Saturday, July 29, 2017

Is Human Baby Cruelty as Concerning as Cow Cruelty?

Do you know what an "ag-gag" law is? I didn't either, until I read this NPR article entitled, "Judge Overturns Utah's 'Ag-Gag' Ban On Undercover Filming At Farms."

An ag-gag law "typically refers to state laws that forbid the act of undercover filming or photography of activity on farms without the consent of their owner--particularly targeting whistleblowers of animals rights abuses at these facilities." The state of Utah, and at least 15 other states, have adopted "ag-gag" laws.

Back to the article. A federal judge in Utah recently found this ag-gag ban unconstitutional. In other words, he ruled that undercover filming or photography should be allowed under the protections of the First Amendment.

The judge stated that the safety of the animals was at issue, and under this ban, the state had failed to ensure that safety. In other words, the well-being of the animals trumped the farmers' privacy. I'm sure the presence of animal cruelty in the past and present also fed into this judgment. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the ban increases the likelihood of animal endangerment, then undercover filming or photography to document and expose such cruelty should not be banned, but protected.

Consider the following from the article (emphasis mine):
The challenge to Utah ban was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. Meyer was arrested in 2013 while she filmed workers using heavy machinery to move a sick cow at a slaughterhouse in Draper City. At the time, Meyer was on public property; the charges against her were later dismissed.
"I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal's abusers," Meyer said after the court ruled in her favor Friday. "It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it's for food."

Now, when I first read the NPR article headline, I immediately thought of the undercover videos made by David Daleidan and Sandra Merritt as they attempted to uncover Planned Parenthood's complicity in the illegal sale of baby parts.

They have been charged with a number of felonies by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They have also been subject to a gag order which prohibits them from making these videos public, even to law enforcement.

In one statement, Mr. Becerra noted,
The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.
But what if the dignity and humanity, the cruel commodification, of human babies is at issue? What if under this gag order, the state of California (not to mention Planned Parenthood) has failed to ensure that safety? In other words, what if PP's violation of laws prohibiting the sale of baby parts trumped their privacy? I'm sure the presence of baby cruelty in the past and present should feed into our conclusion on the matter. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the judicial protection of Planned Parenthood under the guise of First Amendment protections actually ends up protecting criminal activity, then undercover filming to document and expose such criminality should not be banned, but protected.

The irony of these two contemporaneous cases is sad and telling. Shouldn't human baby cruelty be considered at least as concerning as cow cruelty? Is this a justice issue, or is it an issue of who wields the most cultural clout?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Early Morning Exercise in Justification by Faith

Why is it that we often feel most anxious or guilty or defeated or depressed or blah first thing in the morning?

I wonder how often it’s because all we have in the morning is yesterday’s mistakes.

            “Why did I say that?!”
            “I can’t believe I did that!”
            “I can’t believe I gave in to that temptation…again.”
            “I can’t believe I spent that much time scrolling Instagram last night.”
            “That was a waste of money.”
            “I wish I wouldn’t have watched that show.”
“Ugh! I forgot to ______, again.”
“Haven’t got to that yet, or that, or that…or that…or that…or that!”
“I just can’t seem to keep up at work.”
            “The finances are still a mess.”
            “The house is still a mess.”
            “My life is still a mess.”
            “(fill in your failure de jour)”

Yesterday’s failures and folly crowd around us at the foot of the bed, or just outside the shower. And crowding in just behind them are the failures and procrastinations from the last 3-6 months. A great crowd of witnesses to your worthlessness.

We wake up and the weights and sins and burdens are right there waiting to pile on. And we don’t yet have today’s activity yet to help shake them off, or counterbalance them. (Is jumping into the spin class of anxiety an attempt to feel like we’re “doing something about it”?)

If this crowd doesn’t disperse for you until the busyness and productivity of the day gets going, then that’s just the problem.

Our early morning burdens can be a set up for the soul twisting effects of self-justification. We contort ourselves to get a glimpse of our “good side” in the mirror of our self-reflection. We bend over backwards to shift the blame. We scramble to leave our guilt and regrets in the dust. Or, we beat ourselves up and hope the self-flagellation salves our guilty conscience. We have so much to prove, so much to lose. No wonder we’re so tired and weary.

Perhaps these burdensome early morning moments are ordained by God to teach you the gospel. Perhaps a big part of our problem is that we don’t face our first moments like Christians. We face them like everyone else who is trying their best to outrun and shake off and fight off their burdens and failures.

But it’s not our battle to fight.

Our early morning burdens are a set-up to strengthen us by means of justification by faith. Believing the gospel is the early morning exercise routine we all need, every morning.

What if we woke up and worked on tuning our hearts to believe, and then sing, this gospel grace? (Don’t let the familiarity of the words dull you to their power.)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All could never sin erase,
Thou must save, and save by grace.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

What might happen if you read (sung?) those lyrics and then Matthew 11:28-30 and Lamentations 3:21-25, first thing, every morning, for a month?

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Lamentations 3:21-25 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Your God and Savior says his mercies are new every morning. He doesn’t say his favor is available to the high achievers and winners.

Our hands that are empty of activity in the early morning (even if they are full of failures and regrets and burdens) can remind us that “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That’s how we began this race of faith when we woke from our spiritual stupor and saw the glory of Jesus, our rest-giving redeemer. That’s also how we make progress in this race, each and every day, as we wake in need of fresh mercy. And that’s how we will faithfully finish the course, eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, waking from death to see him face to face. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Love Constrained to Obedience

I love these lines from William Cowper's poem, “Love Constrained to Obedience”:

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
To hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child
And duty into choice

Psalm 100:2 "Serve the LORD with gladness!"

Monday, July 3, 2017

Singleness, Dating, and Marriage - Some Interesting Data

Crossway Publishers recently released some research data (from 7000 responders) and summarized their findings in the form of an infographic. You can find the data and some helpful takeaways HERE.

They linked this infographic with two helpful posts about singleness, dating, and marriage: "10 Things You Should Know about Being Single" and "10 Things You Should Know about Dating."

This is all in conjunction with the release of a new book they are publishing by Marshall Segal entitled, Not Yet Married.