Limits to Freedom of Expression

In Canada, as in many western countries, we take for granted our freedom of expression/speech.  This freedom is one of the things that I am thankful for as a Canadian.  However, that freedom is not without limits.  I have an article in the most recent issue of Faith Today in which I explore the limits of freedom of expression in the light of some recent examples.  You can read the article for free online here.

Are School Shootings the Judgment of God?

People around the world are trying to make sense of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It is a terrible tragedy and it has touched us all.  I believe there is an important place for people of faith to speak into this situation.  However, some Christians have a specific and unfortunate take on what happened.  Christian leaders, including James Dobson, have suggested that this is a part of God’s judgment on America for tolerating same-sex marriage and abortion.  You can hear Dobson’s comments here (around the 16 minute mark).

To be fair, I understand that the Old Testament does provide examples of God’s judgment against nations (usually Israel) for their sins.  But it is another thing to suggest that this shooting is a part of God’s judgment.  The examples in the Old Testament were extraordinary circumstances and should not be seen as typical events.  Also, those examples were understood to be judgment as a result of prophetic revelation.  Are people such as Dobson, suggesting such insight?

Here is the problem with saying that this shooting is God’s judgment.  This would require some deeper reflection.  Does it mean that God made the shooter act in such a way to punish the nation?  Does it mean that God would have stopped it if the nation had rejected same-sex marriage and abortion?  Would God have sent angels to take out the shooter?  Would he have surrounded the victims with force fields?  Think about what you are saying when you say this is judgment.  Follow the logical conclusions and see if it makes sense.  Instead of taking this tragedy and using it to promote an agenda, see it as the tragedy it is and demonstrate the love of Christ.

Ethics at the Edge of Life

Questions of abortion, artificial insemination, end of life care, assisted suicide and euthanasia are not just theoretical but are real life.  Biola University offers a series of lectures on these important issues, taught by Scott Rae and Scott Klusendorf.  You can find the video on iTunes here and just the audio here.

After-Birth Abortions and Infanticide

Philosopher Peter Singer is famous for advocating infanticide, acknowledging that if it is okay to kill a baby in the womb, nothing magical happens in the journey down the birth canal.  Recently, two ethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, in Australia have argued in a the Journal of Medical Ethics for the same sort of thing.  You can read about their article here.  I would like to respond by making a few observations.

First, I must be honest by saying that I have two autistic children and so I am far from impartial on this issue.

Secondly, this is a dangerous game they are playing.  They are advocating the death of someone and defending it by redefining the victim.  Find the killing of a baby as offensive?  Then all we have to do is redefine them as being outside the category of ‘person.’  Now it is no big deal.  This is the same sort of defence that the Nazis used in the holocaust.  I understand that comparing an opponent to the Nazis is unpopular but in this case, there is a parallel.  How would the authors of this article feel if the state redefined what they are and used that as support in taking away their rights?

The argument by these authors reveals a deep problem within society.  They acknowledge that some special needs children live good and fulfilling lives.  At the same time, they suggest that the personal comfort and ease of the parents outweighs the potential good life of the child.  As a parent of five children, I am not sure when personal comfort or ease of the parents ever became a priority.  Frankly, even the parent of a healthy child would probably have an easier life in terms of money and leisure time if the baby was killed shortly after birth.  Is this really acceptable?  Work needs to be done on what society considers virtue and where personal comfort fits on that scale.

This article focuses on the wish of the parents.  If the parents think it would be easier if the child is killed, their wish should be honoured.  If this was ever put into practice, how long before society in general gets the say?  The benefit for society is hinted at in this article.  How much money is spent on health issues for people born with disorders or at least having the genetic marking that would identify issues later on?  How much could society save if these people were killed at birth?  If this door is ever opened, how could society stay uninvolved?  Why should others pay for the choice some parents make not to kill their baby?

Finally, I want to acknowledge that these authors and others are at least being consistent.  If babies inside the womb are allowed to be killed, then there is no reason that babies outside the womb should be protected.  If people are repelled by what these ethicists are saying, they should also rethink what they think about abortion, especially late term abortions.

I want to say that as a parent of two autistic children, I am thankful they were not aborted and they were not a victim of infanticide.  It is hard being the parents of special needs children but it is also hard being parents of typical children.  These children are not a drain on us or our society.  They bring great joy and emotional maturity to all that they encounter.  No redefinition will ever change that.


When It’s Wrong to be Right: Abortion

My first introduction to the abortion debate was in a Political Science seminar at Brock University.  At the time I had not taken a position on the issue.  I was shocked by the emotion involved and was surprised at the anger the pro-choice side had toward pro-life, often accusing them of being mysogynist.

I have since taken a pro-life stance.  I am still surprised at the reactions by pro-choice supporters.  I was involved in one peaceful abortion protest where the signs were closely regulated as to their message.  The anger by abortion supporters was unfortunate.  To some people, one of the biggest problems with conservative Christians is that many of them are pro-life.  Pro-life is seen as anti-women and therefore something that should not be tolerated.

I find the abortion debate extremely frustrating.  One side says that they want to protect the life of an unborn baby and another that they want to protect the rights of a woman.  When you listen to the debates, it is as if they are having two different conversations.  One side sees the other as anti-woman and the other as anti-baby, when neither is the case.

There is a part of me that would like to be pro-choice, in fact I am with any other decision with a woman’s body.  What stops me is that this one choice will affect and in fact end the life of another human being.  Never has it entered into my mind that abortion should be opposed in order to take rights away from women.  Since pro-choice supporters are good people, they are forced to deny that a fetus is a human being.  This is problematic.  For example, in some areas, criminals can be charged with double homicide if they murder a pregnant woman.  Also, if a person wants to have a child, there is very real grief if the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage.  It is not the same grief of a missed opportunity such as if conception does not take place in the desired month.  There is a real feeling of loss.

My plea to pro-choice people who are angry with conservative Christians is to take a moment and imagine how they would react if they encountered a situation where children were being murdered.  How would you feel?  What would you do?  You might not think that abortion is the killing of a human baby, but considering the belief that life begins at conception, most actions (violent action excepted) by pro-life people are actually quite reasonable.

As a conservative Christian, I will continue to oppose abortion.  But I think the best way to do it is not to condemn people who have chosen abortion but to give people options by being willing to help with the physical needs of pregnant women and being willing to adopt when possible.  However, I do not believe these positions deserve the hatred of opponents of the pro-life movement.