What kind of idealism does that entail? Whenever I read about Catholic teachings on sexuality, I wonder if one premise is that the human egg doesn’t exist, that men really plant babies in wombs.

    I think anyone who’s for legally prohibiting abortion should have to watch both Dirty Dancing and The Cider House Rules . The Is This Really What You Want? Marathon.

    Never read the latter novel. I know an ardent Catholic who started reading it and put it aside when he saw that Dr. Larch was an abortionist.

    Hmmm you can buy a “Would a just god really send sinners to hell?  YES!”
    top for your toddler.  Of all these things, that somehow seems to most
    disturbing.

    Just once, I would like to hear a hellfire-and-damnation believer plead with his god to rescind the practice of eternal damnation as a horrifically unjust punishment.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    Please forgive the shameless promotion, but whenever someone mentions car fish, I think about the Hitchhiker’s Guide parody I put together a few years ago (I call them bumper fish).

  • http://semperfiona.livejournal.com Semperfiona

    You’re neither of you the only ones.

    I usually end up not posting at all.

  • Madhabmatics

    I don’t get the first, but sometimes I get the second. I solve this by reiterating that I’m cool as heck and maybe tossing on some shades and shooting a thumbs-up at my monitor.

  • http://www.google.com Dragoness Eclectic

    I mean I’m not even saying a good thing – what process does one go through to arrive at a point where the concept of truck nuts becomes in any way logical at all? 

    Methinks it means “My truck is my riding stallion”, or possibly a riding bull. (Or rhino, but I play Runequest). Hippomorphizing your vehicle?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    And I’ve always lol’d hard at the Burger King inspired shirts… Jesus hamburgers, mmm… sacrilegious.

    “They’re sacrilecious!”

  • Anonymous

    Over at evolvefish.com, on the first page of “Stickers”, they’ve now got a bumper sticker showing the ichthys and reading “Remember when this wasn’t a warning label?”

  • Anonymous

    No, it’s a conclusion. And not one that inevitably follows from “he’s Catholic.”

    Oh yeah, that’s right, “if you use contraception despite what the Pope says, you might be a post-Vatican-II Catholic” or however that went. Sorry. I’m fairly certain my brother’s thinking of ‘contraception bad’ as a premise, though.

    On elective abortion: there was a sobering piece in the NY Times
    yesterday, on elective “twin reduction.” Logically, from the pro-choice
    side, there’s no argument to be made against it, but it made me very
    uneasy anyway.

    *Googles* Yeah. Ugh.

  • Golgaronok

    re: truck nuts:

    I asked much the same question on first seeing them, and the best explanation I could come up with is this: someone heard their Hummer/[other gluttonous obscenity of a vehicle] called a phallic substitute and didn’t catch the mocking tone. “Yes”, they thought, “my truck = my wang, and vs. vices . . . er, vice’s verse . . . um, the other way round. Therefore my truck is incomplete without a scrotum attached.”

    Or perhaps the inventor was one who enjoyed exposing himself in public but didn’t care for the subsequent prison sentence and sex offender registration. Who knows.
     


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