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Giving new meaning to the phrase "children of God"


They say writing is hard work. Heretofore I have never considered writing "work" (not since university, anyway), because I have only engaged in it when I felt like it.

My goal in this space is to produce pieces on a regular basis. Now I understand writing being hard work, because I have "blogger's block". I don't feel like writing. Nevertheless, here I am.

Enough meta-blogging. Here is some content.

I am a lector at my parish, so I have a "workbook" containing all the Sunday readings as well as commentary. The commentary for
today's Old Testament reading remarks that the Israelites in this selection ask what must be the second most irritating question in the Bible:

"Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" (Ex 17:3)

Now anyone who is familiar with teenagers will be able to hear the sarcastic whine in that question. And there's more: the commentary also left a teaser saying that the first most irritating question is in Exodus 14. I looked up that chapter, and the question they are referring to jumps out:

"Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?" (Ex 14:11)

Whoa Nellie! Now that's a doozy: "Why'd you drag us all the way out here to die? Aren't there enough graves in Egypt?" There's more. I found a grumble that ties those two questions:

"Would that we had died at the LORD'S hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!" (Ex 16:3)

There's that sarcastic whine again: "I wish we could have died in Egypt where at least we had food, instead of starving to death out here!"

I think of the book of Exodus as an allegory how we relate to God as we endure the human condition. Despite the very concrete and tangible ways the Lord reveals himself to the wandering Israelites, they can barely keep their minds on him; instead they are distracted by their own hunger and thirst, let alone by shiny golden calves. It is as if God gives us, today, the book of Exodus in order to say, "I will chase you down until the day you die and will never abandon you, but see what happens when I do all the work?"

The moral is that it is easier to let God come to us when we are invested in the process. Thus God gives us times when he seems silent so we must strain to hear, and times when he seems absent so we must strain to see.

I don't mean our own works justify us; that's heresy. I mean that God is a clever leader, who makes it seem like we are helping out even when it is all his doing.

God is the original Dale Carnegie. Or, another way to look at it, the original mother of a toddler.

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Feminism pro Life

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Today is the 188th birthday of Susan B. Anthony, an early American feminist. She is best known as a suffragist, although she was an ardent activist in many areas of women's rights.

Anti-abortion feminism

Anthony had much to say about abortion, which she referred to on at least one occasion as "child murder." During Anthony's life, abortion in America was condemned by men -- who recognized the erstwhile mothers as the only guilty parties. In her publication The Revolution, Anthony wrote, "All the articles on this subject that I have read have been from men. They denounce women as alone guilty, and never include man in any plans for the remedy."

She once lamented, "Guilty? Yes. No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!" This was a minority sentiment then, and all the moreso now. Eerily, modern feminists vigorously defend the "right" of a woman to undertake this burden of conscience, while devoting nary a word to the partners and parents who pressure women into abortions. The term they use, "pro-choice," is quite a misnomer, as many women who undergo abortions feel they have no choice at all.

In fact, as long as it is legal to perform this act of violence on a woman, those who feel her impending motherhood is not in their best interest will urge her to suffer it -- without conscience.

Especially egregious is the argument that even in the absence of other legal avenues to abortion, women who conceived as the result of rape should be "allowed" to abort. The raw truth is that an act of violence (abortion) can never heal another act of violence (rape). Claiming otherwise to rape survivors during their most vulnerable weeks following the attack is unforgivable, yet many politicians who claim they are pro-life have succumbed to this irrational but passionate argument.

Natural Allies

Anthony recognized that oppressed groups make good allies, on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Thus she also opposed slavery and supported voting rights for blacks. Speaking at a conference in 1859, she asked, "Where, under our Declaration of Independence, does the Saxon man get his power to deprive all women and Negroes of their inalienable rights?"

The modern feminists' movement and its obsession with "abortion rights" is puzzling, considering that unborn babies are another natural ally of women: both are historically victims of a society that has placed them in a position of lesser power. Women, being able to speak up for themselves, should feel sympathetically inclined to represent those who cannot. Anthony's friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton remarked in a letter, "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."

Yes, it really happens

The UCLA student group Live Action publishes The Advocate, a pro-life student newspaper that has made national news with its investigative reporting. Its undercover investigations have shown that the UCLA student health center offers pregnant students only one "choice," abortion, and that the local Planned Parenthood turns a blind eye to reports of statutory rape.

This is what legalized abortion has brought to American women. To the mainstream feminist movement, I have to say: Nice job. You really screwed this one up.

Feminists for Life of America

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The ethics of organ donation

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The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 banned the sale of human organs and non-replinishable tissues in the United States. Prior to that, "donors" sold organs such as kidneys for transplant, and these donors typically were among the poorest members of society.1

The ban on the sale of organs means the most vulnerable members of society are not exploited for their body parts. The cost of this policy is that donated organs are scarce; simple economics suggest that many more would be available if the donors could receive compensation. In fact, during the early 1980s, when organ sales were legal, the average wait time for a donor kidney was less than a year, but today it is more than five years.2 (Most discussions on the sale of organs center on kidneys because these can be given by living donors, unlike most organs.)

Dr. Arthur Matas, former president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, has proposed legalizing the sale of kidneys under a system regulated to protect (he says) donors.2 South Carolina State Senator Ralph Anderson endorses a different kind of compensation; he sponsored a bill that would have allowed prisoners to receive reduced sentences in return for donating organs.3 (I was not able to find out by "press time" whether this bill passed.)

While living kidney donors have historically been poor, transplant recipients are more likely to be rich and/or well-insured. While organ transplant lists don't take ability to pay into consideration, the poor and uninsured often don't make it onto the lists at all.4

Increasing organ donation and saving the lives of those with organ failure is a worthy goal. And the economics are obvious. But economics are not ethics.

What Dr. Matas and Sen. Anderson don't acknowledge is that nobody has a right to a transplanted organ. It's a privilege to receive body parts from another individual. And providing a material incentive to "donate" is known to result in the exploitation of those in desperate circumstances -- the poor and, in the case of Sen. Anderson's proposal, the imprisoned. How many free, financially secure people would be willing to undergo dangerous surgery to sell irreplaceable body parts? The fact that these vulnerable members are not eligible to receive organs for financial reasons underlines the inequity of these ideas.

It's important for us as a society to protect our most vulnerable members. And that means we cannot consider mutilating them when they are desperate. You could call it Frankensteinian blackmail.

Watch this space for follow-up articles on organ sales worldwide.


1. "Policy Debate: Should there be a market for human organs?" South-Western College. (http://www.swlearning.com/economics/policy_debates/human_organs.html)

2. "Doctor Proposes Sale of Kidneys." John McKenzie, November 19, 2007. ABC News. (http://www.abcnews.go.com/WNT/Health/story?id=2977619&page=1)

3. "Give a Kidney to Shorten Your Prison Sentence?" Gigi Stone, March 9, 2007. ABC News. (http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/LegalCenter/story?id=2940289&page=1)

4. "Need an Organ? It Helps To Be Rich." Joy Victory, January 20, 2006. ABC News. (http://www.abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=1514702)

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Product (RED)

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I just bought my first iPod, a tiny iPod Shuffle. Since I bought it online, I was able to get a pretty dark red one instead of silver or pastel. It was a web exclusive. A red iPod doesn't really seem remarkable, but this wasn't just a red iPod: it was a Product (RED) iPod.

Product (RED) (hereafter PR, as the full name is hard to type) was conceived by such luminaries as Oprah and Bono as a way to raise funds for AIDS treatment in Africa. The PR website features a "manifesto" that talks about choice, as in, we all have a choice whether to help poor AIDS sufferers in poor dark backward Africa.

Forgive my cynicism. I'm idealistic. I always thought donating was something you did to help others, not to brag about helping others by flaunting your PR products. Actually, I wonder how much "help" really goes to the AIDS relief effort. A dollar per product? A penny?

PR is an overt marketing ploy. It's brilliant, really: it feeds on Western consumer culture by making the purchase of unnecessary stuff -- already a noble pursuit -- into a bona fide virtue. No sacrifice necessary! Just buy the stuff you would already buy, except you get the privilege of imagining that you are actually making a donation -- although you don't pay any extra for the product you buy. Of course not -- remember, there's no sacrifice necessary! And you get to feel like such a generous, righteous soul without slowing down your material lifestyle.

Yes, I bought a PR iPod. As I said, I liked the color. Yes, I hope some of the purchase price actually helps someone. But no, the availability of PR did not make me buy the player -- I already planned on it -- and emphatically no, I don't think I did any great or generous thing by buying it.

Coming soon: Organs -- they're not just for donating anymore!

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Why we practice penance

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Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. About ten years ago, a young adult friend of mine -- a cradle Catholic -- said on Ash Wednesday, "Nobody ever explained to me why we give up things for Lent." Ever since, I have wanted to write this, but being a procrastinator, it took me a decade. This is for Catholics who missed that part in their formation, as well as non-Catholics who are curious.

We practice penance to remit the temporal punishment due to sin. Although Christ's sacrifice was complete and thus opened the gates of Heaven to us, his sheep often cling to sin. We know that nothing can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless it is perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). The remission of temporal punishment sanctifies the attachment to sin that we cling to, which would otherwise keep us from being perfect (CCC 1863). Penance and prayer (before death) and Purgatory (after death) are the ways Catholics believe this punishment can be remitted. We may also offer our penance for the sake of other people's temporal punishment, such as when we pray for the souls in Purgatory (CCC 1032).

If you are not Catholic, you don't have to believe in temporal punishment or Purgatory to make sacrifices during Lent. There are at least three more good reasons for Christians to do so, each less selfish than the one before:

To break our attachments to the world. Christ said that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we should give up not only all our possessions, but even our families (Lk 18:22-30). Although he was using hyperbole, his point remains clear: you cannot be attached to God if you are attached to the things of this world (Lk 16:13).

To unite ourselves to Christ's sacrifice, and to thus become more Christ-like. The nature of love is such that the lover becomes like the beloved. God, the lover of us, became like us, in fact became one of us. We, if we are lovers of God, naturally want to become like Christ.

Out of pure love. Our sacrifice is a gift to Christ. The nature of love is also such that it requires sacrifice when creatures (i.e. anything except God) is involved. This is why women suffer to bear children, why men vow celibacy to become priests, why both sexes give up things they want for the good of their families. In giving up our pleasures and replacing them with suffering, it is as if we are offering that pleasure to Christ instead of indulging in it ourselves.

Any errors in the above are due to my own misunderstanding, not to any rejection of, nor error in, Catholic teaching. Bible verses are meant as illustrations rather than as proof texts.

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WFMW: Keeping track of perishable food

This post has been moved to my other blog, The Road to Black. To post a comment, visit the link.

If you are like me, you often forget about perishable food you have bought until it's already spoiled. I like to keep a lot of produce on hand, and sometimes buy "special" cheeses and bread products (like bagels), so this was an expensive problem.

I solved it with a dry-erase board, on which I list all the perishable goodies we have on hand. As I eat or toss out each item, I erase it from the board, and I fill in the new items after shopping trips. It's in a high traffic location, so I am reminded of these things every time I pass by. We have far less spoilage now! (My personal practice is to not list the basic items I try to always have on hand -- celery, sandwich bread, cheddar cheese.)

Actually, this is a dual-purpose board. On the top half, I keep track of items we need, which I copy to a grocery list on shopping day. Any coupons I may have go here, too.

Works For Me Wednesday is hosted by Rocks In My Dryer.

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