What I Write, How I Write It, and Why

July 27, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Photo credit: zen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Credit: zen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I write my message on issues. I craft my message on hunches.  I hope with my message to make a difference.

These past few weeks have presented me with no shortage of blog-worthy issues to write about. Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner. The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. On the heels of a horrific racist shooting in Charleston, a fight erupted over whether and how to display the Confederate flag. And a secret video of a Planned Parenthood executive talking casually about abortion and the sale of aborted fetal tissue was posted on YouTube. It’s been a busy few weeks.

As I’ve been thinking about the crush of big stories that have occupied my thoughts, something struck me regarding two of the stories about which I had written. When writing about the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, my tone was gentle and measured – concerned about ethics, but much more focused on people. When writing about Planned Parenthood, my tone was considerably more straightforward and even somewhat brash. Why?

I write my message on issues. I craft my message on hunches. I hope with my message to make a difference.  I just had a hunch that the legalization of same-sex marriage needed to be handled more delicately and interpersonally than the revelation that Planned Parenthood is allegedly selling aborted organs for possible profit. So I crafted my message accordingly.

Ontologically, of course, what advocates of same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood promote is very similar. Both tout what one author has referred to as “erotic liberty” – that is, freedom to have sex with whom you want, when you want, and how you want without having to consider or confront the natural and reasonable entailments sex brings with it. Sexual desire and autonomy, in this view, cannot be impeded by gender or pregnancy.

But even though these two issues share a great deal in common ontologically, they are perceived in very different ways epistemologically in our broader culture. In other words, the nature of these things in and of themselves may be quite similar, but how people think and talk about these things is very different.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, there is a tension between what people know and what they believe. Most people know that Christianity places certain ethical restrictions on sexual expression. But many cannot bring themselves to believe that these ethical restrictions are reasonable or loving. In a world where it is increasingly difficult – and, I would add, unnecessary and unreasonable – not to have friends, relatives, coworkers, or, at the very least, acquaintances who are in same-sex relationships, believing that such relationships deserve anything less than a full-throated endorsement is a hard pill for many to swallow. After all, so many of these relationships seem healthy and loving. So even if many know what Christianity teaches about sexual intimacy, they have a hard time believing it’s right.

Likewise, when it comes to Planned Parenthood and abortion, there is also a tension between what people know and what people believe. In this instance, however, the tension is inverted. The problem is not so much with what people intuitively believe as it is with what people intellectually know. Most people – regardless of their political sensibilities – can’t help but be viscerally repulsed by Planned Parenthood executives who talk casually about a “‘less crunchy’ technique to get more whole specimens” of aborted organs for medical research and how, when performing an abortion, you have be “cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax … I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” It is hard to escape a nagging belief that this is not an outright assault against human dignity and life. This is why, when I address abortion, I quickly strip away sterile terms like “dilation,” “curettage,” “aspiration,” “evacuation,” and “Intrauterine Cranial Decompression” to write in frank and sometimes startling terms about what abortion really is: the ending of life in utero. Intuitively, people already believe this. I want people to intellectually know, however, just how grave the situation really is with Planned Parenthood.

In the case of same-sex marriage, people often know what Christianity says about sexual ethics, they just have a hard time believing it. When it comes to Planned Parenthood’s practices, there are a great number of people, including those who publicly support abortion, who believe what Planned Parenthood has done is wrong.  They just don’t always know how to express their concerns in ethically rigorous ways.

It is this distinction between knowing and believing that shapes how I have written over these past few weeks. When I write about same-sex marriage, I know I am diving into deeply held and tender beliefs about love. So I address these beliefs tenderly. When I write about Planned Parenthood, I know I am up against a whole host of euphemisms meant to obscure what people actually know about abortion. So I cut through the euphemisms with candor. In the first instance, I’m trying to persuade people to believe a little bit differently. In the second instance, I’m trying to bring attention to something I think people need to know more about.

When we address today’s cultural issues as Christians, it is important to ask ourselves: What are we trying to do? Are we trying to change a belief? Are we trying to share important knowledge? And how do the ways in which we address broad concerns actually make things better?

Though my approach to addressing society’s issues du jour is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive, I hope it proves helpful – at least in a limited way.  Frankly, it is born out of a concern that, all too often, when addressing cultural controversies, many of us who are Christians wind up doing little more than beating our chests in self-righteous indignation at our culture’s ills. The problem is, even if this makes us feel better, it does nothing to make our world better. Our world needs gentle persuasion when it believes wrongly. It needs frank facts when it lacks knowledge. But most of all, it needs people who are devoted not only to being right about issues, but to doing good for our world. This is why Jesus, during His earthly ministry, wasn’t just right in what He said, He was righteous in how He said it. And thanks to Him, the world has never been the same.

May Jesus’ legacy be evident in our lives.

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Entry filed under: Devotional Thoughts. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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