My reflections and musings on the struggle to leave a Christ-shaped impression on the world of law and public policy.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fundamental-Things has moved!

Exciting news! I have launched a new and improved blog, called "The Issues in Focus." You will find it at

One of the features you might particularly enjoy allows you to receive an e-mail whenever I post new content. Just plug in your e-mail address where it says "Follow By E-mail," and hit "Submit."

I hope you will subscribe and share it with friends who might enjoy it. See you there!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Selling No-Fault Divorce to Moms?

Where shall I begin with my reasons for being outraged by this latest political ad put out by Terry McAuliffe's campaign? McAuliffe wants to be Virginia's next governor, and his strategy apparently involves duping women into believing that his opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, sponsored legislation that would make it harder for "moms" (but not dads) to get divorces. This assumes, of course, that we "moms" place a premium on the availability of quick and easy divorce.

I resent this ad for making a mockery of a sacred marriage vow [note the "Leave It to Beaver"-esque graphic and the old-fashioned, "I Love Lucy"-esque font of "For Better or Worse"]. This is a vow that my husband and I took before God. While we, like most couples, have not kept our vows perfectly, I hope and pray that we will keep this particular one, for the permanence of the marriage relationship is its very essence.

It is repulsive to me that a political campaign would seek to win my support by scoffing at a principle as noble and good as simple loyalty and commitment to one's family.

I refute the ad's deception. The ad makes it sound as if Cuccinelli's bill targeted "moms," making it harder for them, specifically, to get divorced if their husbands object. This is simply false. The bill (of course!) applied the same way for both spouses. Obviously McAuliffe's campaign wants to prey upon a woman's fear of being trapped in an abusive situtation. But abuse is always a legal justification for divorce, and Cuccinelli's bill would have done nothing to change that (for, as it turns out, Cuccinelli is not, in fact, a monster).

What the McAuliffe camp apparently doesn't think we "moms" will figure out is that Cuccinelli's bill would have helped the countless struggling moms who have been left holding the bag when their husbands decided to walk out on the family for no reason other than that marriage was no longer exciting, or that the demands of child-rearing had become difficult.

Finally, I reject the premise of the ad: that no-fault divorce is good for women and that we therefore favor its ready availability. Divorce is one of the leading causes of women and children being thrust into poverty. It is not good for women; it is not good for anyone, but rather is a necessary evil under certain circumstances. This is why I (and many other women I know) believe that legislation like that proposed by Cuccinelli makes good sense. Is it unreasonable to insist that, at least when the marriage has produced children, the divorcing spouse should actually identify a reason for breaking up the family? I think not.

McAuliffe's campaign may think that they have done something really savvy and "progressive" by making the permanence of marriage appear to be silly, oppressive, and out-dated for women. If so, then they are sadly out of touch with the better part of human nature. I have seen enough gray-haired couples holding hands and laughing at cherished family memories to know that I want that "for better or for worse" kind of marriage. I have been married long enough to know that we are all sometimes "better," and we are all sometimes "worse." But if society is ambivalent to whether or not our own spouse sticks with us through the days when we are "worse," then what kind of society is it, and what security does it provide?

No one benefits from laws that make it "easy" to abandon a family. When our society stamps approval upon a parent's decision to break a family--and his own vows--simply because he has changed his mind, we all lose.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Being Hated

My last post and Daily News Record "Open Forum" on Martin Luther King, Jr. was shared on VCA's facebook page. Within a 24-hour period, about 1400 people had viewed it, and many of them reacted strongly against it. Here is a sampling of their comments:

"Maybe if your view was not that of an extremist, people would get it."

"Your [sic] nothing more than a bunch of racist. [sic] Judgment is mine says the Lord so who and the hell are you to judge anyone or thing. Your God will own you one day."

"For someone like you, that preaches hate and intolerance, to even reference Dr. King is an obscenity."

"You Christian extremists have no right to discriminate against others and call it 'Religious Freedom'. You hateful, close [sic] minded sheep don't get to redefine marriage for your own purposes."

"You write with the intent to do harm. You write with the intent to destroy. You write with the intent to spread hatred and malice throughout the world. In short, you deserve no respect. You deserve no kindness, and in fact, deserve nothing but to be cast forever into the pits of slime, horned demons and hellfire from whence you have obviously come."

When I read some of these, there is a part of me that screams to the rest of me, “Stop!! Sound the retreat!” I care about being liked, and it is painful to absorb some of these insults, accusations, and general indications of others' desires to see me die in pits of slime!

This may come as a surprise to some, because I do put myself out there on some of the most heated, controversial issues of our time. So yes, in a sense, I am “asking for it.” In a sense we are all "asking for it" when we challenge worldviews that are exalted over what we know to be True.

This time was a little different for me, however. There are plenty of people out there who hate me for my positions on these issues (the pro-life issue, for instance), and I can live with that without losing much sleep. It’s harder for me to live with being hated for being a “racist,” because I am not a racist.

Isn't it just miserable to be misunderstood and wrongly accused? To have our intentions unfairly maligned? But as two different friends, on two separate occasions, have recently reminded me, we are in the service of One who understands us—the good, the bad, and the ugly in us—perfectly.

What to do with that part of us that wants to retreat? It seems perfectly plausible to me. No one is forcing me to speak out or to challenge the hopelessness, confusion, idolatry and futility of the prevailing contemporary worldviews. I could sit here in my perfect health, in my comfortable home, with my healthy, loving family, enjoying all the best that the world has to offer. I could spend the day reading a great classic novel (believe me, this is a constant temptation). But I am simply convinced that God has put me (and YOU!) here to WORK for Him. To point anyone who will listen toward the great Creator. The Inventor of Beauty. The Giver of all wisdom. The Definer of Truth. The Dispenser of Justice. The One who Redeems people like me from the pit.

Every human "good" we observe in this world is but a dim reflection of the One who is the very essence and source of all Goodness. Isn’t it our job to be crying this out in the streets to anyone who will listen--and even to those who will scorn us for it? To be proclaiming that the universal values of mankind--beauty, wisdom, truth, justice, mercy--are but signposts on the pathway toward the Author and Owner of all things “good”?

We will be mocked and insulted, and we will certainly be misunderstood, but we must not be silent.

The Lord of Hosts has been gracious to me, and it is a sweet joy and an honor to do His work. “In [His] service, pain is pleasure, with [His] favor, loss is gain.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Today's "Liberal" Causes

In a recent article, Professor Peter Dreier appropriated Martin Luther King Jr. as champion of the “liberal” side of several raging public debates. Having been inspired from childhood by the justice of King’s struggle for racial equality and the effective and eloquent way in which he pursued his “Dream,” I find Dreier’s conclusions surprising and counter-intuitive. I reject the assumption that this giant of a man can be so neatly categorized.

Dreier claimed, for instance, that “King would stand — and sit in when necessary — with the LGBT community to help push states toward legalizing same-sex marriage…” The staggering presumptuousness of such a statement is exposed by the preceding sentences, in which Dreier first concedes that “King did not approve of homosexuality,” but then declares that King’s viewpoint would certainly have changed over time in light of the NAACP’s position and growing support for gay rights among black clergy members.

First of all, it is the height of arrogance for anyone to start from King’s known, stated position (disapproval of homosexuality), and assume that he knows King’s psyche, religious convictions and motivations well enough to conclude that King would have done an about face as a result of special interest groups or polling data.

But beyond that, the rationale behind Dreier’s conclusion is unconvincing. Historical giants like King are historical giants precisely because they don’t form their moral views based on cultural trends; rather, they resist man-made constructs that ultimately harm and degrade human beings and lead us, instead, to what is true, good, and beautiful.

William Wilberforce stood against the slave trade and Dietrich Bonhoeffer against the Nazis because, like King, Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer believed that every human being is created in the image of God and therefore has unique dignity and inherent worth. There is no escaping it: at the core of these heroes of humanity is a decidedly and specifically biblical worldview. Their passion for honoring the teachings of Jesus Christ was their motivation for waging war against various iterations of human oppression.

Where would King have stood on gay marriage? I don’t presume to know the answer. Although the Bible consistently identifies homosexual activity as a moral wrong, many today profess to be convinced that Jesus Christ himself would have championed gay marriage as a step toward love, compassion and equality.

My respect for King is deep enough, however, to convince me that he would have studied the Scriptures to critically evaluate that claim. In considering whether recognition of gay marriage really is loving and compassionate, he probably would have examined the reasons for marriage and the likely societal consequences of defining this fundamental institution based on individual preferences. He would have looked past value-laden labels and studied the contents of the package under a lens comprised of both compassion and truth.

Another label King would have parsed is that of “reproductive freedom.” Dreier trots out the fact that King once received a “Margaret Sanger Award” as ironclad proof that he would have been an abortion rights activist. Dreier candidly admits, however, that “King never spoke publicly about his views on abortion,” and that he was assassinated before Roe v. Wade was decided.

We live in a culture committed to the concept of liberty and obsessed with the idea of “choice,” so any conduct packaged in the trappings of “right to choose” (as any conduct at all might well be packaged) appears, superficially, to be a moral good. But I believe King would have balked at the idea of labeling one human being’s purposeful destruction of another human being as a liberty or “choice” that is beyond the power of a civilized society to restrict.

While supportive of Planned Parenthood’s educational efforts on birth control, I think King would have wept at the rate at which babies of color —babies with unique dignity and inherent worth — are being aborted. I think he would have been outraged that a whopping 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are strategically located in minority neighborhoods.

It is impossible for anyone to credibly claim King’s endorsement for causes that arose after his death. But this much we know: King was a follower of Jesus Christ.

His boldness, compassion and commitment to serving others were beautifully consistent with the Christ depicted in the Bible. And just as Christ stood for timeless moral absolutes, I believe King would have looked beyond labels, politics, and polls and stood for transcendent truth, goodness and beauty.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bradley Manning and Hormone Therapy: Two Formulas of Ideas.

Bradley Manning, sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth for leaking military secrets, would prefer to live out his prison sentence as a woman called "Chelsea." A bevy of high-profile organizations (including the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, and other gay and lesbian activist groups) insist that failure of the Army (funded by taxpayers' hard-earned dollars) to make this dream come true amounts to a deprivation of human rights. You can read the news story here.

To anyone asking how we, as a society, have arrived at the place where such a demand can be "reasonably" made by a convict, I offer the following logical (?) formula of ideas:

A person's desire to be the opposite gender from that which he or she is physiologically is a type of illness (“gender-identity disorder”).


Gender-identity disorder can be treated by hormone therapy that allows the patient to develop physical characteristics of the gender he or she desires to be or believes he or she should be.


It is “cruel and unusual punishment” for the government to refuse to fund drug therapies for prisoners that may cure or reduce the severity of their illnesses.


Bradley Manning should receive hormone therapy during his prison term, and we (the taxpayers) should pay for it.

But consider this alternative formula of ideas:

A person's desire to be the opposite gender from that which he or she is physiologically is a type of illness (“gender-identity disorder”).


While it is possible to use drugs to change a person's physiological make-up to that resembling the opposite gender, such “treatment” is simply a way of indulging the person's desires, which have already been identified as a disorder.


It is not the responsibility of government to use taxpayers’ money to indulge desires of prisoners that are manifestations of mental illness—nor would doing so be in the prisoners’ ultimate best interests.


Bradley Manning's disorder should be treated with the same counseling and mental health services that are available to all other prisoners, and taxpayers should not pay for him to receive hormone therapy.

Would "human rights" organizations insist that prisoners who suffer from eating disorders be provided with taxpayer-funded liposuction? And if so, would they really be serving the best interests of those who are suffering?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Nation of Liberty or A Nation of Feelings?

Judicial doctrines built upon contemporary America's unhealthy focus on feelings have left fundamental freedoms at risk.

Virginia Christian Alliance (VCA) has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court in the hotly contested public prayer case of Town of Greece v. Galloway.  We are asking the High Court to reevaluate its current, perception-based framework for deciding cases involving religious speech or symbols in public settings and to return to a historically correct interpretation of the Establishment Clause to prohibit only government policies involving religious coercion.

The case arose out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which held that the Town of Greece, New York, had created an unconstitutional "establishment" of religion by allowing local clergy members to offer invocations at Town meetings on a voluntary, non-discriminatory basis.  The Court held that this policy violated the Establishment Clause because, in fact, most of the clergy members who volunteered to pray represented the Christian faith.  This was unacceptable, held the federal court, because non-Christians may have felt left out.  Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom are representing the Town in the appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

If we can trust James Madison’s explanation to the First Congress, the liberty protected by the Establishment Clause is the freedom from being coerced to support or practice religion.  But under the Supreme Court's modern interpretation of the Clause, it prohibits any word or act which a bystander might perceive as a message of government "endorsement" of religion. 

In our brief, we argue that this reading is entirely at odds with America’s unmistakably religious heritage and the actual practices of those who drafted, debated, and adopted the First Amendment.  In fact, an intellectually honest application of the Court's modern Establishment Clause doctrine would result in the invalidation of countless national traditions, including the Pledge of Allegiance, Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations, Supreme Court opening statements, the National Day of Prayer, and the national motto, “In God We Trust,” which is inscribed upon various government buildings and currency.  

While the Supreme Court's decision in this case is poised to be a landmark ruling on the practice of public invocations, the impact of this case may actually reach much further than the issue of public prayer. 

The case is a perfect example of the impact our culture’s obsession with feelings has had on judicial doctrine.  Emotions--subjective, unknowable, and transitory as they may be—are now a determining factor in constitutional analysis.  Consider, for instance, the following quote which the Second Circuit offered as its rationale for striking down the Town's perfectly neutral invocation policy (which, remember, involves prayers offered by private citizens):  "People with the best of intentions may be tempted, in giving a legislative prayer, to convey their views of religious truth, and thereby run the risk of making others feel like outsiders."

This basis for constitutional decision-making should give pause to the student of American history.  Is this the nation of freedom birthed through the labors of men like George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson?  Were these men, who risked being hanged as traitors for their efforts, really concerned with securing the psychological well-being of their fellow man by ensuring that no person would ever be permitted to express in a government setting an idea that might offend another person? 

No.  Their work, and their legacy, was about securing liberty.  And liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of feelings.

Freedom-loving Americans should hope that the Court will use this case to reject the idea that my liberty is endangered when I don't like the ideas you express through spoken words.  Your words pose no threat to my liberty, but the judiciary has begun to allow my feelings about those words to demolish your liberty.

In their genius, our Founding Fathers did not leave offended separationist citizens without remedy for their hurt feelings.  Those who feel offended by references to faith in the public square can certainly vent their policy views at election time.  But when the judiciary indulges litigants' desires to gag religious citizens or public officials and to force religion into the private recesses of society, it is giving them a court-enforced heckler's veto over the liberty of others. 

It is the hope of VCA and the organizations and legislators who joined us in this brief that the High Court will seize upon this opportunity to serve the interest of liberty by rejecting a jurisprudence of feelings.

We would like to thank the following organizations and legislators for joining the brief:

  • Concerned Women for America
  • The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation
  • The Frederick Douglass Foundation of Virginia
  • The Valley Family Forum
  • Fredericksburg Rappahannock Evangelical Alliance
  • The Black Robe Regiment of Virginia
  • Delegate Richard "Dickie" Bell
  • Senator Dick Black
  • Delegate Ben Cline
  • Delegate Todd Gilbert
  • Senator Emmett Hanger
  • Delegate Steve Landes
  • Delegate Bob Marshall
  • Senator Steve Martin
 To read the brief in its entirety, click here. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sorting Out the DOMA Decision

Even though my family was on vacation in Wyoming last week, I didn't escape the brouhaha over the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decisions.  (The ecstasy and the agony of a smartphone!) Because this issue is so emotionally charged, however, I opted to wait until I was comfortably at home again--and able to read the Court opinions for myself--before entering into any discussion about them.

Having read United States v. Windsor, the decision dealing with the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), here are some of my thoughts...

1.  Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, both misunderstands and insults a widely embraced worldview (which I happen to share) when he concludes that Congress' recognition of marriage as being exclusively a  union of one man and one woman is necessarily based upon animus against homosexual individuals. 

There are myriad justifications for the decision of a majority of the nation's federal legislators (which, by the way, was ratified by a Democratic executive) to reserve special governmental benefits for a certain type of familial arrangement.  The most obvious, of course, is the deeply rooted, historically tested belief that children are most likely to thrive when raised in a stable relationship with a mother and father.

Assuming a connection between the desire to protect traditional marriage and an "animus" toward homosexual individuals or couples is simply assuming too much.  The two ideas are certainly not linked as a matter of logic.

2.  In a nation where the federal government is rapidly taking over every aspect of our lives, the Court was right to emphasize principles of federalism.  The majority's decision relied heavily on the power of States to define and regulate marriage.  It did NOT rule that homosexual couples have any constitutional right to be married, per se, but rather that the federal government had denied legally married homosexual couples the right of equal protection by refusing to recognize their state-approved union.

However strenuously I may disagree with that legal conclusion (because of its faulty premise, a questionable equal protection analysis, and the failure to recognize the federal government's right to define terms for its own programs), I wholeheartedly agree that when it comes to marriage and family, States should be taking the lead in making policy. 

It may be tempting for conservatives to think that with an issue this fundamental and this important, the federal government should have the final say.  My response to that, however, is three little words:  Roe versus Wade.

Beyond the obvious deficiencies in the logic and analysis of that fateful decision, the real tragedy of Roe v. Wade was that by constitutionalizing the issue of abortion (and by doing so in the most counterintuitive way), the Court, in a sense, withdrew it from the political process.  The Court threw the game, putting the ball on the abortion proponents' side and leaving the pro-life team to defend a precious few yards of ground with our hands tied behind our backs.

In short, I believe that the majority's decision on DOMA is significantly flawed.  But at least it leaves proponents of traditional marriage to gain what ground we can through the merits of our position, the winsomeness of our tone, and the examples we set in our own families.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Can the Boy Scouts Yet Remain "Morally Straight"? (published in the Roanoke Times today)

I was slightly less disturbed by the Boy Scouts of America's new membership policy after reading it in the context of its preamble.  While the new policy specifies that no youth may be denied membership because of sexual orientation or preference alone, the preamble insists that: "Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting."

Bingo.  These are, after all, children, whose "sexual orientation" and "sexual preference" we are expounding, and BSA is right to recognize that any sexual conduct by youth is unacceptable.

The thoughtful observer is left, then, to wonder:  what is the purpose of the policy change?

If it is meant to ensure that no boy is excluded from scouting simply because he is less masculine in appearance, gait, voice, or athletic acumen than the average Tom, Dick, or Harry, then it is a good thing.  No one should be excluded on the basis of innate characteristics over which he has no control.  That is a form of discrimination which is mean-spirited and unjust, and it is right for BSA to prohibit it.

I am encouraged by the statements on BSA's website recognizing this critical distinction between identity and actions.  In other words, a boy who may allegedly feel "attracted" to other boys can still be a scout, but a boy who acts on that attraction (or on opposite-sex attraction, for that matter) by engaging in sexual conduct cannot.

This is a noble and appropriate position in that it manifests compassion for kids while preserving moral integrity.  Each of us struggles with our own temptations, yet hopes to find grace and acceptance as we struggle.  It is when we yield to our temptations and embrace them as our intended way of life that love demands the toughness of a hard line.  There are few aspects of one's identity, nature or feelings that can be controlled, but actions surely can and should be restrained and guided by moral instruction.

What continues to gnaw at me, however, is the awareness that a society bent on erasing the idea of “wrong” will not be sated by this kind of position.  For instance, the public discussion about the need for acceptance of boys who are “openly gay” suggests that “tolerance” requires scout leaders to yield the floor to boys who choose to discuss their sexual urges openly (or at least if those urges are same-sex in nature). 

This would be at odds with the BSA’s explicit statements that it does not intend to permit the sexualization of scouting.  If BSA’s policy is interpreted by leaders to obliterate the value of sexual purity—which, at this age, means chastity--then this noble organization will lose valuable acreage of moral high ground that benefits all boys, whatever their feelings or inclinations. 

The policy is also troubling because any effort to suggest to (or teach?) scouts that homosexual activity is a "morally straight" option creates an irreconcilable conflict for many with the fulfillment of the scout oath to do one's "duty to God."  The God of the Bible has condemned the practice of homosexuality in no uncertain terms, and BSA should refuse to attempt the impossible task of reconciling Holy Scripture with the new cultural "norm." 

Such mediation efforts will not produce more enlightened, caring men; they will, if successful, produce men who die of thirst in a desert of moral relativism.  How cruel it would be to insist that scouts be “morally straight” while denying the existence of a plumb line.

C.S. Lewis aptly lamented, "We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise."  My hope is that Boy Scouts of America may yet help men to find their chests.  That doesn't mean tolerating the bullying or exclusion of boys who are different or struggling.  It does mean holding fast to the distinction between accepting people and approving of their behavior


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Courts, Prayer, and People's Hurt Feelings

You may have heard by now that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving invocations at town meetings.  The case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, arises out of a New York town where officials tried hard to do everything right. 

Under the Town's neutral policy, clergy from various places of worship listed in town publications were invited to offer invocations at the monthly public meetings.  Citizens could also volunteer to offer prayers, and no volunteer (including a Buddhist and a member of the Baha'i faith) was ever refused the opportunity.

So what was the problem with that, you ask?  According to the Second Circuit, there simply weren't enough prayer-givers from minority religions to make the invocation practice acceptable.  This produced the unconscionable result that must, at all costs, be avoided:  the potential for someone in the crowd to "feel" like an "outsider" because the majority of the prayers sounded Christian. 

The appellate court's decision is troubling on many levels.  But most troubling to me, by far, is the idea of a First Amendment that prohibits speech on the basis of how others may feel about it. 

Today I have begun drafting an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Virginia Christian Alliance and a number of state legislators.  Our goal is to talk the Court down from the ledge of its modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence, reminding them that the whole point of the First Amendment was to not only protect, but to encourage the kind of robust, full-throated debate that is meaningful enough to cause hurt feelings, but important enough to be worth it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Tilted Gospel

If you follow my blog, you know that quite a controversy has been stirred up in Harrisonburg about the opening of "The Tilted Kilt" here in town.  A couple of weeks ago, following on the heels of two separate Op-Eds raising a variety of concerns about the business, an ad appeared on the back page of the newspaper.  It stated:

The River Church WELCOMES THE TILTED KILT TO HARRISONBURG.  We know that The Tilted Kilt has come under some fire from people who claim to speak on behalf of people of faith, but we at The River Church want to stand firm in support of business and job growth in our community.  While some may pray that the restaurant fail, we believe prayer is best suited to matters of love, hope, healing and peace.  ...  If you are interested in a church where love and tolerance reigns as it did for Jesus, check us out!  All our [sic] welcome!

Now first of all, just to be clear on the facts, my Op-Ed did not mention the word "pray" or "prayer."  It did not, in fact, even mention Jesus or Christianity, but focused on the various types of harms that businesses like TK pose to various members of the community and their relationships. 

But the clear implication of The River Church's advertisement is that my condemnation of the TK business model (exploiting women's bodies for profit, appealing to men's sexual appetite, damaging relationships) is directly at odds with the "love and tolerance" of Jesus.  Unfortunately, this isn't a novel idea, but one that plagues the Body of Christ at every turn.  Many Christians and churches have been cowed into silent retreat from the moral debates raging in our society by this stinging accusation that our rejection of certain systems, laws, lifestyles or ideas as "wrong" is a message of judgment and therefore unloving and not Christ-like.

To be sure, Jesus was loving, and He welcomed even the most notorious of sinners to His side.  But He never shrugged His shoulders at their sin.  His message to the woman caught in adultery was not, "Go, your sin doesn't matter."  It was, "Go, and sin no more."  He knew all along that her sin, and mine, would cost His life.

The idea of "tough love" sounds trite, but real love is tough.  In fact, it is impossible for one to really love another while condoning the other's sin, because all of God's laws have been given to us for our good.  And certainly love does not affirm sin as a virtue!  A Christian welcoming a business built upon lust into her community is like a mother welcoming a sexual predator into her daughter's bedroom.

How can we, having been rescued from the hopeless existence of a life apart from God, remain silent as friends and neighbors gorge themselves on the counterfeit pleasures of a darkened world?  How can we, having been rescued from the quicksand of our sin, tell others who are sinking that they are on solid ground?

When I attended Elkton Pride Day some time ago, I had a long conversation with a Unitarian Universalist minister.  I was seeking to understand how he reconciled his views on homosexuality with the Bible.  At one point I asked him, "How do you believe people can be saved?"  He responded that basically, we just do the best we can to be good.  Our conversation came to an end then, as I simply explained that this was a message of condemnation to me, because I know that I am not good.  Even the "good" that I try to do is tainted by sinful motives and pride.

And this, essentially is my point.  The message of "I'm o.k., you're o.k.," is candy-coated poison.  I'm not o.k., and you're not o.k., and that is why Jesus was tortured and killed.  But because He took our punishment, there is hope for us, and something so much more, so much better, than the rubbish this world is peddling.

    I know a place, a wonderful place
    Where accused and condemned
    Find mercy and grace
    Where the wrongs we have done
    And the wrongs done to us
    Were nailed there with Him
    There on the cross.


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Untold Story of House Bill 1 - The Unalienable Right to Life Act

Upon eagerly opening The Family Foundation’s latest “Report Card,” I was surprised to find no record of the votes on Delegate Bob Marshall’s House Bill 1, which figured so prominently into the highly-publicized weeping and gnashing of teeth by Virginia abortion lobbyists in 2012.  This legislation would clarify that, for purposes of construing Virginia law, every human being is considered a person with fundamental rights, from the time of conception until natural death. 

One of the practical effects of the legislation would have been the automatic creation of a civil cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn child—allowing either parent of an unborn baby to bring a lawsuit against a person whose wrongful act killed the baby.  While this was important, and a laudable pro-life goal in and of itself, the implications and effects of House Bill 1 are much broader, deeper, and more significant. 

The goal with HB1 was never limited to the creation of a lawsuit, but was more fundamental:  the recognition of the humanity of pre-born babies for all legal purposes.  Such recognition makes a loud, clear pro-life statement, of course.  The statement is that abortion is the killing of a human baby—the killing of a person endowed with inalienable rights rather than the dignified disposal of impersonal, meaningless “products of conception.”

But there is more to HB1 than even that bold proclamation of truth.  By acting on the Commonwealth’s prerogative to decide for itself which “persons” are possessed of fundamental rights under the Virginia Constitution and Code, the legislature can significantly impact judicial decisions on legal challenges to future pro-life legislation.  In essence, while HB1 does nothing to directly erode the “reproductive rights” created by the United States Supreme Court, it would introduce a new category of “rights” to be considered by the courts:  the bundle of fundamental rights the bill explicitly acknowledges as belonging to every human being from conception until natural death.

I don’t know why HB1 wasn’t mentioned in the Report Card.  Maybe it was because the story was too big to be reduced to a few lines of print and evaluated with simple plus and minus symbols.  Maybe it was because The Family Foundation was content that a separate bill, Senate Bill 674, created the wrongful death cause of action that would also have resulted from passage of HB1– even though it omitted that critical recognition of the humanity and basic rights of the unborn child.  I don’t know the reason, but here is the untold story:

HB1 passed the House of Delegates easily, for the second consecutive year.  Then it headed to the Senate to be heard by the highly unpredictable Education and Health Committee.  When we arrived at the Committee room at around 7:30 a.m., lines were already forming.  It was Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day, and abortion activists turned out in droves.

Our hopes were not particularly high that HB1 would survive this Committee. In fact, we were convinced that it would be quite the miracle for that to happen after The Family Foundation had given its support to SB674, which many viewed (incorrectly) as an acceptable alternative. 

The hearing was long and heated. The spiritual battle in that room was almost palpable. A number of times, opponents of the bill (who, again, packed the sizeable room) were threatened with removal for their inappropriate comments and interruptions. At one point, someone was removed.

But when the vote was taken, it was 8-7 to report the bill to the full Senate (a win!). That was incredible!

In the lobby, opponents chanted and waved their arms menacingly. At one point, one woman took a swing at Delegate Marshall and had to be restrained by the police. I was verbally accosted by two different women, separately. After several minutes, police gave the order to "clear the lobby."  Opponents proceeded outside, where they lined the street with their signs, chanting, "My body--my choice!"

Just a few hours later, in a rare procedural move, the Senate leadership had expedited the bill to the Senate floor (where it was not expected until Monday). Senator Dick Saslaw, a Democrat from the Education and Health Committee, moved to send the bill BACK to the same Committee that had just passed it, for reconsideration in 2013. His motion was seconded by the Republican Majority Leader, Senator Tommy Norment.  

Senator Mark Obenshain courageously spoke against the motion and insisted that a recorded vote be taken on it.  However, five Republicans voted with the Democrats to send the bill back to Committee.  These five were Tommy Norment, Frank Ruff, Frank Wagner, John Watkins and Harry Blevins, who had voted to report the bill from Committee only hours before!  (Ponder the motivations of these five.  Are they not pro-life?  Do they believe life begins sometime after conception?) 

This effectively killed the bill for the year.  While Senator Steve Martin could have convened a special session of the Committee last fall to revive the bill, he declined to do so.

The rest of the story remains to be written. 

The pro-life community should thank Delegate Marshall for doing the hard, unpopular work of carrying strong, meaningful legislation that holds real potential to change the game in abortion law.  I am unspeakably sad about the fact that his valiant efforts appear to have been ignored by those who should be providing the strongest support. 

We should also thank Senator Mark Obenshain for taking a courageous stand on the Senate floor, resisting the efforts of some politicians (including Republican leaders) to pervert the normal legislative process by avoiding a full, recorded floor vote on the legislation itself. 

These legislators deserve to have this story told.

I am hopeful that all those who care deeply about the sanctity of human life will coalesce around the few champions we have in the General Assembly, and that House Bill 1--broadly recognizing the unique, inherent value of every human life--will yet become the law of Virginia.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This is Abortion.

The recent conviction and sentencing of Kermit Gosnell, along with the national attention it ultimately commanded, marks an important chapter in the contentious debate about abortion.  Many in the pro-life camp were initially outraged about the media’s conspicuous decision to ignore the whole story.  But the sad truth is that the silence reveals greater logical consistency than the outrage.

Gosnell’s clinic existed to perform the perfectly lawful service of killing human babies inside their mothers’ wombs.  While that act will always be horrific in the minds of some, to many others it is--though perhaps sad and unfortunate--a necessary reality in a world of “reproductive rights.” 

If we are honest about it, we must admit that the lawful acts we knew Gosnell to be doing and passively accepted (the same acts that will end the lives of over 3,000 babies in the U.S. today) are only marginally distinct from the unlawful acts that have forever branded Gosnell so deviant as to be practically sub-human.

How arbitrary we are, as a society, in our moral judgments!  One physician performs an intentional act that ends the life of a tiny human being, and an army of elite, educated, activists will dedicate their lives to applauding and defending his ability to legally do so.  Another physician performs the same act on a tiny human being who has emerged from the woman’s womb, and he is roundly deplored as the brutal criminal of the year. 

How is it that a matter of spatial inches or relative anatomical positioning could ever be the dividing line between an act that is celebrated as the facilitation of civil rights--the empowerment of women--and an act that is condemned as heinous murder?   How is it that if an angry boyfriend kills an unborn child he can be prosecuted for homicide, but if the mother kills the same child, it is a private, protected “choice”?

This is the absurdity of legalized abortion.  Where do we go from here?

As a modest starting point, we might seek means of investigating claims that Gosnell’s practices were an aberration from the allegedly clean, safe, and dignified business of abortion.  Under present circumstances, it is difficult to do so systematically.

In a recent article that appeared in the Washington Post, reporters cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to demonstrate the alleged safety of abortion.  According to CDC numbers, 10 women died from abortions in 2010, compared with 793 deaths from bicycle accidents.

The comparison is misleading and irresponsible because, in the case of CDC abortion statistics, the numbers that tell the real story are the numbers that aren’t there.   Even states that require abortion reporting do not require reporting to the CDC.  The Alan Guttmacher Institute has estimated that the voluntarily reported information excludes data on as many as 45-50% of annual abortions.

Awareness of this “missing data” problem seems to be growing.  For instance, a 2011 Chicago Tribune story by Megan Twohey flagged the disparity between the number of Illinois abortion providers that reported required data to state officials (26) and the number of providers actually in business (37). The article also suggested that the state’s data failed to account for as many as 17,000 abortions annually.

Rather than burying deadly realities in spurious statistics, let’s have the intellectual honesty to admit that abortion politics have paved the way for a new kind of “back alley.”  Let’s take what we have learned from the Gosnell tragedy and insist, at the very least, upon meaningful oversight of businesses built upon human demolition. 

But let’s not stop there.  Let’s be “enlightened” enough to admit that we are hypocrites when we accept legalized abortion as a paragon of civil rights but we cringe in horror at the mention of snipped baby spinal cords.  We have strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel.

Yes, our judiciary has hijacked our ability to maintain morally consistent, life-honoring laws.  But we, the people, must never rest in our efforts to reassert our authority and restore our collective integrity.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An Issue of Modesty (Confessions of a Reformed Bikini Wearer Who Still Aspires to Be Fashionable)

First a disclaimer.  As suggested by the title of this post, the only thing that "qualifies" me to be blogging on this topic is the fact that I was once dismissive of the virtue of modesty, but have since examined my former thoughts and attitudes on the subject and found them wanting. 

A number of the online comments to my Op-Ed on The Tilted Kilt raised a great point:  what is the difference between patronizing the TK, where busty waitresses wear bikini tops, and going to the beach or pool, where lots of women wear bikinis? 

Well, I believe there are some differences.  Perhaps foremost among them is that businesses like the TK are capitalizing on consumers' sexual appetites and exploiting vulnerable young women who are in need of cash and might not fully recognize the extent to which they debase themselves by putting on the tawdry "costumes."  At the pool or beach, ladies are not paid to dress scantily, less material coverage serves an actual, practical purpose for the swimmer or sunbather, and a woman's (or girl's, in some cases) choice of attire is therefore more essentially her own.

And yet, I must in all honesty admit that I AM concerned about our culture's acceptance of a swimming dress code in which females are basically undressed.  We can talk about free choice all we want, but we can't ignore the external pressures and internal longings that influence those choices.

There is a battle raging in every woman's heart and mind as she embarks upon the dreaded "swimsuit shopping" trip.  As a woman who has endured countless such shopping trips with friends and family members, I can assure you that even the most beautiful women struggle with "body image."  We learn from television, movies, songs, magazines, books, friends, and from history, for goodness' sake, that men are drawn to beautiful women.  And I have never known a woman who didn't want to be considered beautiful by, well, everyone.  But most of all, she wants to be attractive to men.

In my experience, when a girl comes to understand that what most men want is a toned, tanned body in a skimpy bikini, she reacts in one of two ways:  she either covers up a body that she feels can never measure up, and carries around the conviction that she is simply not beautiful, or she arms herself in the suit she feels best displays her "assets," and settles in for a poolside race to the bottom.

The sad thing is, this is an arms race that can never be finally won.  Male attention won through a physical beauty contest is quickly lost to exciting new competitors.  And the inevitable aging process means that our winning attributes are fleeting. 

I have only given up my bikinis in the past several years (well, I haven't given them up entirely: I now reserve them for private hot tub use with my husband!).  My decision, initially, was a practical one.  Believe me, chasing after a toddler at the swimming pool whilst wearing a bikini is not ideal.   But once covering up was no longer a practical necessity, I began to reconsider my prior swimwear choices and the fearful, selfish, and impoverished thinking that led to them.

My thinking was fearful because it was, in part, based on my fears that in order to earn male attention and appreciation, I had to compete (as best I could) with the other body displays at the pool.  For me, then, wearing the bikini with whatever pride I could muster in my appearance was really a signal of deeper insecurities.

It was selfish because it did not consider the possibility that I may have been a source of temptation for some men, a source of discouragement for a young girl struggling with her own body image, or simply another gear in the machinery that perpetuates this communal undressing. 

But finally, my thinking was impoverished because it did not allow for the possibility that this was a competition I didn't need to win; that I am a unique, valuable, significant--and, yes, beautiful--person who is fully loved and understood.  It didn't allow for the possibility that poolside admiration by one and all was not something I had to have.  In this regard, my thinking was a failure to find my identity in Christ. 

Please hear this:  I am not advocating a Christian crack-down on bathing suits.  I am well aware that modesty in dress is one of those issues that can quickly turn into legalism, and that is a BAD thing for everyone.  But I do believe that every Christian, and Christian ladies in particular, should think through the issue of modesty very carefully.  When it comes to modesty, my belief is that it should not be about rules but about love.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To Betty Cook, et al.

If you read my last post about The Tilted Kilt, which was published by the Daily News Record, you won't be surprised that I've been receiving some online comments about it and about the interview I did with our local television station.  Now I am certainly no stranger to the feeding frenzy that is the online comment venue.  But I must say that I was a bit taken aback by some of the commentary on this particular issue.

Of course, many of the remarks stuck with the tried-and-true, unimaginative line of accusations that are trotted out as a matter of course against any person who dares to encourage societal evaluation of the morality of any law, business, or practice.  You've heard these ad nauseum, and they were certainly on parade last week:
  • "I cannot believe the narrow minded, holier than thou attitudes of some [people]..." [This author goes on to suggest that I become amish because, after all, "it's not like they're working in the nude."  Um, no, they're working in their underwear...]
  • "What a prude."
  • "I think this lady just needs to get over he [sic] self and go join the Amish families because she is so worried about 'preserving' family values???"

Somewhat more interesting, or at least more telling about our society's attitude toward issues of morality, were the numerous comments of the "live and let live" variety.  "If you don't like it, don't go there." 

What's interesting about this is that it is precisely what I suggested in both my Op-Ed and my television interview.  I have not called for a government shut-down, police raid, or tighter zoning restrictions.  I have not even called for a picket (although I did consider that!).  I have merely suggested that members of this community refuse to patronize this business out of an awareness of the various harms that it will cause to people and relationships. 

So what is implicit in the outrage about my speaking out is that these commenters would have me be silent about my concerns.  In other words, "If you don't like it, don't go there, AND keep your opinions to yourself while you stay home." 

This viewpoint is troubling to me, in that it signals an utter lack of desire to engage in a genuine, meaningful debate about an issue.   A couple of commenters said things like, "I am a member of this community too, and Rita does not represent my values."  But they didn't say what their values are, as they relate to this issue.  Even Tony Williams, the manager of the establishment, stated that the Tilted Kilt is founded upon core values and principles.  But he neglected to mention what, exactly, those are. 

The most shocking line of comments (although not, ultimately, the most troubling) were the hateful personal attacks, led by a woman named Betty Cook.  Betty said, "This women [sic] is just upset because of her plain Jane look..."  Ouch!  Several other remarks of this ilk suggested that I was refused a job at Tilted Kilt, insulted my clothing, and chided me for being unable to "inspire lust with [my] ankle length garb." (I was wearing slacks and a sweater on the television interview). 

One commenter stated simply, "Rita Dunaway, I hope you fail!"  Yet, ironically, one person instructed me to "STOP HATING..."

Betty Cook et al., you got me.  I will never be anything more than a plain Jane to a Tilted Kilt manager.  Most women won't.  I probably couldn't get a job there if I tried.  Most women couldn't.

But to my Heavenly Father, I am beautiful, precious, and lovely.  I was created for real intimacy and meaningful relationship.  I am understood.  I have dignity, worth, and value.  I was designed, individually, for a purpose.  And the thing is, Betty, so were you.  So were they.

The Tilted Kilt is in business because so many hurting people have swallowed the lies of this world.  They have settled for the fleeting and the superficial.  They have settled for bondage.  But I have hope that we need not settle. We are created for MORE.  And I won't leave off reminding people of that.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Tilted Kilt

I had never heard of The Tilted Kilt until I was copied on an email message being circulated by some concerned area residents. They were organizing a meeting with the managers of The Valley Mall to express concerns about the mall’s plans to install the restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Ruby Tuesday.

Thirty seconds at The Tilted Kilt’s website convinced me that these concerned citizens were right: This place is bad news for our community.

The site’s primary homepage photo reveals the business’ marketing strategy and much more —a trio of attractive, college-aged girls clad in too-small bikini tops and short skirts beckons the poor cads of America who are hungry to gratify their basest inclinations. For the right price, men can trot on down to The Tilted Kilt to fill both their bellies and their eyes.

But the website is more than tasteless advertising, inviting male consumers to go further in indulging their “hunger.” A tab on the website homepage lets viewers “meet” the “Featured Kilt Girl,” a bombshell pictured on a beach in a barely-there bikini, whose goal is “to graduate from college” and whose favorite restaurant meal is “The Devil’s Last Supper, because it’s so yummy!”

This establishment, whose website proudly proclaims that it originated in “Sin City,” seeks to metastasize in our community a cancer that has grown out of significant voids in the broader culture. It has grown out of our society’s persistent lack of genuine respect for women, its failure to appreciate real (but much more costly) intimacy, and its lack of concern for the well being of others.

By ensuring The Tilted Kilt’s ultimate failure in Harrisonburg, we can show the nation that as a community, we recognize our own shortcomings in these regards, and that we seek to overcome them rather than feed them.

Yes, I hope The Tilted Kilt fails. I hope it fails because our community refuses to patronize a business that preys on young girls in need of cash, capitalizes on male temptations, and lowers our standards for public decency.

I hope The Tilted Kilt fails because the young, attractive girls in our city recognize that being employed at this kind of restaurant is a subtle form of prostitution; that they will refuse to set themselves up to become the objects of strangers’ sexual fantasies. I hope that they will assign too high a value to their bodies to accept the proposal that visual access be traded in a marketplace exchange.

I hope that they will think beyond the paycheck they can earn and the superficial admiration they can garner to consider the effect of their actions on others. I hope they will refuse to demean themselves and the rest of us by perpetuating the toxic notion that beautiful women are commodities.

I hope The Tilted Kilt fails because the men of Harrisonburg care for and respect the women in their lives. Any man who thinks that his wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter or female friend is unaffected by watching him stare appreciatively at a half-naked woman needs to do a reality check.

Wives and girlfriends feel hurt, betrayed, and disrespected by this behavior. Sisters, daughters and friends are left with haunting questions: Is that what my husband/future husband wants? Can I be desirable if I don’t look like that? Must I expose myself to get the attention I crave? I hope the women of our city will refuse to passively accept the utter disrespect of men who would take them to such an establishment.

I hope The Tilted Kilt fails because the men in our city care about raising sons who are not slaves to their physical desires; sons who respect and honor women as people rather than bodies.

Ultimately, I hope that our city can prove itself to be one that honors the true, the good, and the beautiful. And despite what some may think, there is simply nothing “beautiful” about profiteers in “Sin City” paying a vulnerable young girl to expose her body while she waits on sex-hungry men.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Call For Honesty and A Call For Resistance

I'm rarely surprised by what I read in the newspaper.  The blatant, inaccurate, one-sided propaganda faithfully reported by the media in countless articles about The Inalienable Right to Life Act (HB1) over the past few years have numbed my sense of outrage when the press not only gets its facts wrong, but then doesn't seem to care when you let them in on reality.  But I must admit that I did a double-take over a few sentences I read at the end of an article in Sunday's Washington Post.

In the feature piece, "5 Myths about abortion," author Rickie Solinger lists as the fifth "Myth" that "'Choice' guarantees woman [sic] the opportunity to decide whether to become a mother."  She goes on to explain that this is a myth because "[T]he Hyde Amendment - a rider attached to appropriations bills each year since 1976 - forbids the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion, making the decision not to be a mother financially impossible for some women." 

First of all, let's be clear:  The Hyde Amendment contains exceptions, allowing federal Medicaid funds to be used for abortions where the mother's life is endangered or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.  This is important to the analysis of Solinger's claim because it means that she is saying that where the mother is pregnant as a result of consensual sex, a lack of federal funding for abortion "mak[es] the decision not to be a mother financially impossible for some women."

Of course, saying "no" to sex doesn't cost anything from a financial perspective.  So I see only two possibilities in assessing this outlandish assertion.  Either Solinger does not know the facts of life, or she believes that poor women are such slaves to their sexual impulses that they simply are not capable of exercising their "decision not to be a mother" through available means of personal responsibility:  by choosing not to engage in sex in the first instance, or by using contraceptive methods that are available through  Medicaid.

I believe the first possibility can be safely dismissed, based upon Solinger's education credentials and life experience.  That leaves us stuck with the more sinister, troubling, second conclusion, which should sound as a figurative call to arms to every thinking, breathing, caring woman who grasps the implications of it. 

Solinger may call herself a feminist (I don't know, in fact, whether she does so), but this line of thinking is the stuff of oppression.  Women--even those below the poverty line--are not pathetic victims who must depend upon government tax policies and welfare programs to shape their most intimate life choices. 

Barring the commission of an actual crime against our bodies by another person (which, again, is not a scenario encompassed by Solinger's reasoning), we do choose to engage in the acts that lead to motherhood, and we can also choose not to engage in them, or to engage in them after taking precautions to prevent pregnancy.  Solinger has not made any case for these alternatives' being financially impossible, but rather has dismissed them as alternatives altogether.  That is as insulting as it is dishonest.

The abortion activists in America may have already succeeded in redefining "choice" to mean the particular choice to end the life of another distinct human being.  I hope that we, as America's women, will refuse to allow Solinger and her ilk to convince us that the only way to "choose" not to become a mother is to choose abortion after having already become one.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Abortion Clinic Safety Regulations

In case you missed it in the news, the Virginia Board of Health passed final health and safety regulations--including construction standards--for abortion clinics in a vote of 11-2 last Friday.  The regulations now go to the Attorney General's office and to the Governor for final certification.

Click here to read my Op-Ed on this, which was published today in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Monday, April 15, 2013

160 Million Dead Girls - Part 1

I recently finished reading a book that rocked my world.  The author, Mara Hvistendahl, is a Beijing-based correspondent for Science and a supporter of a woman's "right" to abortion.  In her book, Unnatural Selection, she chronicles the epidemic of sex-selective abortion that has already swept certain Asian countries and India and is spreading.  She explores the practice's origins and effects, including the perspectives of demographers, parents, economists and others.  I wanted to share some of the factual high points, which are well-documented and discussed in fascinating detail in the book (and I encourage you to read it!).

Speaking from a technological/medical perspective, it was the combined availability of ultrasound and abortion that led to the annihilation of 160 million baby girls in the womb.  But before you shake your head in dismay at the idea that "other" societies could adopt "one-child" policies or embrace abortion as a routine part of family life, consider this:  it was all part of a plan hatched in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Fueled by concerns that unbounded population growth would strain world resources and exacerbate poverty in developing nations, American "population activists" collaborated to combat this perceived problem.  John D. Rockefeller III put together a "Conference on Population Problems" in Williamsburg, then went on to work with the Ford Foundation, the World Bank, the United Nations Population Fund, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation to "sell Asian nations on population control, primarily by spreading the logic that lower birth rates lead to richer people."

Of course, some "population activists" had more sinister motivations.  Hvistendahl posits that, privately, "Western donors worried less about poverty than they did about the global balance of power and specifically about what they believed to be one of poverty's effects:  communism."  Many American elites worried that rising birth rates in developing nations would make these regions more susceptible to communism and less likely to become American allies.

As these wealthy, Western organizations succeeded in selling developing nations on their "less is better" pitch, baby girls were the casualties.  Hvistendahl reports that parents in nearly all cultures prefer sons to daughters.

The impact of widespread sex selection is profoundly visible today, and Hvistendahl describes it well.  She visited Asian schools and playgrounds where the ratio of boys to girls is 2:1 or even 3:1.  Is it any wonder that demographers are concerned about the global impact of such imbalance?  That parents--even those who aborted baby girls so that their own one child would be a son--now worry that their precious son will not be able to find a wife?

But the problem doesn't end with parental worries.  Other unintended consequences of this deep gender imbalance include the rising trend of "bride buying," and, worse, the perfect fuel for human trafficking and other sex industries. 

Maybe playing "God" isn't such a good idea after all. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Things I Love About Jesus (a partial list)

This morning I opened my Bible to read Chapter 4 of the Book of Luke.  I was led there because a friend of mine, Harvey Yoder, brought it up during a lunch we shared a couple of weeks ago.  We were talking about the need for Christians to be engaged  in serving their communities. 

Of course, the show-stopper in Luke 4 is found in verse 18.  Upon standing up to read from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue, Jesus chose to read the passage that says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

I love that Jesus, in the same breath, cares about specific, personal needs and big picture "justice" issues.  He didn't limit his work to a lecture circuit, preaching virtue but expecting others to go out and do the (literally) dirty work.  He did both.  He taught plenty, but He was also personally involved with the sick, diseased, poor, and demon-possessed.  I want to be like Him.

I love that Jesus demonstrated obedience (unto death!), and that He honors efforts at obedience, even when paired with imperfect faith.  When Jesus told Simon (in Chapter 5 of Luke) to put down the fishing net, Simon Peter's response is so full of honest doubt.  "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." Jesus doesn't balk at the expression of reluctant doubt.  Rather, He rewards the willingness to simply obey by giving the fishermen a record catch and allowing Simon to become His follower. 

I love that Jesus challenged the notion of the "untouchable," and ignored the stigmas that resulted from cultural patterns of discrimination based on gender, occupation, poverty, religious sect and ethnicity.  There were no "outsiders" when it came to this Gospel.  He didn't shrink back even from notorious sinners, because he saw their need.

I love that Christ did not allow concern for His reputation or His standing in the community to interfere with doing His Father's work.  He cared more for the people who needed Him than for garnering support among the religious leaders of the day or winning their endorsement.  

And as I reflect on His ultimate fate from a human perspective--His death on the cross--I am amazed that He was not deterred from His calling (to the cross) by a desire to proclaim a more immediate "victory" over His enemies.  I love His perspective, that He could let go of the desire to be proven "right" to His opponents.  (I wonder how many times our simple acts of obedience are hailed as "victories" in Heaven even though they may appear as utter defeats here on Earth, even to us?)

How I long to be more like Jesus, and how far I am from the goal!  May I at least be like Simon Peter, then, and obey the Master in the midst of my doubts and fears.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Rest of the Story...

If you read my previous post, you know that a few weeks ago I had the amazing experience of arguing a case before the Ohio Supreme Court. Many kind souls who either witnessed the event firsthand or watched the video have showered me with encouragement and remarked at my "calmness" and "poise." Now I'd like to share with you "the rest of the story..."

Since January, I have battled repeated sinus infections. Of course, January and February were THE months of my intense preparations for the case. There was no doubt in my mind: this was not just a sinus thing, this was a spiritual thing and a mental thing. And so I did what I had to do. I stocked up on lotion-infused tissues, settled into my bed to read the 6,344 pages of transcripts, and took more rounds of antibiotics, probiotics, and nasal steroids than I care to recount. Then, two days before "the" day, I dropped my sweet kids off at school and headed to Columbus. And cried.

Those of you who know me well know that it is a real struggle for me to leave my kids for any length of time, and especially to go any significant distance from them. (Yes, I definitely have issues!) What if something happens to me? What if something happens to them? Will they feel neglected? Lonely? Will their father remember to pick them up from school and feed them? (I'm just joking about that last part...sort of).

As the tears flowed (or, more accurately, made it even less possible for me to breathe), I asked the Lord to help me do what needed to be done. I told Him that where He called me to go, I would go. I begged for His help, and I laid my fears, worries and doubts at His feet.

The day before oral argument, I got myself ready and made my way to the Court to watch the oral arguments scheduled for that morning. I wanted to get a feel for the justices' personalities, the layout of the courtroom, the location of the ladies' room. I walked many, many blocks to get there, in the pouring rain, and impossibly high heels that kept slipping off my feet. I attributed this to the fact that the extremely cold temperature had caused my feet to contract. I recalled savvy New Yorkers I had seen on television making their morning treks to Fifth Avenue in sneakers...and I finally understood that there really are some situations in which looking fashionable is absurd.

After passing through security and getting my bearings, I took my place in the second row of the ornate courtroom. I was overwhelmed by the sheer mass of tapestry, drapery and gold brocade. But then the first case was called.

Not long after the Appellee took his place at the lectern, the unthinkable happened. The gentleman become unresponsive to the Justices' questions, apparently grew faint (I could only see the back of his head), and was ordered by Chief Justice O'Connor to take his seat. Security guards ran forward to slide the nearest chair behind him as he appeared to stumble backwards. An ambulance was called, and he was removed from the courtroom in a wheelchair.

So much for getting the butterflies out of the stomach!

Those butterflies continued in full force, right up until the following morning, when it was time for me to do my thing. (No, I did not sleep the night before, and yes, I spent plenty of time in prayer!). I became teary-eyed when Cameron and Lori Pike, two friends of John Freshwater who had served as a support team throughout the case, prayed with me before we entered the coutroom. Could I really do this?

But when my time came to approach the lectern, I experienced absolute, total peace. Peace that passes understanding. The peace of the soul, that I believe we experience most fully when we commit--perhaps against our own will--to doing His.

I wasn't the only one in the courtroom that day seeking the Lord's favor. Seated behind me in the courtroom were John Freshwater and his wife, Nancy, and about a dozen faithful Freshwater friends who have followed the case for years, prayed for it, even stepped in to do paralegal-type work when it was needed. Their prayers filled the courtroom the day, and I was a beneficiary of their behind-the-scenes faithfulness.

After the oral arguments ended, these friends (many of whom I had not met before that moment!) filed out of the courtroom with me. We found an empty conference room, and we prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. Of course, we don't know what the outcome of the case will ultimately be. But the truth of the injustice that had been done to John Freshwater, much of which had been shrouded, convoluted, or misreported for years, seemed to take center stage that morning. And that was cause for much rejoicing.

As we left the conference room, a reporter approached--the same one who has followed the case from the beginning, always with a decided bias against Freshwater. His last question to me was, "Have you done this much?" I replied simply, "No, not much." He said, "You seemed so calm."

I slipped out of my impossibly high heels and into the non-descript, black walking shoes I had tucked into my bag. Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Battle

For the past several weeks, I have been in intense preparations for oral argument at the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Rutherford Institute represents John Freshwater, the 21-year science teacher who was fired for discussing the gaps in evolutionary theory with his students and for having a Bible on his desk. 

This is a case about censorship and religious hostility:  two things that have no place in an American classroom.

If you're so inclined, you can watch the proceeding at the Ohio Supreme Court by clicking  here.

I'm still in the recovery process, but I'll post more on this soon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Arrow

Sunday night as I was praying for Nathan and tucking him into bed, it struck me that there is an unresolvable tension between living for this world and living for the Kingdom.  My realization may have been triggered by Pastor O'Dowd's sermon Sunday morning, which focused, in part, on living out Kingdom values.

My nightly prayer for my kids always involves asking God to use them to build His Kingdom.  Whenever I pray this, there is always a nagging thought in the back of my mind:  What if God wants to "use" them in a way that is...well...dangerous?

And that brings the issue to the fore.  Am I living more for my comfort, pleasure and peace in this world, or am I living as a disciple of One whose end was the cross? 

It is so easy, so natural to get caught up in our daily to-do lists that we simply lose a heavenly perspective.  I believe that unless we consciously battle this tendency, our focus will become fixed upon what we will make for dinner, how we will earn the next promotion, what kind of car we will buy, which sports our children will play, what we will wear to the next social engagement, where we will go for our next vacation, and on and on.  This stuff becomes our life, and God's Kingdom remains a very nice, yet abstract idea that enjoys our full mental assent but commands none of our actual energy or time.

If we really believe what we say we believe, wouldn't a life lived out to the end in this way be something of a failure?

The sheer verbalization of this thought frightens me.  I do want a peaceful, comfortable life.  But I pray that it will be my desire to be an arrow that is not simply carried about safely in a quiver, but is shot into the battle by a worthy and loving Master.

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.

       --Isaac Watts

Friday, February 1, 2013

5 Minutes a Day - Day 13

Day 13 - February 1 - Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

Thank you, again, for coming with me on this "5 Minutes a Day" Campaign.  As promised, today is our last e-mail.  But I hope and pray that it will not be the last day of your allowing God to use you in carrying His banner of Truth and Justice into the public square.

Did you notice that you didn't hear much about pro-life legislation in Virginia this year?  Unfortunately, that was no accident.  While two pro-life bills were presented this year (both of which died in Committee), the sad fact is that there was some "agreement" in Richmond that this session was a time to back off and "play defense."  House Bill 1, of course, remained buried in the Committee from last year.  My hope is that our efforts will remind key legislators that Virginians who care deeply about the cause of life have not gone away.  I hope that this will figure into their plans for legislation next session.

Please continue to check back in with the blog periodically.  I don't post every day, but will try to do so a few times each week. 

Attorney General Cuccinelli has been a great friend to the cause of life.  When Governor McDonnell chose to shy away from House Bill 1 because it became the center of media scoffing, Cuccinelli stood firm, publicly appearing at two separate events to dispel the doubts the Governor had raised about the measure's constitutionality.  Let's take a moment to thank and encourage our Attorney General:

Dear Attorney General Cuccinelli:

Thank you for your willingness to use your office to stand for the sanctity of human life in our Commonwealth. It is important to me and my family that the laws of Virginia recognize that human life begins at conception, and that every human being—from conception until natural death—has basic human rights. I am aware that there are many Republican politicians who would prefer to ignore this issue, but because it is a human rights issue, it cannot be ignored. I am praying specifically for you today, that God would continue to give you great courage to stand for the cause of life. Thank you.


[your name]

To send your message, please "copy" it, then click here, complete the required information, and paste your message into the "message" box.

Please pray for Ken Cuccinelli.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

5 Minutes a Day - Day 12

Day 12 - January 31, 2013 - Senators Ruff, Stosch, Wagner & Watkins

Thank you, friends, for joining me in this "5 Minutes a Day" campaign.  Tomorrow will be our last day of sending e-mails.  Hang in there!

Senators Ruff, Stosch, Wagner & Watkins are the other four Republicans who voted to "re-commit" HB1 to the Senate Education and Health Committee.  Apart from that, I don't know much about them.  I do know, however, that the Republican Party professes a commitment to the protection of human life.  For that reason, I think we should contact them with the same message that we sent to Senator Norment yesterday.

Dear Senator,

I was deeply disappointed to learn of your vote last session to "re-commit" House Bill 1--the quintessential "life at conception" bill--to the Senate Education and Health Committee. As you know, that Committee held a full and lengthy hearing on the bill in which both sides had ample opportunity to present their arguments. I was told that every "question" raised about the bill was, in fact, answered during the hearing. At the end of the hearing, the Committee voted (8-7) to report the bill to the Senate floor for an up or down vote.

Under these circumstances, it appears that your vote to send the bill back to the Committee was nothing less than a manipulation of the legislative process. This bill was vetted through all the proper channels, and it therefore should have received a full, recorded vote on its substance (not just on the motion to send it back to the Committee).

I understand that many politicians have determined that it is time to "move on" from divisive issues such as abortion. But please know that I and countless other Virginians recognize this as a human rights issue. We will not "move on" until the laws of our Commonwealth recognize that life begins at conception and provide basic legal protections for every member of the human family from conception until natural death. In our view, any legislator who is not willing to work to secure the unalienable right to life should not be entrusted with the incredible responsibility of lawmaking.

I hope that you will re-examine your position on this measure, and I am praying toward this end.


[your name]

Senator Ruff's e-mail address:
Senator Stosch's e-mail address:
Senator Wagner's e-mail address:
Senator Watkins' e-mail address:

Please pray for these men.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 Minutes a Day - Day 11

Day 11 - January 30, 2013 - Speaking Truth to Power

Senator Tommy Norment (a Republican from the Williamsburg area) is the Senate Majority Leader.  He led the charge in "re-committing" House Bill 1 back to the Education and Health Committee mere hours after a full hearing resulted in the Committee's reporting the bill for a recorded floor vote of the full Senate.

While Senator Norment told reporters that he thought there were "questions" about the bill that needed further consideration, the fact is that every "question" raised about the bill was definitively answered.  Furthermore, Senator Norment has refused my offers to meet personally with him at a time and place of his choosing to answer any legal "questions" to his satisfaction.

If a man's heart is set against the recognition, for purposes of Virginia law, that human life begins at conception, there is probably little we can do to change that.  But we know the One who can and does change hearts.  And beyond that, I believe it is our duty, as Christians, to "speak truth to power" by letting Senator Norment know that we disapprove of his standing in the way of efforts to lay a foundation for the protection of human life in the womb.

Are you with me?

Dear Senator Norment,

I was deeply disappointed to learn of your vote last session to "re-commit" House Bill 1--the quintessential "life at conception" bill--to the Senate Education and Health Committee.  As you know, that Committee held a full and lengthy hearing on the bill in which both sides had ample opportunity to present their arguments.  I was told that every "question" raised about the bill was, in fact, answered during the hearing.  At the end of the hearing, the Committee voted (8-7) to report the bill to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. 

Under these circumstances, it appears that your vote to send the bill back to the Committee was nothing less than a manipulation of the legislative process.  This bill was vetted through all the proper channels, and it therefore should have received a full, recorded vote on its substance (not just on the motion to send it back to the Committee).

I understand that many politicians have determined that it is time to "move on" from divisive issues such as abortion.  But please know that I and countless other Virginians recognize this as a human rights issue.  We will not "move on" until the laws of our Commonwealth recognize that life begins at conception and provide basic legal protections for every member of the human family from conception until natural death.  In our view, any legislator who is not willing to work to secure the unalienable right to life should not be entrusted with the incredible responsibility of lawmaking. 

I hope that you will re-examine your position on this measure, and I am praying toward this end.


[your name]

Senator Norment's e-mail address:

Please pray for Senator Norment.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

5 Minutes a Day - Day 10

Day 10 - January 29, 2013 - Preparations...

Friends, so far we have been sending our notes to Senators who have, at some point or another, voted for the protection of human life.  These have been easy, haven't they? 

Today, let's ask God to prepare our hearts to "Speak Truth to Power."  Tomorrow we will send a firm message to the Republicans who have teamed up with "pro-choice" legislators to defeat pro-life goals. 

Let's also ask God to prepare their hearts to receive this message.  And let's pray that any public official who would sacrifice the cause of life on the altar of political ambition would lose his or office.

Monday, January 28, 2013

5 Minutes a Day - Day 9

Day 9 - January 28, 2013 - Senator Harry Blevins

Friends, thank you for hanging in there with me and (I hope!) sending e-mails to these Senators who have been entrusted with the high duty of lawmaking.  I believe that we are planting seeds that will, at some point, bear fruit.  Just a few more days to go...

If you read Day 7, you will recall that the Senate Education and Health Committee, which hears all abortion-related bills in the Senate, is comprised of 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats.  The 7 Democrats reliably vote against any measure that would provide greater protection for pre-born human life.  7 of the Republicans consistently vote for these measures, leaving one Republican "swing vote" in the middle.  Meet Senator Blevins.

In the meetings I have had with Senator Blevins, he has always insisted that he will not decide (or at least not announce) his position on pro-life legislation before the Committee hearing.  I can respect this decision, and I have spent my time with him simply offering to answer any questions he might have about House Bill 1 (the quintessential life-at-conception bill).  When HB1 was heard in Committee last year, many, many questions were raised, and I believe each one was answered definitively by either Delegate Bob Marshall (the bill's patron) or myself.  This, I believe, is why Senator Blevins voted for the measure, and it was reported to the floor.

Mere hours later, when Republican leaders teamed up with Democrats to spring a rarely-used procedural maneuver to send the bill right back to the Committee for "further study," Senator Blevins voted with the leadership to send back the bill he had just voted to report!  I don't know what his reasons were, and he has since refused my requests for a meeting.

Let's reach out to Senator Blevins today.

Dear Senator Blevins,

I understand that you have sent mixed signals about your support for a bill that would recognize, for purposes of Virginia law, that human life begins at conception.  As a Virginian who believes that it is imperative for our laws to recognize this basic scientific fact, I implore you to take a strong, consistent stand on this matter.  While many elected officials choose daily to bow to pressures of party leaders or the political climate on a host of issues, this is one issue that is too fundamental to admit compromise.  I am praying for you today--that you would have great courage to pursue principle over politics.


[your name]

Senator Blevins' e-mail address:
Please pray for Senator Blevins, that he would take a stand against those who would use him as a pawn for their own political purposes.