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


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.