It is finished…(my degree completion program, that is!)

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Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Message for a Modern World

Jason M. Roebuck

Northwest Christian University

Abstract

On the subject of Mary, the Mother of God, it can be shown how the reality of purity and chastity are revealed not just through Jesus but also through his mother.  However, these are not just one time truths from the past, as will be shown through the reflection of at least one revelation from God in the last 500 years.  In many testimonials of devotion to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it is possible to see that the Virgin Mary, our spiritual mother, has been using this image to convert hearts to follow her son, Jesus.  In addition, articles about the historical and critical perspectives in support of and in opposition to the Virgin of Guadalupe will show that the message has the power to speak through different forms of media.  There is much debate over the veracity of the accounts of the apparition of the Lady to Saint Juan Diego.  Despite the critical view of the historical accounts of scholars like Stafford Poole, a Catholic Priest, and Gene Sager, a Catholic convert who doubt the historical truth of the Marian miracle in Mexico of 1531, it is impossible to deny the value of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that still exists today and its ability to empower a disciple of Christ in their mission to evangelize the world with the truth about purity and chastity.

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Figure 1.  Image of Our Lady in Mexico City, Mexico (1531)

The work that began in a humble woman named Mary at around the age of 13 or 14 around 2000 years ago, still continues today.  One example of her miraculous work that will be discussed in this paper, happened in a remote area of Mexico over 500 years ago.  The best example of her work, in union with the will of God, would have to be Jesus Christ, who was her son, as well as the Son of God.  This work, called Our Lady of Guadalupe, is communicating a message to the world is desperately in need of:  purity and chastity.  This purity and chastity is calling us to be more fully prepared to join ourselves in the nuptial union that is being prepared for us in heaven.

Where do we start?

In today’s culture there are too many diversions from the ideals of purity and chastity promoted by the Virgin Mary.  In marketing, it is the stickiest message that gets shared the most.  Like the commercial, “Where’s the beef?” from Wendy’s over 20 years ago.  For the Virgin of Guadalupe that came to prominence over 500 years ago, it was a message that would be with the Mexican people, and hopefully for the world until Jesus returns.  The first place to start would be with the message.  The message of the Virgin Mary from the beginning was to bring her son into the world in a way that indigenous people on the planet earth would be able to accept him.  She brought him into the world as a baby, through her womb.  In the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is bringing her son to the indigenous people of Mexico and by extension to the entire world.  This message is the same because in the image she is seen as a pregnant mestizo young woman, who is bringing the good news of this new God to a people that were following the wrong God.  In the image, the woman is seen as covering the sun and standing on the moon, both the sun and the moon being gods of the indigenous people of Mexico in the 1500s.  When Mary is revealed to the world in salvation history, she is called the favored one by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:28,33 Ignatius Study Bible).  When she is revealed in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe or Virgin of Guadalupe, she is delivering a message that does not need words.  The name for the image and the woman of the image will be used interchangeably throughout this paper, and the author will try to change to the name of the image or woman depicted, as appropriate.  It is important, for perspective to see the image as it exists today in Mexico.  It has been argued that the image has been touched up or changed since it was first imprinted on the tilma.  (Poole, 2007) When we look at this image, we see that she has her eyes cast down in submission.  She is showing us the submission that is necessary for a human to have, in order to be a true disciple of Christ. Even though, it could be said that she has more power than any creature before her in history, and only Jesus among those in human form had more authority.  Yet, she is seen in submission to the will of something outside of herself.

The Controversy

The problem with the analysis of the tradition surrounding Our Lady of Guadalupe, is that there is no shortage of opinion concerning the veracity of the stories that make up the tradition that tells us about the history behind the image.  One controversy is stated like this, “The campaign for the canonization of Juan Diego, the visionary of the Guadalupe tradition, between 1995 and 2002, revived a long-standing controversy over the authenticity of the tradition and the reality of Juan Diego himself.”  (Staples, 2014, p. 464) The idea that the story surrounding the image can be questioned by a small group of scholars, and thereby their argument be given more weight because of a lack of accurate translation of one of the stories about the tradition is preposterous.  Stafford Poole, a Catholic priest whose interest in the tradition only developed after his retirement from active ministry, would be considered one of the scholars who stands in opposition to the tradition.  However, his opposition stems from two accounts of the tradition that seem to have their bias based on the disagreement about the prominence of one group of Native Mexicans over another.  (Ronan, 1997) So, the opposition to the apparition tradition notwithstanding, it is still obvious to even the casual observer that the image has had an incredible effect on missionary evangelization in Mexico.  Since, in the years following the apparition and subsequent revelation of the image, there were no less than 10 million Mexicans converted to Catholicism.  There are other apparitions that could be used to show the preeminence of Marian devotion in the work of evangelization, but for this paper the focus will be on just this one, although the opposition to the importance of Mary’s role in salvation history will be discussed first.

Opposition to Marian Devotion. Through a somewhat cursory look at the opposition to Marian devotion, the conclusion can be drawn that any attempt to deny the validity of devotion to Mary is to deny the deity of Jesus.  One article I found went so far as to say that the development of the Marian “cult” is a result of repressed sexual desires, or as the writer puts it “A goddess mediator like Mary totally dissociated from sexual intercourse could be popular in a society characterized by patron/client relationships or a heavy reliance on agriculture”  (Bildstein, 1988, p. 653)  It is ironic how a journal that studies psychology would just deny the importance of religion on the ability of the mind to process information.  It seems that whenever anything does not agree with their worldview, or their atheistic sensibilities, it is easier to just explain it away with nonsense.  Rather than accept the fact that for the first 300-400 years of history after the death and resurrection of Jesus, his mother would have been honored in secret because of the persecution of Christians.  Some scholars would rather just dismiss that giving honor to Mary was happening at all.  In the case of declarations of Marian doctrines by the church, it was not until the Council at Ephesus that her title of “theotokos” or God-bearer was questioned formally.  After that council in 431, where the Catholic church declared the truth of her being the Mother of God, (Staples, 2014, p. 17) we see Marian dogmas being promulgated throughout Christendom, in order to combat the now declared heresy of those Christians who did not accept this truth.

Next, the Marian doctrine of Mary as the Mother of God is often opposed by Protestant scholars by the argument that if Mary is the Mother of God, she would have to be God.  However, the argument falls apart when presented with the fact that Jesus is only one person of the Trinity and therefore even though Jesus is God, Mary does not have to predate him in order to be his mother, because she is not the mother of the Father or the Holy Spirit.  Also, in much the same way that humans are created with a soul, without the need of the parents knowing how it is created, God is created in Mary as both human and divine qualities without her knowledge of how this works or having to be God in order for this to happen.  (Staples, 2014, pp. 29-30)

Finally, before moving on to the explanation of how this amazing miracle of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe reveals the truth of the gospel for our modern church, it is necessary to overcome the most revealing objection to Marian devotion.  The objection says, that Jesus did not give Mary to everyone as a spiritual Mother, it was meant just for John, because he happened to be there.  Oh yeah, and she is not perpetually a virgin, because there is no biblical evidence for it.  However, in Luke 1:34, Mary asks the question of the angel that announces the conception of Jesus in her womb, “How can this be, since I have no husband?”  In fact, she was already betrothed to Joseph, so she did not plan on having sexual relations, which would have consummated the marriage and made him officially her husband.  A valid translation of the 34th verse of Luke’s gospel is, “How will this be…” which shows that she was not intending on breaking the vow of chastity that she had made before they were betrothed.  (Staples, 2014, pp. 133-135)  This objection is most revealing. In our modern culture, we seem to need to justify our bad actions in the arena of sexual behavior by saying Mary and Joseph were just like us.  The Catholic Church says that Mary was not just like us, and Joseph was only like us before he met her, and then his world and thereby his view of chastity in marriage drastically changed.  This reveals the truth that needs to be revealed to our world right now about the holiness that everyone is called to.  This holiness is revealed to the world today by the image that is given to the Catholic church through the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Evidence for Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  If we look at movies that have currently been released from Hollywood, we may not get a sense of the transcendent value of the image of Our Lady.  There was a movie released in the last few years about a sting operation at the border of Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas that was called, “Sicario”.  In the movie, we catch an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the expensive home of a major leader of a drug cartel as the hero comes to take out his form of justice on him.  It is worth mentioning this view of the image, even though it is not a journalist’s view of the issue around the relations between Mexico and the United States at the border, it depicts the casual nature of the devotion that pervades the culture in Mexico and Latino homes in the United States, as well.  In the movie, “Quincenera”, that was released in 2006, we see the way the image pervades the culture in the Latino culture and how Marian devotion stands in opposition to evangelical faith.  In her article about the movie, Espinosa says that the depiction of this coming of age ceremony brings to the foreground this opposition through a shared experience of discrimination and resistance in East Los Angeles.  Even though, the main ceremony takes place in an Evangelical church, Espinosa says the event felt intrinsically Catholic, many images recalling the Virgin Mary.  (2009) The article devolves into a treatise against the historical context of the tradition of the story of the image.  The movie and the article still stand as a great example of the power of the image to a culture that is slowly being lost to the subversive nature of the American dream that seems to be inexorably linked to the problems that come from sex before marriage.  The reviewer concludes her comments about the movie saying, “Quincenera represents the open-ended condition of religious choices that confront a new generation of Hispanics who can reject traditional aesthetics and Marian strategies of identity and contestation” (Espinosa, 2009) The argument can be made that the same choices confront a new generation of Americans who have already rejected traditional beauty and artistry.

In our current culture, especially since the results of the election that just took ended this past month, the Catholic church is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the gifts that Marian devotion have to give.  For instance, the newly elected administration appears to be positioned to make the pendulum swing in the direction of protecting all life, especially pre-born life in the womb.  The argument could be made that it was the prayer of pro-life prayer warriors and the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe that made that possible.  Now, it is the appeal to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that has the power to transform our culture in a way that has a lasting effect on millions of lives.  If we can accept the fact that this Virgin Mary wants to tell us that it is a good thing to live a life of chastity and purity.  As was evidenced in the movie “Quincenera”, the result of lack of sexual purity is unwed mothers in the Hispanic community in the East Los Angeles area.  This issue is not particular to this region of the country, but the issue of what to do about these “crisis pregnancies” is as varied as the neighborhoods that the young women find themselves living in are.  For instance, in 2012, there were more black babies killed by abortion in New York City than were born there.  Since, the law should soon be on the side of protecting unborn life, the emphasis on our evangelization should be on educating young people on the value of saving themselves for marriage.

The Virgin Mary, in Catholic tradition is seen as a shining star of purity.  She was kept free from the stain of original sin, and remained sinless throughout her life by the singular grace of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that was applied to his mother outside space and time.  This was done by God, in order that a vessel could be made ready to house the Son of God in the worthy body of the Virgin Mary.  This grace was applied to her, but even though the angel called her “full of grace” she is not the only object of his grace.  The grace that comes from his sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to purify the whole world.  We only have to convince young people that God wills their purity.  Our Lady of Guadalupe has the power to do that for us, even though we were not kept free from original sin.

It is necessary to take the time to explain the nature of the miracle that exists in the image, as well as the miracle that happened in Mexico over 500 years ago of the millions of non-Christians converting in mass numbers and being baptized in such a short period of time.  So much so, the nation of Mexico is seen as one of the most Catholic countries in the world, save only the Philippines.  However, the issue in Mexico of abortion has pervaded their culture as well, and the safety of the unborn children of Mexico are at risk in the same way as they are in America.

The appeal to the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe at this point needs to be made, so that the changes we are making to our laws in this country around the issue of abortion, could be shared with our neighbors to the south in Mexico and the whole world.  As the new administration struggles with difficult issues of immigration and securing the border with Mexico, it would be easy to include the reformed view of this issue with the administration in Mexico and with all of the countries around the world that rely on us for aid.  Now that time for the rhetoric of building a wall and getting Mexico to pay for it is over, the United States has a real chance of creating a bridge between our two cultures and the wider world.

It is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that has the power to bring the two cultures together over this divisive issue and bring this issue to the world stage that hasn’t happened since Saint Mother Teresa used the occasion of the Nobel Peace prize speech to convict the world of the danger of not protecting the lives of the unborn.  She said that the world cannot expect to be able to be at peace, as long as a baby is not safe in its own mother’s womb.  At the risk of using more movie references in this paper, than written ones, it is appropriate to mention one more movie here.  The movie is called “For Greater Glory” and it tells the story of how the rebels in Mexico rose up against the atheist Mexican government in the early 1900s.  The rallying cry for that uprising was “Viva Cristo Rey!” which means long live Christ the King.  In addition, it was that Catholic faith that led the people of Mexico to stand up against an unjust power that was trying to infringe on their most valued right of freedom to exercise their faith by participating in their Catholic religion.  Many people died standing up for what they believe in, and it was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that empowered them to have faith in God.

It was this image that created a bridge between the conquering Spanish conquistadors, who were Catholic, and the indigenous people of Mexico in the 16th century.  These Catholic conquistadors were more ruthless than a presidential candidate that says he going to make the Mexicans pay for a wall, and the Virgin of Guadalupe was able to introduce them to her son, Jesus, and he brought a majority of the country to conversion to the Catholic religion.  This is not about conversion to the Catholic religion, per say, but it is about bringing people to a better understanding of the issues surrounding unwanted pregnancies and protection of all life, in all phases of development, from the womb to natural death.

The issue that most comes to mind that the indigenous people of Mexico were dealing with before the adoption of their new Catholic faith at the prompting of the Virgin of Guadalupe was the sacrifice of innocent people to appease the gods of the Aztecs.  This practice completely died after the country was converted and it is impossible to deny the similarities of this practice and the death of the innocent children in the womb through abortion.

The next issue that the Virgin of Guadalupe will be able to speak to, without saying anything or appearing to anyone else, is the message that she gave to Juan Diego during the apparitions of 1531.  It was December 1531, when she appeared to him for the last time and she told him that it was his humility that gave him the ability to deliver her message for her to the Bishop.  Saint Juan Diego was initially fearful that he was not a qualified messenger to deliver the message to the Bishop for the Virgin, but she assured him that he was the one to deliver it.  It is that call to Saint Juan Diego that should empower all men and women who think they don’t have the qualifications to deliver this message to the world, to be qualified by the simple fact that they see the message clearly and have the ability to share it.  The Virgin of Guadalupe told Saint Juan Diego to pick some Castilian Roses that were growing on the hill of Tepayac, that would normally not grow in December, and were native to Spain and not to Mexico.  He picked the roses and brought them to the Bishop and when he opened his tilma to show the roses to the Bishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was printed on his tilma.  This humble indigenous man was filled with the Holy Spirit and given the power to deliver the message that would save his people and bring them to new life in Christ.  The question is, what are the Castilian Roses that we are are being asked to pick.  In other words, what miraculous task will we being asked to do in order to deliver the message of the Virgin Mary’s purity and chastity to a world that desperately needs it.

What is the message for the next generation?

In order to deliver the message of the image to a waiting world, there is a message that easily attaches itself to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The message is one that was delivered by Saint John Paul II, during 129 general audiences over a four-year period that is called the “Theology of the Body.”  In these audiences, the Pope, now Saint of the Catholic church, expounded on the issues that we face when we lose touch with the way God created us.  In Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, he restores the sanctity of marriage to the faithful people, both the indissolubility of it, as well as the leaving of father and mother that is required of a husband, who is asked to cling to his wife, as they become one body.  (Genesis 2:24) The concept of becoming one body is required of all men who desire to follow God into their vocation, including those men who would become priests and not get married to a woman, but rather take on the Bride of Christ, the church as their spouse.  This teaching of the Theology of the Body is not new, but rather it is a teaching that has been lost to a culture that has dominated the conversation about love and sex for too long.  The culture says that marriage is good, as long as it is convenient and comfortable, but God says that earthly marriage is supposed to last as long as both the husband and wife live in this world, and it is a foretaste of the union that is to come in heaven.  These talks remind the faithful that marriage is a gift of self that requires each party to look to help their spouse get to heaven.  Marriage is not supposed to be a selfish gift, that sends the guilty party to hell for their indiscretions.  Saint John Paul II asked the same questions that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is asking.  Our Lady of Guadalupe wears a black ribbon around her waist, which denotes the fact that she was pregnant.  The image shows her standing in front of the sun and on top of the moon, and thereby showing that the baby that she is carrying is supplanting the power of the gods of the indigenous people of Mexico.  The question is whether or not we were going to follow the other gods of this world that offer temporary pleasure.  Will we abandon those gods, in favor of the greatest gift that could be given to parents, which is a child born to married parents?  Even though Saint Joseph is not pictured in the image, his fidelity to the marriage of the Mother of God can hover in our mind when we see her there as a pregnant mother.  As men and women of God, this imagining could be important if we struggle with identifying with the image because of the effect of our earthly mother psychologically on how we see the image.

Connecting the image to the theology of the body. In one of his latest book on the theology of the Body, Christopher West explains that the proper disposition to pleasure means that we recognize its ability to point us to heaven, rather than the pleasure becoming an idol to indulge, and it is not an evil that we need to reject.  (West, 2012) Pleasure becomes something that is a foretaste of heaven, rather than the end we seek for its own merit.  The pleasure will end, but the promise of heaven never ends.  Our young people today, and some of us older folks as well, that have subscribed to the theory of the never ending frat party that is the pleasures we derive from sex and alcohol.  An untwisting of the indulgent nature is necessary to understand what this foretaste of heaven is and how our whole being yearns for it.  (West, 2012, p. 162)

Now, let’s go back to the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  With her sublimated eyes, she is showing us the proper disposition toward the pleasures of this world.  It is not that we should not take pleasure in the gifts that God brings into our lives, but the pleasure must always be put in its proper place, so they can be seen as foreshadowing heavenly bliss.  In addition, she shows us that to be made perfect, like her.  We would need to let the pleasures of this world lead us to a perfect relationship with the church, which is the body of Christ.  This is perfected by the nuptial union of Christ and his church.  The Virgin of Guadalupe reveals to us this truth, because she is in perfect union with Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that brings forth life.  She reveals that we do not need the physical reality of sexual union to be in communion with each other, in the same way Saint Theresa of Avila and others were in communion with God and experienced the ecstatic vision.  Christ has shown us the way to perfect union with him.  It is through the perfect love of our friends, where we are willing to die for them, that we see how to be perfected.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is bearing the body of Christ in her womb, and she could have been subject to death for being pregnant before she consummated her marriage with Joseph.  We are called to do the same thing when we receive his body into our body through communion, and hopefully we are never threatened with death for wanting to receive it, as some people were in Mexican history of the last 100 years.  Our love is perfected by our relationship with Jesus, by focusing on what he did on earth and emulating him as much as humanly possible.  We shouldn’t look to our relationships on earth to accomplish the things that only God can do.  Regardless of the quality of our relationship with our spouse, it is only God who can heal the pain that comes from suffering in this world.

The story illustrates the point that is being made by the theology of the body’s ultimate end and the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image.  An agnostic or atheistic psychologist would say that we are sick for seeking a nuptial union, and what we need is sex.  However, our response should be that what we really want is union with God and our desire is disguised by sex.  In an explanation of the parable of the wise and unwise virgins, West explains that the wise virgins are the ones who do not run out of oil, or repress their love for God, but rather keep their fires burning for God.  (2012, p. 172) Since the Virgin of Guadalupe is holding the Son of God in her womb, she is completely satisfied by the love that we can only hope to get a glimpse of through communion.  Also, it is available by gazing into her eyes that reveal the communion to those that will unite their will to the will of the Father.  In the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we see in the studies that have been done by a scientist and many ophthalmologists, who all agree that the eyes look strangely “alive”.  They appear to have qualities that only a human eye would have, and no picture could have even replicated the appearance in a modern photograph until recently.  The temperature was tested using infrared technology and the tilma that the image is displayed on was found to maintain a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the same as that of a living person.  There was acid spilled on over 50% of the image when the glass case was being cleaned in 1785, and the image completely restored itself after 30 days.

Finally, in the only article that I could find that was not in opposition to the image’s veracity, it makes clear that the story of Juan Diego is linked to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  (Goizueta, 1999) The expression of everything that the theology of the body is supposed to teach about the dignity of the human person is made clear through how Mary is pictured.  She is in authentic relationship with God by consenting to carry the Son of God, and she is revealing the dignity of all persons by appearing as an indigenous woman herself.  The truth of this is that by walking with our brothers and sisters in Christ, that might just look different than us, we are allowing God to perfect our relationship with him.

Conclusion

The name of the book that provides a defense of the Marian doctrines that I have used to make up a good portion of material explaining the need for Marian devotion is called, “Behold Your Mother”.  The idea that readers of this paper should come away with, is that in order to learn how to get closer to Jesus, you may just need to spend some time observing his Mother.  Throughout the history of the Catholic church, Mary has been appearing to different visionaries that are for the most part, reluctant seers.   As we come up on the 100th anniversary of the message of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, the message and the miracle delivered to convert the whole world to her son is even more imperative.  The life of the reluctant seer was not easy, but when they discovered the secret, that the end result of their suffering was eternity with God, it made the experience worth it.

The experience of going through the degree completion program at Northwest Christian University is difficult for a married man with a full time job and four kids.  It has been over 20 years since I last attended college, so the information that I learned in all of my courses, is invaluable to completing this work of evangelization to a modern world.  The hope is that it has given me the ability to deliver a message to a world that is really in need of it right now, and the method of message delivery has been greatly improved by the business, communication and bible and theology courses that were all part of the interdisciplinary studies in my degree completion program.  Tools that were taught through these courses that were part of my required curriculum will provide the opportunity to deliver the message of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the messages of Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to a world that is rapidly changing the way it communicates.  No matter the time or the place or whatever form of media that is available, it is imperative that this message gets shared to bring people to Jesus, Mary’s son.  So, he can bring about their conversion and more people can spend eternity in perfect relationship with God in heaven.

References

Bildstein, W. J. (1988). The Cult of the Virgin Mary: Psychological Origins. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 653-654.

Espinosa, A. (2009). Home altars and the Virgin of Guadalupe in Quinceanera: historical and critical perspectives. Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 21(1). Retrieved from http://proxy1.nwcu.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.proxy1.nwcu.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=s8887269&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA213033190&asid=0f95e304a8b68f8bd05734bb4daea189

Goizueta, R. S. (1999). Resurrection at Tepeyac: The Guadalupan Encounter. Theology Today56(3), 336-345.

Poole, S. (2007). Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego: The Historical Evidence. Catholic Historical Review, 464-465.

Ronan, C. E. (1997). Book reviews: Latin American. Catholic Historical Review, 153.

Staples, Tim (2014). Behold Your Mother:  A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines.  El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

West, C. (2012). Fill these hearts: God, sex, and the universal longing. New York, NY: Image.

If you like “The Matrix”, don’t read this…

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The Matrix: A Nihilistic Philosophy

Apologies to anyone who may read this and has previously found a calling to follow Jesus more fully through this really well done movie.  It is possible to see that the producers of the movie, “The Matrix” could have allowed for a sense of turning away from sin that is in the world, to be the central theme of the movie.  However, there are a few choices that they made, and one choice that will be shown here, that displays the end that they hoped to achieve.

It is the first scene of the movie that brings you into this world of fantasy, that you are hooked on from the beginning of the action.  However, it is the scene where Neo is awakened by a computer screen that is somehow asking him to wake up, and that begins to explain the whole movie, even all of the movies in the Matrix trilogy.  After instructing him through the text on his computer screen to follow the white rabbit, and then foretelling the knock on the door, Neo goes to get his data stash from a book.  The book’s name is “Simulacra & Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard, and the chapter that is visible to the viewer, if only subliminally at first glance, is “On Nihilism”.  Everything that is placed in this scene is done so for the reason of having an effect on the viewer, even if it is only meant to affect your subconscious.

To explain what is meant there, it helps to see what might happen to a viewer of this movie.  After watching it, there may be a sense that something religious was happening, and this would be intentional.  The name, Morpheus, is translated from the god of dreams, and the name Neo is a symbol for the new man.  The first character presented is Trinity, who is made out to be a real tough bad guy character, and who is capable of amazing feats of strength and fighting ability.  It is possible that as the movie goes on, all of this could be obscured by the fact that Neo was still plugged in to the Matrix when he first found the book, so it wasn’t meant to be real.  However, the thing that made Morpheus come after Neo was his searching for the truth that existed outside of his reality, that seems to be indicated by this book.

If you look at nihilistic philosophy, it explains that there is no religion and that life is essentially meaningless.  It was the philosophy that was used by the Russian government in order to promote more social order.  This scene could be seen as a general reference to “Alice in Wonderland” and the follow the white rabbit, but there is more going on here than just a reference to illicit drug use to unplug from the world.  Finally, here is the quote from the book that I found in an article about the reference used in the movie, that basically spells out the theme.  “The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don’t think so – all that remains, is the fascination for desert-like and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.”  This was taken from Jean Baudrillard’s, “Simulacra and Simulation”, and specifically from the chapter called, “On Nihilism”.  (Dyer, 2014)

Many people got duped into believing in a higher message of this first movie, and were let down by the second and third movies in the trilogy.  However, it is this one scene that should have been a signal to the philosophy that was to come in the next two movies.  There is plenty of other evidence of this film’s attempt at furthering a nihilistic narrative.  Yet, the most convincing evidence by far is the explanation of this theory to a 14 year-old, who has seen the movie too many times to count, and who immediately understood all three movies in light of this philosophical perspective.  The 14 year-old is the writer’s middle son, who was initially skeptical, but after hearing out the whole argument was left with the impression that he can’t wait to get into college to be able to study film in this way.

To think that, because the book that includes a chapter on nihilism only makes a cameo appearance in one of the opening scenes of the movie, it couldn’t be the driving philosophical force behind the movie would be a mistake.  It was in a book about adapting philosophy that Catherine Constable said that the producers of the Matrix made the book, “Simulacra & Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard required reading for all cast members.  (Constable, 2009) The author, Jean Baudrillard, accuses the film of misrepresenting his work.  However, it is clear that they were attempting to represent it, regardless of the opinion of the results by the original author.

References

Dyer, Jay (2014). The Matrix (1999) – Esoteric Analysis. [Web log post] Received from:  https://jaysanalysis.com/2014/01/20/the-matrix-1999-esoteric-analysis/

Constable, C. (2009). Adapting philosophy : Jean Baudrillard and *The Matrix Trilogy*. Manchester, GB: Manchester University Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.

Abortion: The Symptom of the Disease

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Stump Speech – Strategy Paper

Jason M. Roebuck

Northwest Christian University

Comm307 – Professor Marshall

The topic of abortion was something that evokes a lot of emotion for me.  Instead of focusing on personal experience, the speech was focusing on explaining the issue from the standpoint of the cause and solution, rather than the issue itself.  The choice was made to not include personal experience, because it would have caused the speech to focus on all the facets of the problem, rather than providing a cause and solution.  Explaining the problem, discussing the cause and the solution were already causing the video to run long, so I had to decide to take something out.

The fact that YouTube was the media that is chosen for uploading the speech, the seated position was chosen for delivery, because it seems the most natural.  Although, there was a good portion of the video that discussed the nature of the problem of abortion, since the audience is students and a professor from a Christian University, there is no explanation of Christian morality or anytime spent explaining the nature of who God is or the fact that Jesus is his son.  There was a conscious decision made to mention the fact that God has provided our way out of the mess of our over-sexualized culture, and that way comes from God in three persons.

It was the rule of 3’s that was used from the lecture on audience analysis was used to focus the audience on the three issues in our culture, but more importantly on the three solutions that were offered.  However, by focusing on three issues, as well as three solutions, it made it easier to see the three solutions, namely lies, hook-ups, and promiscuity help accentuate the truth, purity and chastity that are offered as solutions.  From Chapter 5, the more or less topic is offered as one of the universal arguments to justify pointing out the magnitude of the abortion issue.  The audience may have heard the number of 56 million abortions since 1972 before, but it may actually reinforce the validity of the extent of the problem, by hearing it again.

 

Bibliography

Karlyn, C., Huxman, S., & Burkholder, T. (2015). 5th Chapter: The Resources of Argument. The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking, and Writing Critically (5th ed., p. 11). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Marshall, S. (2016, May 16). YouTube. Lecture 1 -Audience Analysis. Retrieved June 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhqvDYqUeOk&feature=youtu.be.

 

Stump Speech Assignment – Outline

Abortion:  The Symptom of the Disease

Thesis:  We must change our mind to change the world.

INTRODUCTION

In order to make a change in the culture that will impact the lives of the people we love, we must be willing to make a change in our own minds about the way we look at sex.  The culture we live in right now terminates approximately 3,000 babies in the womb every day.  A lot of people in the pro-life movement say that the problem stems from the fact that abortion is legal.  The problem with that argument is that it says that making abortion illegal could solve the problem.  The solution, however, is much simpler than making abortion illegal, and it doesn’t involve forcing women, in crisis pregnancies, to seek out doctors who will perform illegal or “back alley” abortions.

BODY

  1. How we got here.
  2. An article I found in the Brookings Policy Brief Series from 1996 says that more babies are born to unwed mothers every year since they started keeping track in 1965, even though the invention of artificial forms of birth control and abortion were meant to lower the number.
  3. In 2015, the total number of abortions in this country, since it was made legal over 40 years ago, was over 56 million.
  4. The Morality Vacuum
  5. Since the encyclical called “Humanae Vitae” in 1968, the Catholic Church, specifically Pope Paul VI, had been saying that artificial forms of birth control would lead to the reduction of women to nothing more than an instrument to satisfy man’s desires.
  6. Common sense says his words from the beginning of the sexual revolution have largely come true.
  7. A pattern of attitude towards sexual activity has developed in this country since the turn of the 20th century, which is evidenced by the film and music industry over past 100 years.
  8. Led to the hookup culture that we currently have in our world today.

III. How do we change the culture?

  1. We start by looking at the way we look at each other.
  2. Modesty is not only how we dress, but also how we stare at and talk to the opposite sex.
  3. We should be looking at the whole person, not just a body part.
  4. Who is responsible for immodesty?
  5. A woman and men can do their best to compliment her body with the clothes she wears without uncovering provocative body parts, wherever and whenever this is possible.
  6. Men and women can have better custody of their eyes.

iii. In an article simply called, “On Modesty in Dress” John Wallon explains in two sentences the best treatment on the subject of modesty I have ever read.  He says and I’m paraphrasing, “The modestly dressed woman is usually more attractive…the allure of womanly mystery draws the man to the whole woman…exciting because she excites the whole man in a high and beautiful way that evokes respect for her and God’s creative power.

  1. Besides modesty, we should be promoting chastity
  2. Lose the idea that it is a foregone conclusion that young people, or old people for that matter, are going to hook up, and that is just the way it is.
  3. Look for ways to support young people, or just couples, gathering in groups, rather than one on one.
  4. Talk about the reasons for waiting until marriage.
  5. Use examples of married couples who are joyful in their marriages because they understood and understand chastity.
  6. Include creating a better culture to raise children in as a main reason for purity.

CONCLUSION

It is not a crisis of abortion we face in this country, but rather a crisis of morality.  We must face the demons of lies, the hook up culture, and promiscuity that exist in this world, because we have allowed them to wreak havoc on our society for too long.  However, we can hope in God who sent his son, Jesus, who was born of a Virgin Mother, to show us the way out of our misery.  The way out is truth, purity and chastity.  We must start by changing our minds, in order to change the minds of the world, and start to change the culture.

Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life”. 1968. Vatican: Pope Paul VI.

Akerlof, George A. 1996. An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Births in the United States. Brookings Policy Brief Series. #4

Mallon, John. 2005. On Modesty in Dress. The Sooner Catholic. Oklahoma City, OK

Here is my video, with a few edits that I added to my submitted video and a couple Snapchat shots that I added just for the sake of sharing it here!

 

 

Suffering, patiently?

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The Book of Job Teaches How the Righteous Suffer

Individual Project – Written Sermonpatience

Jason M Roebuck

Professor: Erica Mongé-Greer

Course: Old Testament Wisdom and Ethics

April 29, 2016

The Book of Job was a difficult read from beginning to end because of the repetitive nature of the argument between Job and his friends. On reading this book in the course of reading through all of the bible for the first time, it is possible to ignore the repetitive nature and possibly just read through the book without taking any notice of the peculiarities that repeat in the arguments. However, after studying it, the Book of Job is deemed a book of wisdom because of the way that Job, a righteous man, suffers severe misfortune and argues that he does not deserve to suffer because of his righteousness, and impatiently waits for God’s response. The response from God makes clear who is in charge and so the Book of Job shows how a person should approach God when questions arise about God’s omnipotence or his authority. It is a call to be patient.

    In the first verse of the first chapter, Job is introduced to the reader as a man who is without blame, who had a healthy fear of God and stayed away from evil.1 This understanding of his blamelessness is important to his story. It sets up the counter-point to his friends who will all argue that everything he suffers comes from his lack of fidelity to God. It isn’t until the middle of the book that Job begins to make the argument that God is absent in respect to justice. This can be seen as a natural step in understanding the will of God in a tough situation that is addressed by the Book of Psalms as well as the Book of Job.

In Psalm 73, it questions the prosperity of the wicked.2 Similarly, Job 21 argues the same, albeit in answer to Job’s friends saying that he is being punished for his wickedness.3 The question is raised in both the Psalms and Job that may require a deeper spiritual understanding. In an article that discusses the references to the “night” in both the Psalms and the Book of Job, Funlola Olojede states, “In terms of content, some aspects of Job’s speeches also bear striking resemblance to some Psalms of lament.”3 Psalm 73 is one of the Psalms of lament. Later in the article, he explains that the suffering that is common to the Psalter is also the center of Job’s lament expressed through his trials.4 All of this leads to an understanding that although lament is a normal part of suffering, it should lead to the realization that the nighttime, or suffering, is just another time in the course of a whole day. Therefore, it is not necessary to dwell on the negative aspects of our existence for too long, because the night only has power if it is given it. As Olojede’s articles ends, he articulates, “Darkness is exposed as day dawns again and the heavens declare the glory of the Lord!”5

All of the repeated questioning and arguing between Job and his three friends, as well as the younger and more impetuous Elihu, leads to the response that Job was waiting for. In his article titled, “Interpretation”, Samuel E. Balentine pronounces, “By any normal definition of Justice such evidence requires God’s intervention.”6 God finally puts Job in his place, and answers his questioning of justice with a resounding rebuff about how God’s will is more important than any creation’s question of why he does what he does. Again, Balentine says it this way, “Until God speaks and settles these matters one way or the other, every steward of Job’s faith listens for God with ears attuned to the cries for help of the wound and the dying.”7 Although, he continues on to talk about a nation who suffered during a war, he could just as easily went back to discuss how every person who will suffer during their lifetime will wait for help to come to them and those who suffer that are close to them. God’s answer that comes to Job directly in chapter 38 is a sign to everyone that all of the argument that came before is nothing but pointless drivel. God explains himself as the omniscient and all-powerful one clearly to Job in chapters 38 and 39.8

The righteous one, Job, is restored to his former place of honor in his family and among his friends, with more offspring and twice as much prosperity as he had before.9 In his final response to God, Job realizes that everything that God has spoken about him is true. It is not just because Job is God’s creation and therefore has no right to question the creator, but also because God’s authority in everything is perfect. The purpose for Job’s trials, or any trial that human beings endure in this world, is to accomplish God’s design in the world, and not anyone’s individual design, regardless of their righteousness. It is important to wait for the answer that will come from God whenever trials come, and only listen to the advice of friends that tell you to wait for the Lord.

    If someone had to suffer all of what Job suffered in one lifetime, it seems like a bit much to presume they could endure it. So, it is the idea that no matter what a person suffers, up to an including all that Job suffered, they should wait patiently for the answer for their suffering. The implication that can be drawn from the Book of Job is that the answer may be that God allows our suffering to prove a point. While patiently enduring our suffering know that God’s will is perfect. The last line of the Book of Job says, “Then Job died, old and full of years.”10 If this would have been the ending without Job’s restoration, the assumption could be made that his reward for his long-suffering life would come after death, and for many Christians who suffer today this brings hope. However, all Hebrew people did not believe in the resurrection, so it would be hard to see Job being written that way. It is possible to go through life constantly questioning why God would allow suffering of any kind, in our lives or the lives of other more faith-filled people. Yet, it is a much better life, even for an outsider like Job, to lean on God’s understanding and be patient and know that he is God.11

Notes

1. New American Bible. (Washington, D.C.: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., 2010), Job 1:1.

2. Bible. Psalm 88:19.

3. Funlola Olojede, “…What of the night?” Theology of night in the Book of Job and the Psalter,” Old Testament Essays, 28(3), (2015). 726, accessed April 29, 2016, https://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2312-3621/2015/v28n3a10.

4. Olojede, Job and the Psalter, 732.

5. Olojede, Job and the Psalter, 736.

6. Samuel E. Balentine, “Job 23:1-9, 16-17,” Interpretation. 53.3 (1999): 1, accessed April 28, 2016, Academic OneFile.

7. Balentine, Interpretation, 3.

8. Bible. Job 38-39.

9. Bible. Job 42:10.

10. Bible. Job 42:17.

11. Bible. Psalms 46:11.

Bibliography

Balentine, Samuel E. “Job 23:1-9, 16-17,” Interpretation 53.3 (1999): 1-3. Accessed April 28, 2016. Academic OneFile.

New American Bible, Revised Edition (2010). Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC

Olojede, Funlola. “…What of the night?” Theology of night in the Book of Job and the Psalter,” Old Testament Essays, 28(3), (2015): 724-737. Accessed April 29, 2016. https://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2312-3621/2015/v28n3a10.

(This is my final forum post in my Wisdom and Ethics class, that references this past assignment, and I hope it makes clear the wonderful concepts of wisdom that came to me through this great class!)

1) Wisdom to me before this course was something that old people had through immersion in knowledge learned from experience in the world and through scripture.  It was also an identity that was personified through some of the texts from the Old Testament.  Finally, wisdom was something to be acquired over time, it is for the older generation, and even though I am older, I have always seen it is as something that my elders would have, not me.

2) My first premise about wisdom was confirmed but it has changed, in that I have seen that wisdom comes from many different parts of scripture.  The most dramatic understanding for me was the knowledge that wisdom comes through the Psalms, and although I think I knew it from praying through the Psalms for years, I had not given them the credit they deserved.  I have confirmed the knowledge that wisdom is personified through the Wisdom of Solomon, but I had not paid much attention to how wisdom was personified in Ben Sira.  I hope that through this class and after graduation in December, I can continue to learn about wisdom and increase in my knowledge of it through continued study of the scriptures.

3) As I said in my individual project, I feel the ethical topic that came through the book of Job was patience.  Specifically, I don’t think I quoted this verse in my paper, but Job 1:21 says it all:

He said, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back to the earth.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”

I heard this verse quoted to me by a father who had just lost his son in the Umpqua River about 7 years ago, and I will never forget the faith that he displayed in that moment for me of real despair.  Now, I know that it was not just faith, but patience in knowing that only in God’s time would he would know the reason for this tragedy.  We still can’t explain why Josue is not with us today, he would be 23 years old this year.  He has a nephew, who bears his name as his middle name, and I pray that he watches over him and all of us.  However, his passing will forever be a reminder to me of faith of a father and patience in knowing God’s will for us in our suffering.

Call of a Man

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Call of a Man: Plot of the Old Testament

Jason M. Roebuck

Northwest Christian University

Abstract

Too often, the Old Testament is seen as a history of an ancient people, and a list of regulations that were to be followed by the Israelites, that would never follow them in today’s world. This paper will be an attempt to show that the stories of the Old Testament reveal the truth of God’s plan for the world, not just the Israelites. God intended to call all of creation back to himself through Man, and it is clear from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end. This essay is my attempt at explaining the nature of that call and how it relates to us.

Call of a Man: Plot of the Old Testament

At the end of the first chapter of Genesis, it states that God looked at everything that he had made, and found it very good. (Genesis 1:31) The knowledge of everything that God made is very good is fundamental to grasping the way the story of how God chosen people will bring about the salvation of the whole world. If God looked at creation and saw that parts of it that he made were not so good, then we might be justified in looking for ways to not love those that were not so good. However, he made all good things to lead his creation back to himself. This is the story of how one man was called, Abraham, and then another was saved from slavery, Joseph, and finally another led the chosen people out of slavery, Moses. All this, in order to be a signal to all creation that God has a plan to lead it to eternity with him.

The story of Abraham gives us the first of many glimpses of how our life can get flipped upside down when God calls us. God calls Abram and tells him that he is the chosen one, but then leads him to Egypt to fall into the hands of Pharaoh and his wife is taken from him. The account here is not to say that Abram was not complicit in what happened to his wife, but the fact that he would be put in this position right after he was called, is quite telling. Of course, God gives him a way out, by striking the Pharaoh and his household with a severe plague because of Sarai, Abram’s wife, and he sends them away. (Genesis 12:17, 20) The story continues by telling of how Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. God leads him to the land he promised him and gives him offspring. Finally, the covenant that was made with Abraham is established through his son, Isaac, and he continues his story through his children. Specifically, one of his children was named Jacob, who became the one to carry on the story of the chosen people, not without some deception, on him and his mother’s part. Nonetheless, he became the one Isaac blessed. (Genesis 27:37) Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and from him was born the one through whom the chosen people, would be saved from famine, after he wrestled with God. (Genesis 32:29)

    Joseph was the chosen son of Israel to lead his people from the land of famine. It was only after his being sold into slavery and his miraculous recovery to sit beside the Pharaoh as the one in charge of his household and the whole land of Egypt. Joseph met up with his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, and forgave them and saved his people from the famine. This brought his people to live in Egypt, and eventually led to them to being put into slavery. However, this was the chosen path that God chose to grow his people through an “incubation” period that allowed them to grow in number and in strength. (Larsen, 2011) They were not encumbered by a need to create a government or a military, they only sought their own preservation through the following of the will of God. Finally, a man was chosen by God to set his people free.

    Moses was chosen by God to be raised by the Egyptians as one of their own. After he grew up, he chose to defend his people and was driven into hiding by an act of violence. God sent him back to Egypt, after some time living as a shepherd, to ask Pharaoh to release his people. Through plagues, Pharaoh was convinced to let Moses and his people go. It was the final plague that the Passover feast was instituted into the Jewish faith, because the first born of their families were kept safe by the blood of the lamb that was sacrificed for their meal the night before the Angel came from God to strike down the first born of every family in Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13) This is a typology of what the prophets would foretell of the Messiah who would come once the chosen people were finally settled in the Promised Land. Before them, Moses and Aaron would warn the Hebrew people about not giving due honor to the Lord, by dying before they entered the land that was promised to their ancestors.

    The story continues to tell of how the people chosen by God would stray from the path chosen for them by God, by rejecting God’s commands and following other gods. There were many prophets that warned them about their lack of attention to what was God’s will for them, but they were ignored and tortured for their faith. Finally, the Prophets foretold of one who would come to bring all of creation back into relationship with God. He was to born of a woman, and his name would be Emmanuel, which means “With Us is God”. (Isaiah 7:14) Many other things were said of him, and written down through the Prophets, not the least of which is Isaiah 53.

    God chose to tell his story to us through all of the stories of the Old Testament, which leads us to the Gospel that is proclaimed in the New Testament. It is through these three men, Abraham, Joseph and Moses, that we see the way the Israelites would be brought to the Promised Land and be put in the position of bringing salvation to the whole world. It is because God created the world and found it very good, that we are being brought back to him through deliverance at the hands of the Son.

References

New American Bible, revised edition (2010) Confraternity of Christian Doctine, Inc., Washington, DC

Larsen, Jim (2011, May 26). Abraham. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wepPOe4_g9E&feature=youtu.be.

Typology, and It’s Value to Israel…to Christianity!

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Typology is a great way of explaining the way of conversion that is available for people that still follow the Jewish faith.  A question that is asked often, and it was asked yesterday by my dad, is that if Jesus was Jewish and he brought about the fulfillment of the Jewish faith in the Messiah that they were waiting for, why do they not follow him and his teachings today?  The Old Testament is replete with examples of how the prophets foretold of a Messiah that would act exactly like Jesus did.  Professor Larsen gives us a great example in Isaiah 53, of a prophet who told of a Messiah that would be crushed for our sins.  I have heard the testimony of conversions, from people of Jewish faith, through their reading of the Old Testament which to them foretold of this man, who was the Messiah, named Jesus.  Jewish people were converted because they knew the history behind who Jesus was and what he represented, and the Old Testament gives them a blueprint of that same man.

As the Professor said in the video on typology, it is the story of Joseph and his being sold into slavery as well as the Exodus story, especially the Passover, that gives us a clear idea of what Jesus was going to do to save the world.  In the Old Testament, it was about the chosen race of Jewish people, but in the New Testament, Jesus is bringing his salvation to the whole world.  In one other story, there is a typology that really helps me when I struggle with going to church.  In Genesis, we hear the story of Noah, who is told by God to build a big boat, which saves his family and all the animals of the world.  To me, this is a typology of the church that was told by God that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  (Matthew 16:18)  If we are listening to the spirit that leads us to get into the boat, God will save us through it.

Finally, the question was posed to us to consider the value to Israel, and that is what led to me at the beginning to discussing the conversion of Jewish people to Christianity.  However, there may be another typology within the New Testament that could be a clearer symbol of this conversion.  Saul, who was such a loyal and faithful Jew, he was persecuting Christians who were in opposition to his faith.  However, after being blinded by God on his way to Damascus and being asked by Jesus why he was persecuting him, and eventually having his sight restored by a Christian man, he became the apostle of Jesus, known to the world as Paul, who wrote many of the letters in the New Testament.  I don’t know if this fits the classic version of typology, but it is a great symbol of what is possible through the conversion of faith-filled Jewish people to Christianity.  In answer to the question posed at the beginning, I would say the conversion of the Jewish people goes against the domination of the world by Satan, because they would make such amazing evangelists, and that is why we do not see more of these conversions.  This is probably a massive over-simplification of the issue behind the conversion of Jews to Christianity, but I hope it is at least part of the answer.

We Are Losing Our Religion – Revised Draft

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We Are Losing Our Religion:

Failing to Protect the Next Generation

Jason M. Roebuck

Northwest Christian University

 

Abstract

This issue is important because even though more young people every day say they disagree with issues like abortion, they refuse to stand up for what they believe.  This attitude is one that is born from a lack of understanding and limited availability of scientific research to young people about the reasons attitudes toward abortion and indifference toward the poor are so vehemently defended.  It is important, because as a youth minister at a church in Springfield, Oregon, this research and my essay could serve to help me realize new and different ways to educate young people in and outside the church.

The issue of abortion has been a hotly debated in the United States for over 40 years.  Since abortion was made legal by a decision in 1973 by the Supreme Court, there have been many studies done and research analyzed about the ways abortion is supported and the conditions of the culture that lead more and more people to come out in support of a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy.  It is not as simple as whether or not someone was raised in the church.  The issue is not just about feminism and your belief in women’s rights or even opposition to equal rights for women.  What are the social conditions that have led to the abortion rights in America being vehemently defended?

The challenge to organized religion comes from indifference rather than atheism (Cheyne, 2010, p. 56).  Because of this challenge, there are more people that consider themselves as having no religion, “Nones”, than ever before.  The number of people that consider themselves atheist is significantly smaller than those who consider themselves as having no religion.  Cheyne says, “There were only 1% atheists among the 15% Nones”.  (p. 57)  Tamney, Johnson and Burton (1992) state that the reason this is so important to the argument about supporting conditions that defend abortion is that without religion there is no class of people willing to stand in opposition to life issues (p. 33).  The percentage of people who stand in radical opposition to faith is small, but still there is an ever increasing number of people that have no opinion on faith, because they have no interest in religion.  Tamney et al. (1992) declares, “Opposition to legalized abortion finds its ideological justification in the religious tradition, specifically in natural law or puritanical doctrines.” (p. 34).  Still, there needs to be more conversation between the conservative “religious” and the liberal “religious” in order to find out why abortion happens.  However, it is this lack of religion that begins to explain the social conditions that are leading our country to a place of not being able to defend the next generation from abortion.

If there is a decreasing amount of religious people, there are less people objecting to immoral and unethical behavior.  More directly, there are more people supporting behavior that would be seen by religious people as objectionable.  Chang (2005) articulates that early pregnancy prevention efforts failed because of their connection to issues like socialism and feminism.  All feminists or socialists are not going to support immoral or unethical behaviors, but without the balance of faith in God, their efforts will surely succeed to promote self-serving interests, rather than life-protecting issues, especially in areas of the country that are without religious affiliation (p. 228).  Early adopting states in support of legalized abortion were in areas of the United States that were without the fervor of support from the Catholic Church that supports efforts to defend life, and no real feminist movement in the 1960s.  (Chang, 2005, p. 228-229)  So, the forces that would be a rallying cry for people who stand in opposition to unethical and immoral behaviors were non-existent in these, mostly southern states, which were early adopters of state legalized abortion.  (Chang, 2005, p. 228)  At the end of Chang (2005), it declares that religion is an impetus for conflict within a society (p. 230).  It is that conflict that would allow us to see the real enemy in the disagreements over why abortion exists.

If someone accepts premarital sex and divorce as a part of normal life, it would be more likely that they would accept abortion.  Marsiglio and Shehan (1993) have alleged “People who have more traditional views, such as opposition to premarital sex and support of legal restrictions on divorce, are more likely to oppose abortion.”  Although, this is not quoted as the only reason for opposition to abortion in this article, it is posited as one of the strong factors in deciding whether someone is capable of standing in opposition to the action of aborting a child.  Borgmann (2009) theorizes that the belief in “life beginning at conception”, which comes from a religious perspective, is only a part of the beginning of the conversation.  It is only when reason and belief are considered together that we are able to come to a “reflective equilibrium”.

Religious freedom is being persecuted actively by secular societies that boldly claim that religious people are intolerant, because they won’t participate in activities that they object to on moral or religious grounds.  Hodge (2002) brings to light the oppression or active targeting of religious values by a “new class” of people that want to do away with traditional values because they stand in opposition to their neutrality towards social issues like abortion (p. 404).  However, it is only through the challenging of the issues that surround statements like, “life that begins at conception” that will help our society deal with the reasons that women choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Christians in the United States are seeing the level of persecution toward them on a much broader scale.  It is no longer just Catholics that are targeted, but all Christians that are following the rules that are laid out in scripture concerning sexuality and morality.  The conclusion drawn by Hodge (2002) is that “the oppression of Evangelicals and other people of faith should concern every social worker, for authentic diversity is an intrinsic good that enriches society” (p. 411).  It should be a concern for more than just the religious, that people with religious conservative values are being targeted with oppression, because it threatens the whole of society when a good that enriches the society is subjugated.  When the religious are asked to explain the reasons for their faith, real solutions to cultural issues can be found through an authentic dialog about why they believe and what that belief can do for them and others.

Some people in the modern world might say that we are becoming more self-aware, and not less religious.  It is true that we have more access to knowledge today, because of the internet and the ability to find reference material from any number of outlets.  However, it is also true that we don’t always choose to study the things that will enrich our lives and lead us to a moral truth that could guide our lives in a positive way.  Cheyne (2010) relates that this is what happens when the modern person is left alone to search the internet for truth, only to end up putting together a lot of stuff that sounds true, but they would have no principled basis that led to that truth (p.58).   People in today’s world are just so busy, it is difficult to make a commitment to slow down and listen to the wisdom that comes from any authority, even the authority that comes from their own church.  It is easier to just find someone who agrees with your stance on the issues, than to find the absolute truth that would speak to the heart of even the most cynical non-believer.

Finally, the argument could be made that people are deciding to not affiliate with religion, which causes them to lean more on a truth that relates to them alone.  Cheyne (2010) advances that a kind of “Religionism” exists among some of the believers that are found in our modern culture, where they pick what beliefs match their previously concluded understanding of faith (p. 58).  Without a reliance on some absolute truth, it would be easy to find ways to justify all kinds of moral evils, especially if the evil doesn’t have an effect on the reality that we have created for ourselves.  In addition, liberals are allowing themselves to be painted as evil and immoral, because they do not question the reasons that believers use statements like, “life begins at conception” as a reason for opposing abortion.  Borgmann (2009) gives us a glimpse of how political discourse is almost too polite to really consider issues like abortion.  The example of Barack Obama and John McCain’s answers to the question of when life begins, as a jumping off point for understanding why the question is not sufficiently answered.  “For his part, Obama answered that ‘if you believe that life begins at conception, then–and you are consistent in that belief–then I can’t argue with you on that.”  It is exactly that argument that needs to happen.  The author says McCain would have to believe in murder, since he supports abortion in some cases, even though he proposes that life begins at conception.  Card (2000) shapes the argument around the idea that some people believe that certain conditions need to be present to indicate a person exists, and it posits that in order to be a person, it must be able to survive outside the womb of the mother.  The author suggests that the argument presented there is not without problems, but it is an important argument to have, in order to come to an understanding of how liberals can accept abortion.  (p. 345)

The research done over the past 20 years says that it is a fact that the United States is becoming less religious.  However, the reality of a less religious country may lend itself to bringing more reason and understanding to bear on a people that have spent too much time being divided on many social issues.  Poteat (2012) shows through survey results that only people that do not have their identity tied up with their beliefs are able to see issues like abortion and same-sex marriage from a position of understanding (p. 62).  The article states that more research could be done on a larger scale, but the idea of not being too polarized on an issue, in order to be able to see both sides of it, makes sense to this author.

The losing of our religion in America and the lack of willingness to discuss morality in the public square are important factors that contribute to abortion being vehemently defended by a majority of the population.  However, it does not offer the solution to lowering the number of abortions performed.  If conservatives and liberals are sincerely challenging each other on important issues, like abortion, that can help the culture find solutions to these important issues.  “Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow after other gods to your own harm, only then will I let you continue to dwell in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors long ago and forever.”  (Jeremiah 7:5-7  NABRE)

 

References

Borgmann, Caitlin E. (2009). Symposium Volume: New Scholarship on Reproductive Rights: Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate (Report No. 18 Colum. J. Gender & L. 551). New York, New York:  Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

Card, R. F. (2000). INFANTICIDE AND THE LIBERAL VIEW ON ABORTION. Bioethics, 14(4), 340.

Chang, P. (2005). Abortion, Religious Conflict, and Political Culture. Journal for The Scientific Study Of Religion, 44(2), 225-230.

Cheyne, J. A. (2010). The Rise of the Nones. Skeptic, 15(4), 56-60.

Hodge, D. R. (2002). Does Social Work Oppress Evangelical Christians? A ‘New Class’ Analysis of Society and Social Work. Social Work, 47(4), 401-414.

Marsiglio, W., & Shehan, C. L. (1993). Adolescent Males’ Abortion Attitudes: Data from a National Survey. (Cover story). Family Planning Perspectives, 25(4), 162.

Poteat, V. H. (2012). (Dis)similarity Between Liberals and Conservatives: Predicting Variability in Group Differences on Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage Rights Attitudes. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 34(1), 56-65.

Tamney, J. B., Johnson, S. D., & Burton, R. (1992). The abortion controversy: conflicting beliefs and values in American society. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31(1), 32-46.