Words Have Weight

Thoughts from a youngish husband, father, and pastor

here comes golf

One thing I did not see coming in life is that I play golf now.

I guess I should have seen indications that it was a possibility, that I was prone to this illness. The first time I ever picked up a golf club, a friend had taken me to a crappy driving range near Pittsburgh to help me after my only experience being dumped. I was flummoxed at how a tiny ball that didn’t move could miss my golf club so many times. But I absolutely loved what it felt and sounded and looked like when I connected. That little ball went very far (or so it seemed). Nothing came of that, though. Years later, before my wife and I moved to Cape Town, we lived with my parents for part of the summer. I found myself watching the Golf Channel. I just found it soothing and I liked the way it looked. It was relaxing.

South Africa is a pretty golf-friendly country. I played my first non-miniature golf course while we lived there. A little nine-hole, par-3 course. I had no idea what I was doing. We played that a couple of times there. Again… nothing really came of it. I think I came back from South Africa after that year and bought a cheap set of starter clubs from Dicks and went to a driving range a couple of times. But that’s it. I was embarrassed by the bag of clubs wasting space in the garage for years and years and years. I would never have gone to an actual golf course. It would have taken me hours and hours to get around and I really hate being terrible at things in front of people. Real Golfers would hate me for being out there.

Then COVID happened.

It turns out, golf is a pretty COVID-friendly activity. And it was an especially grand time to learn the game, as many, many people found out. I was bored and stuck at home and I started watching YouTube videos and hitting practice balls. Someone told me that locals had, for years, snuck onto the local municipal course for free, to practice and play a little. I could go out there and be a lone and hit balls. I could even take my kids with me and let them wander the green spaces while I figured out how to get that dumb little ball to stop dodging all over the place.

I started actually playing. I played by myself, mostly. On my days off. I walked alone early before many people were out there. I filled the quiet of the morning with my own muttering and frustrated questions and self-congratulations on the (very) rare occasion I did something not awful. I played with other people, friends, for the first time. That was actually a big step for me. Again, I hate being the butt of the joke while I’m seriously trying hard at something. But I found out that… everybody is the butt of the joke. At least, the people that I play with are in that position. I know players that are actually good. Who regularly score birdies. I try not to play with them because I don’t want to slow them down or hex them with my awful swing.

The normal people who buy really cheap balls because they’re lost in such great quantities? We’re all laughing at each other. So it was fine. In fact… it was fun.

So here I am. Playing golf. I never thought it would be me.

My family did not play golf. Golf was for rich people, as far as I knew. It was for rich, stuffy white guys who had country club memberships. It never even occurred to me that it would be something I’d like. I never thought about golf. I knew who Tiger Woods was. I knew he was dominant. I watched a little here and there. But I was never part of that club because, literally, I could never be a part of that club. We would never be the kind of people with that kind of money. I never will be.

Golf can be, without a doubt, an expensive sport. What I’ve learned, though, is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Normal people in the places where golf is from (places like Scotland and Ireland) play amazing golf courses and play recreationally all the time without being rich people. In America, certainly a significant portion of the golf landscape is occupied by very expensive private clubs that no one like me could ever get a look into. It’s a shame, really, that so much of the sport’s landscape in our country is dominated by this high-walled snobbery.

Golf is already hard enough to get into without ever touching those really nice courses. The equipment is expensive. Actually learning the game is expensive. Practicing is expensive. Because the ball goes so far, if you want to practice hitting all your shots, you have to pay decent cash to go hit golf balls into someone’s empty field. Every time you want to play the actual game, you have to pay someone. I can go walk 9 holes nearby for $12. That’s unbelievably cheap and I’m very grateful for it. To play decent to nice places? Whew. SO much more expensive than that. And guess what? If you don’t play regularly (or at least, if I don’t) you get even worse, really quickly.

There’s no doubt it can be and in many ways IS an expensive hobby. So I just never saw it coming for me.

But there’s something about it…

The colors of it, for one. I love the green of the grass that change colors with the passing of the light throughout the day. I like the feel of walking on turf, of padding on greens. I so often find myself hitting off the fairway, and it’s amazing to me how longer grass can react so differently each time with both my metal golf club and this little ball. When I’m not out there being followed by those blasted mowers (I hate those morning mowers so much), the quiet of it intermixed with the sound of club to ball is so soothing.

I still love to watch the ball go far. It never goes far enough or straight enough or high enough for me, of course. But it’s still amazing how far those little balls can travel. I sure do wish I could make them go where I wanted, though.

This is something that has amazed me: I am so, so bad. It makes me so angry in so many different ways. I am truly the worst player out there so many times. It does not matter how much I practice. I am the worst. And yet, I can finish losing half a dozen balls (net, because I’ll find some more out there and that will soften my losses a bit) and be so, so angry at this stupid little game…. and I cannot wait to do it all over again. I really do not like puzzles, generally speaking. But this one is a puzzle I want to keep coming back to over and over again. I finally hit a good shot and, inevitably, I think, “This is who I really am. I’ve figured it out.” And of course, I haven’t. It isn’t who I am. I am all the other terrible shots. The good one was the anomaly.

But I lie to myself and search for the next one.

After a couple years of playing, I realize that I am always going to be very bad. At first, this really bothered me. And don’t get me wrong, I’d love to not be really bad. I’d love to have 20 lessons over the next few months instead of the four total I’ve had in my life. I’d love to have clubs fitted especially to me, instead of just the ones I could afford on the used rack or from the discount brand. I’d love to have lots of practice so that I could just be a decent-to-good recreational golfer. Nothing fancy. Nothing crazy. The occasional ability to break 80. Shock at shooting over 95. That kind of thing.

And I will almost certainly never be even that good.

No, I will always be a bad golfer. And I think I have the opportunity to learn something from that. I don’t want to be the “it’s about the journey, not the destination” guy… but it kind of is? I need to take this hobby for what it is and accept what I have been given. At any given moment, I have been given those moments with those friends in that place. And that is surely a great gift. I will never, ever conquer this game that is very, very hard. It will always bully me around the course. IF. If I view it as a war with the course.

I almost never keep score now. I used to do it to see if I was getting better. Now? I know I’m not. I go out there and play the puzzle. I try different things. I try to look at my surroundings and enjoy the walk and the quiet. I try to swear at myself a little less. If I’m playing with friends, I try to accept the being the worst one and let it be medicine for my persistently arrogant soul.

Yeah, I just didn’t see all of this coming. But I’m glad it has. I look forward to many, many walks as I get older. I look forward to a puzzle I’ll never solve, to those rare good shots that delude me even further. I look forward to the times with friends and, maybe one day, my children or grand children.

I’m over the surprise and embarrassment of finding out that golf has come from me. I don’t have to understand how it happened to me. It has.

Now I can just go play.

book response: rachel held evans’ “searching for sunday”

I’m not quite sure when I first became aware of Rachel Held Evans’ work. It was probably through Twitter. I wasn’t a regular reader of her blog. It was mostly occasional. I was a kind of tourist to her world. If I’m honest, it was more of the “watch the car crash” variety of spectator-ship. Not that she was a car crash in my book, per se. I mean, I definitely found her annoying at times. Certainly, I found her very much wrong on some things. I hated how she made straw men (at times) out of people that disagreed with her. I found it so irksome. I wouldn’t venture to guess how many times she made me roll my eyes in disgust.

But then again, I never got worked up about her work in the same way others did. I had sympathy with her on some things (the overly-intertwined nature of evangelicalism and politics, the value of women’s ordination, etc.). I appreciated her impetus to call things out and make room for people with doubts. I never felt like we were on the same team necessarily… but I also didn’t like to see people torching her or delighting in taking shots at her.

Anyway… she was never a major figure in my mental or emotional world. But a few years ago, when she died quite suddenly and tragically, I was really grieved by her death. Yes, I know we should grieve every death. Every life lost matters. Yes. I agree. But something about who she was and how she went about things made hers an especially sad, moving stranger’s death.

I’d been meaning to read Searching for Sunday for some time now. Recently, I listened to a copy of the audio book from the library.

I was really surprised by what I found there. I was moved.

Much of the book is about Rachel’s doubt. Doubt about the nature of God and Christianity. Even more, about her doubt that she’d ever find a home in, find faith in the Church. It’s part memoir, part exposition using the traditional seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox church.

She was a fantastic writer. I knew that already, but her prose really sparkled at times. I appreciated her humility with her own story. She was self-deprecating in a really charming way that came across as sincere. She evoked some real chuckles about youth group culture that will ring true to anyone who grew up around the same time.

Two experiences really jumped out to me: I was so moved by her love for the Church and her real faith in the very core of what binds Christians together. I mean, she clearly wrestled with those things. But it seems so clear that only someone with real love would wrestle like that. She wrestled because she deeply cared. She was grappling with something that held her life. I knew that to some degree about her, but I think this book really laid that bare. I found it really beautiful, really moving.

The other experience that jumped out to me was some attitude I realized in myself at some point in the book. I’m not even sure what point of the book it was. But I remember thinking/feeling something along the lines that I was relieved for her that, now, at least, all of her mistakes about God were corrected. When I heard those thoughts, recognized them for what they were, I was so embarrassed. The subtext of that sentiment is that she would now see things clearly, see things rightly, see things MY way. Because I, of course, am right about it all.

This is not to say that we can have no idea about who is right and wrong about things. I think she was very wrong about human sexuality, for example. My opinion hasn’t changed on that. But my default attitude and assumption, even for a moment, that I will one day see God face to face and be… unsurprised? That is shockingly arrogant. Well… maybe not so shocking. I’ve hung around my own head for a long time to be too shocked.

I imagine that when I see Jesus, I will immediately recognize him. But I also think that I will be surprised by him. I expect to have gotten so much wrong. To realize I misunderstood or had my view of him misshapen. I think that’s part of being human. And when that is all revealed, will I really be holding up any kind of measuring rod to anyone else to see who was most right? I’ll be too busy being overwhelmed and surprised. And so, so happy.

I had to confess my own sin in that moment. I sinned against God and sinned against my sister.

She still did stuff that made me frustrated or made me roll my eyes. I still really disagree wit some of her stuff. But the experience of hearing her love for Jesus, her hope for the Church, her need for Resurrection… it was powerful. I can’t help but feel even more keenly that all of the aggravation I felt towards her in the past (however much it was), was that found between siblings. (And let’s be clear: it wasn’t “between.” She had no idea who I was.)

Some of what she said carried all the more weight in light of her untimely death. And it made me sad for her death all over again.

It also made me look forward to Resurrection and the setting right of all that’s wrong.

I trust her confession, her trust was not misplaced. That Jesus delighted to surprise her as much as he will delight to surprise me as well. Though I hope that day is long in the future, this book did made me think of my own death and dwell on the truth of Christ’s victory over it.

What she was searching for was found in Jesus. And I’m glad he’s big enough, faithful enough, good enough for people like me too.

Thanks be to God.

for me and my house: individualism is for everyone

Yesterday was the 4th of July and I tried to spend some time thinking about what the day means and what my response should be as a Christian. The question, “What should my response be” my feel like a ludicrous, even sacrilegious question for some people. Jesus is basically wrapped in an American flag and we worship him as the image of the bald eagle descends on the church. That is not how I see things, to say the least. Our church doesn’t have an American flag (or any flag) in our building because the Cross is our flag.

But I’m not anti-American either. I’ve lived outside the country, traveled outside the country in addition to that. I love other cultures and foods and customs. But I’m also glad that I’m an American. There are many advantages and benefits. I think American ideals are legitimately good and were even revolutionary in the 18th century. Americans are generous economically (in terms of aid distributed). We at least used to have a reputation as being particularly hospitable to refugees and those in trouble. I’m grateful for all of those things. So I tried to give thanks to God for the many blessings and privileges I enjoy here.

It’s also worth reflecting upon how being American affects me and many other Christians in this country. This came to mind as I read this piece by Tish Harrison Warren. I really commend the whole thing to you. It’s about how Christians, especially pro-life Christians, ought to care about economic justice, specifically care for the poor and wealth disparity in a society. Much of her piece is to show, through Christian history, how frequently income gaps and poverty were seen as a major, perhaps even primary means of social engagement in the Church.

I think Tish is right that, for many Christians, especially white evangelicals, this is entirely a question for individual social action. And it is! Historically, active church-goers have been very generous people in their communities (on average). This may be shifting a bit as religious labels and commitments and institutional trust change, but historically that has been the case. However, for many people, this is only a question of individual charity.

My instinct says that this is a place where being American has particularly inflected our expression of being Christian. I think Christians in other nations probably understand the need to address poverty as a national, governmental problem and an arena for individual generosity. It’s also entirely possible that Christians in other nations are influenced the other way, prone to only look at government programs and not individual generosity. I don’t know about that part.

This is only an example, though, of what I think is a primary place for American Christians to exercise self-suspicion. Our country, our culture particularly emphasizes the supreme importance of the individual. In America, rugged individualism is part of our national mythos. This cultural ideology has fueled incredible innovation and capitalist conquest. But there is a great cost: every problem comes down to each individual person. Of course, this also protects Americans from a mindset that pawns every problem off onto a governing institution. It’s a trade-off.

What we have to acknowledge as a people and particularly as Christians, that it is indeed a trade. And we ought to be careful.

I see this individualism theologically all the time. More and more Christians today, in this country, wander into theological and church practice territory that is entirely inconceivable to most Christians in most places and times. Theological decisions (or capitulations) are made all the time on a version of this rationale: I have read the Bible myself and I personally have decided what this means and I personally do not feel that I am wrong. Therefore, I will do/believe this. Here are the verses and podcasts and experiences that confirm my decision.

So many decisions about economic justice or gun rights or lifestyle choices (I can buy what I want!) or church structures or spiritual beliefs come down, ultimately, to a concentration on the individual and not the community. The Almighty “I.”

This is a trans-national problem. It is occurring in many countries in this world. But we have to be aware that we, as Americans, are particularly susceptible to this kind of thinking. “You can’t tell me what to do” is one of our de facto national mottos. We see it in movies, in books, and in our churches all the time.

This is not a Christian mode of thinking.

Your individual experience, interpretation, and conscience are all very important. I think the Bible actually teaches that. But all of that is nested into a larger, communal way of thinking. The story of the Bible is ultimately the story of the revelation of God in one God-Man: Jesus Christ. However. Jesus’ story is inseparable from the story of Israel. A people. From the Church. A people.

Throughout Christian history, it has not been left to the individual to determine what is right and what is wrong. The Church provides the context and the guardrails for personal experience. That sounds so dangerous and threatening to so many people in America. And let’s be clear: it has often gone horrendously wrong! The community, the authority has been abusive and oppressive. We acknowledge that. But a radical association of individuals is NOT what the Church is meant to be either. If you come to me and tell me that God has told you that you can leave your wife to explore new romantic experiences, my answer will be pretty simple (assuming there’s no abuse or adultery or something like that): God did not tell you that. Your interpretation is wrong. You should submit to the communal authority of the Church and live in accordance with your vows.

The society, the community decides for you to bind your individual will to what is right.

That is radical, unAmerican thinking. But I very much do believe it is Christian thinking. And I actually do think most Christians would agree with that specific example.

But that mode of thinking is often absent from the kinds of things that Tish talks about or our nation laments when looking at tragic shootings in Uvalde or Highland Park (or on and on and on and on…). I have no definitive answers or political strategies to advocate for here because I am not a poly-sci guy. But if our only response to societal ills is to foist everything upon the individual (“get them mental health help!” “give more to charity!”), the society is not operating as it should. A society built by unjust people is often, unsurprisingly, unjust. Therefore it is both the individual and the collective that needs to be addressed.

I think we can forget that. Individualism is powerful and ever-present in our country.

We ought to push back against it.

No, I’m not saying all Christians should vote a particular way or that we have to live in a commune or that people’s individual conscience and rights don’t matter. Not at all. That all or nothing reaction is symptomatic of the larger problem! “It’s either all about my right to do x or it’s about enslavement!” No. The hedging of personal rights in a corporate setting is simply part of the dynamic of a rightly-ordered society.

It is Christian to think thus and so.

I’m grateful to live in a place that emphasizes the protection of all individuals. I really think it’s incredibly important and a lot of good has come into the world through America precisely because of that. But every gift, every call comes with a burden, an inclination to a particular kind of error. This, I think, is ours. We ought to be careful.

And Christians ought to be ready to be out-of-step with “what it means to be America.” We ought to be weird and foreign and, frankly, a bit annoying because of our refusal of cookie cutters.

My prayer is that, for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. Not the American dream. Not our own desires. Not the cravings of our flesh or the dictates of individualism. No. That we would serve the Lord.

Let it be so with God’s help and the help of His Church.

My daughter cringed and told me that my cup had spilled. Upon further review, it appears that my cup did not spontaneously spill but in fact was knocked over by said daughter. Odd how that didn’t make it into the original account of the incident.

I get it. Apologies are hard.

after dobbs: what it all means

I don’t write much here anymore. That’s probably pretty obvious. There’s a complex of reasons. For one, I have writing output in other places, for other purposes. Also, my belief that online “discourse” is valuable declines rapidly as each new outrage and crisis rises and falls (so we’re talking about, oh, every 36 hours or so). I mostly think that anything I write will be so decontextualized, I’m not sure how valuable it will be to anyone. Thus… I don’t come here often.


Roe v. Wade got overturned. So I’m here.

I have to admit, I did not think I’d ever think we’d see “here.” I am on record in this space as being against elective abortion for a variety of reasons. But it just seemed like, despite the fact that many, many or even (in various polls at various times) most Americans have been deeply uncomfortable with the kind of maximalist approach to abortion that our country has had, we would never see anything change. There definitely have not been enough Americans to expect a Constitutional amendment, which feels like what would be necessary to overthrow a Supreme Court decision. I did not foresee the Court flipping on the issue.

Of course, there is historical precedent for exactly that happening. Both slavery and segregation were defended as institutions by the Supreme Court… until the Court reversed itself. We sort of forget that that happened. I know I never really thought about it as a possibility on this issue (and, apparently, neither are Very Angry Pro-Abortion people). But… here we are.

I always hoped that we would one day recognize, in this country, that abortion is a moral evil. I don’t think you have to be Christian or even theistic to believe that. So my hope was that we would come together and decide we cannot abide its existence. The fact that we have arrived here is, therefore, a surprising gift and also disappointing. No longer is abortion viewed as a federally protected Constitutional right. Nor do I think it should be. Plenty of progressive, pro-choice legal minds (not all, probably not most, I hasten to add), acknowledge that Roe v Wade as a legal decision, was shaky at best and probably just bad. I think it’s good that we’ve come around to that legal argument. What’s unfortunate is that we very clearly do not agree, as a people, that not only is this not a legal right, but it is a moral evil. I don’t need to provide evidence for the assertion that we don’t agree.

So here we are. On fire. More of the same. Emphasis on the “more.”

Typically, I’m quite amenable to being a listening ear, a sympathetic ear, for my more progressive friends and family. Probably, to many people, I appear to actually, at times, be a progressive. I was very openly opposed to the celebration of President Donald Trump (before and after having the title). Yes, I still am, even on this side of Dobbs. That makes me out to be a liberal to many people. And I am still quite happy to continue to listen to my progressive friends. It’s mostly because I have been listening that I want to write today.

I am really, really tired of what I’ve been hearing.

To be clear, I really do understand and have sympathy for people’s anger and fear. That seems completely understandable to me. For half a century, a significant portion of Americans have been repeatedly told, over and over again (and in increasingly totalizing terms), that abortion is morally acceptable, often good, and is their legally protected right, which ensures a more just world, especially for women, especially poor women. If you believe that wholeheartedly, this decision is a disaster. And since it was unimaginable, it’s scary that this disaster could happen. That is completely understandable and I have a lot of sympathy for that anguish.

What I have a problem with is the slander. I know that slander is justified by everyone, left and right, as long as you pick the correct target. I personally hate that. I spend a lot of time calling out the slander from the right, because the people on the right are generally my people. But I’m really, really tired of the ***slander from the left right now. Because I do think it is so obviously aimed at trashing people’s reputations and character with easily false and disproven claims. It’s also so grating how these same few talking points have become a kind of liturgical confession by the Very Online segments of the left. I have read, I swear, the same few statements from hundreds and hundreds of different people. It’s the confessional Litany of Our Anger right now.

Line 1: “They don’t care about life. It’s about control.” Perhaps there’s a cabal of men (and women, I guess?) who really just care about women being under the control of men. I do not know a single anti-abortion person that actually thinks or feels this. Now, I am entirely willing to grant that systems can be constructed along these lines and work this way without the emotional support or affirmation of the people in them. I get it! But you also have to listen to the actual people that you are saying are doing this. And maybe MAYBE for most anti-abortion people (I’ll grant you this term and not use “pro-life” anymore), their substantive argument is NOT about the sexual behavior and choices of women. It is about the fetus. There is zero acknowledgement of this concern. Anti-abortion people are, again and again, saying a fetus is a human life that should be protected. Pro-choice people (see? I will let them have their term in a spirit of fairness) do not even engage this argument. They just say, “This is about me doing with my body what I choose.” Can I suggest why I think that is?

Most pro-choice people have no ability to answer the anti-abortion argument where it is being offered. And I’ll be perfectly frank: I don’t think it’s a matter of training. I think it’s because there is no answer to the objection.

I absolutely support and affirm the right of a woman to have control and autonomy over her body. I want that for all women everywhere. And I absolutely acknowledge that that right has been in question for a lot of women in a lot of places for most of history. It’s a legitimate concern! A woman should be able to do what she wants with her body.

Abortion does not happy to a women’s body. Abortion happens inside a women’s body. But the procedure itself happens to the fetal body and results in, not the removal permanent portions of the woman’s body (the placenta is removed, of course), but the removal of the contents of her womb, which is not her body.

Now the crux of the thing is the claim that her rights extend to the fetus because the fetus is inside her own body. And I recognize that that condition absolutely forces a more complex ethical conversation than most anti-abortion people are willing to concede. But there has to be an acknowledgment of absolute, inarguable fact: the fetus is a living human. It’s scientifically not up for debate. That organism is definitely alive (it has a metabolism and cell growth and internal biological processes and etc., etc.) and it is definitively human and it is definitively NOT the mother. All of this is inarguable.

Living humans get human rights.

That’s the crux of the anti-abortion claim. And it’s a pretty strong one. It is not crazy or controlling or misogynistic to see that claim, to see those facts, and act to protect the barest minimum of human rights: the right to not be killed. It is incumbent on the pro-choice side to explain that the correct belief is “Most living humans get human rights.”

No one even tries. Instead… slander.

Line 2 “If it was about life, then it would be about universal health care and paid leave and etc., etc. They’re not pro-life. They’re pro-birth.” First of all, “pro-life” does not universally equal “GOP.” Let’s be clear about that. Roman Catholics are staunchly pro-life and Catholic social ethics are very much NOT GOP. And it’s not just the Catholics, thank you very much. My last blog post here was a plea for pro-life people to push for these kinds of policies. I hope that Senator Romeny’s latest proposal will be speedily advanced and then quickly built upon. I’m all for it.

I think it’s completely fair to be angry about a lack of social help from the GOP. I think it’s fair to insistently ask, “How are you going to care for these people?!” It’s a good question, a fair question.

But come on. This is an argument in bad faith.

If I were to magically grant you ALL of the federal programs you asked for (many of them are good, but to assume that the federal government is going to be the best for all of the things that end up on this list… that’s quite a leap), would you then be likely to say, “This is acceptably pro-life now. It’s lovely that you want to end abortion. I concur”? No, of course not. People like me could grant you the whole wish list and the argument would still be, “Abortion should have no restrictions.”

People spouting this line generally don’t care if anti-abortion advocates are consistent. They care if they oppose abortion and don’t advocate for these other social programs. But if you do the latter and not the former… that’s the only way to find acceptance.

Let me be clear: I think our society is grossly antagonistic to vulnerable people. Not just the unborn, but the vulnerable of any category. I think we should advocate for programs, even *GASP* government programs, that help make this society more hospitable and receptive to the powerless and not so completely hellbent on profit. And yes, “hellbent,” is the right word.

But I’ll take advances towards that end anywhere I can get them. A better system of immigration? Yes, please. An expanded social safety net for poor mothers? Please do. Financial incentives for having families? Do it!

End abortion? Yeah. Now. I don’t need everything to be in place across the board. Politics doesn’t work that way. Better is better.

This is better.

Line 3: “Ectopic pregnancy requires abortion! Miscarriages require abortions! Septic pregnancies require abortions!” Let me tell you why this is slander:

I knew all of that stuff in high school. The morally correct choice (I believe) for an ectopic pregnancy is an abortion. When your choice is “one person dies” or “two people die,” you choose the former. I’ve known that since I was 16. I don’t know any anti-abortion person that does not know that.

Are there potentially badly-written laws in states that might criminalize a DNC after a miscarriage? I don’t know. Are there? Really and truly? If there are, those laws should be amended. Obviously. And every anti-abortion person I know would agree on that! Some abortions actually are medically necessary to save the life of a woman. That exists! We know that!

One: They are the vast minority of all abortions performed in this country. You can get that from Planned Parenthood’s own statistics. Two: Elective abortions, not truly medically necessary ones, are what are in view here.

Pretending like anti-abortion people are too dumb to understand ectopic pregnancies or do understand them and want women to die is… slander.

If you are adamantly for abortion rights, I am not saying you’re not allowed to be angry and afraid. Not at all. I get it. But hysterical name-calling and lying about each other (and yes, “pro-life” people do this too) is bad for all of us. It doesn’t help a thing. Slander is bad for our neighborhoods and our communities and our nation. You do not like being slandered. I don’t like being slandered. Let’s treat each other like we’d like to be treated ourselves.

Let’s find points of common interest. I want a society where far more people look at the prospect of pregnancy and say, “I can do this. My society encourages me and enables me to do this.” I think pro-choice people want that too. There are probably a number of things we can agree on and we ought to work together on those things. Planned Parenthood wants things I do not want. But they want some things that I do as well. Could we work together on those things?

I think we would be much better off if we were able to imagine such scenarios and begin working together on them. I hope all of us can more often imagine such a world and actually work it out between us.

God help us in this country as we figure this out. If we don’t figure it out, there is very likely even more turbulence ahead. I hope none of us want that.

I hope.

***A commenter (below) I think made several good points about why this is not the correct word. Slander requires more intention than what is likely present for the vast majority of people. The comments feel slanderous because of their inaccuracy, but I think people so rarely know others different from them, that the may actually believe they’re representing them correctly. That’s not slander. It’s incorrect, but not slanderous. So I should not have used that word. I’m leaving it in the post so it doesn’t feel like I erased my errors. The (bad) decision was mine and you should be aware of that. I do hope we can move towards communities where people actually do understand one another, even when they deeply disagree. I think that’s a much healthier place to be.

Question: Is ESPN’s entire media strategy these days simply to cut to Stephen A. Smith and have him launch opinion grenades? Every video on their webpage is precisely this construct. It doesn’t even matter what the topic is. How can a giant company with all those resources have come down to that one move? And… how long can he sustain this?

pro-life and pro-family…. how?

I, like many people in the United States, have moved beyond being frustrated with how our country runs/is led from Washington, D.C. “Frustrated” implies that things could be otherwise. Right now, it just seems impossible. What I feel is resignation. Two political parties hold all the power, in nearly equal measure. And they absolutely refuse to work with another on any kind of meaningful challenge in our country. Why? Because the Other One is the embodiment of evil (“Fascists,” “Nazis,” “Woke Gang,” “Socialists,” etc.) and to work with Evil, in any way, is to be morally compromised. It’s a really rewarding school of rhetoric that does really well to get you a job in Washington and to keep it. It’s a punishing rhetoric in that, once there, you can do absolutely NOTHING. Or at least not without raw numbers/power. And you almost certainly won’t get enough votes to do that. See: (gestures at… everything)

One thing I had a little window of hope about last year, a little ray of optimism, was about a possible coalition of politicians who were going to take seriously policies that would provide relief and encouragement to American families. Specifically: having a family and keeping them fed and clothed. There are different ways that people from both parties were arriving at this desire. One would talk the language of equality and fairness. The other would talk about being pro-life and pro-family. Demographic decline is a real thing and our country is in the midst of it. Or at least we’re edging towards being “in the midst of it.”

Mitt Romney proposed legislation that would provide cash payments to help families. His program was similar in many ways to President Biden’s program of an expansion and pre-payment of child tax credits. There were important differences, but it was a very similar idea. Neither of them had a work requirement, which was new. It seemed like we were heading towards that reality….

And then Washington happened. Which means… nothing.

I find it so disappointing, so discouraging.

When you look at what our country does to support families with children compared to our economic peers (which is a pretty broad category to account for the fact that we’re the biggest economic power in the world), it is shocking who our national comparables are. They’re a grouping of nations that we would, I think, probably consider “beneath” us. Not that that sentiment is ok ontologically, but certainly, they’re countries that we (rightly) consider ourselves well beyond, in terms of development. Countries closer to our economic output spend two or three times more (or more!) than us on programs that support children and families. We have more we could do… and we do less. For children. In poverty.

Why is this?

One thing is that I think we have a fragmented set of values held by a great many people in this country. I think there are a great many people who would say “I am pro-life. Children are great!” and “People should have traditional, two-parent households” and “It would be great if moms stayed home with children” and “Work is inherently good for all people” and “The state should not pay you to sit on your butt” and “You should work your way out of poverty and the government should not compensate for your bad decisions.”

I agree with almost the entirety of all of those statements (I don’t think poverty works as described in that last one). But there is a lot of information to consider between those statements, where those “ands” are and very rarely any kind of holistic envision that is able to explain and hold in tensions all of them at once. So if you interrogate how all of this is supposed to work out, you kind of just get repeat of the dogma, with no new information or explanation. They become items of faith that you can somehow insist on ALL of these things with no adjustment or explanation.

I think you need to pick some values to prioritize and you need to compromise and order things in such a way that these statements can actually come close to being held together by more than brute assertion. Here’s what I mean:

Prioritize families. What is most important here? Children are good. Stable families are good. They are transformative. The idea that our modern society is conducive, to all people, to have multiple children and even to contemplate having one stay-at-home parent (a mother) is, frankly, laughable for the vast majority of the people who live here. That ideal is a middle-class pipe dream for most people without magically being able to transport to a much different neighborhood or into a very different main income. And the idea that if you just work hard enough and smart enough, you can attain that ideal… that’s a fiction. People don’t like being poor. Do stories exist of people making terrible choices and choosing drugs or terrible short-term purchases or whatever over long-term, smart choices? Yes OF COURSE. But, by and large, most people poverty care that they are in poverty and do not want to remain so.

Do you want them to remain poor? Probably not. But do you want to live in a communist society that radically caps and redistributes all wealth towards a vision of equality? I don’t! And I assume you don’t either! So what does that mean? There will always be people at the bottom of the income chain. Always. Even if they’re smart and work hard and whatever, someone (many someones) is going to be at the bottom of the food chain. It’s the nature of a competitive economy.

So. That being true… prioritize families. Do poor people, who will never have the economic dream that is described as the “American dream,” get to have the dream of a stable, two-parent, multi-child household? Well, some of that is up to them. Of course. But can we use our collective national expenditure to make those conditions more accessible for all Americans, regardless of income or job status? Would it be good for us if a mother can choose to NOT work for the first three or six months of a baby’s life? Would it be good for the baby if that was an option for their mother?

I think it would. I think mothers should be able to be with their babies. And I choose that as an organizing idea around which the other ideas have to orbit. If that’s the prioritization, I have to make compromises elsewhere to make all those statements fit.

Is it good for people to work? Yes! Very much so! God made people for good work. He also made us to be fruitful. If I have to choose, I’d rather have the option, as a society, to support a single mom to work less and be with her developing child than to prioritize working more so she can fulfill her obligations as a worker.

See, what I think happens is that people prioritize the work side of this equation and tack on the pro-life, pro-family side. “Yes! We want you to have babies and have a family…. as long as you can remain a 50hr/week worker.” I think we should re-prioritize: “Yes! We want you to work and earn an income and have a steady job… but we want you to do a good job first of raising your children.”

For many people in poverty, I really do think you have to choose one of the priorities. And I think we have the means to make better choices.

Choose families. Support children. Lift kids out of poverty (which absolutely did happen with the expanded child tax credit and has absolutely been undone with its expiration). Make it as easy as possible to have kids with two parents who can actually afford to work slightly less so they can parent slightly more. If you’re going to compromise, compromise in favor of those families.

Choose families.

I think there are lots of ways to be creative and thoughtful when you think along those lines. And I think there really are creative solutions where you can make all the dots fit, if in slightly altered forms. The “nightmare welfare state” doesn’t have to be the only solution.

But start with the family as the organizing principle. I think it’s a much better place to start.

Unfortunately, Washington appears to still be Washington. And I don’t know when we’ll see a different approach to all of this. It seems like such a no-brainer to me. We could compromise our way to something better than what we have. And it just feels so unlikely now.

That’s a real bummer.

Pretty amazing that Major League Baseball has given a look at the recent history of the NHL and said, “Actually yes. That’s exactly what we’d like. Fewer fans. Less interest. Let’s go down that road EVEN FASTER.” I mean… that’s their choice, I guess. Just extra time that my Atlanta Braves remain the uncontested champs.

Wordle was one of those things that I heard and saw people referencing but which I had no personal contact with, so I wondered if I should just purposefully exclude myself and stubbornly not participate in the Very Cool Thing. I’ve done this, for example, with Titanic. I’ve never seen that whole film and what I have seen, my wife made me watch only in the past couple of months. I thought I’d just Titanic the Worlde thing.

Then I found out it’s a word game, which is pretty much right up my alley. I’ve played like five times. It’s so simple and precisely to my tastes.

Now the New York Times has bought it and will inevitably ruin it for me and everyone else. Props to that guy for getting paid. But he’s literally the only actual human being who benefits from this sale. Well… maybe executives at NYT. Maybe.

I’m sorry, everyone. This is probably all my fault. I’ll try not to bring down capitalist doom on anything else.

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