Jesus stood silently and held in His tears, knowing that He had to be strong for everyone else.
- John 11:35 (Toxic Masculinity Version)
swap, shift, scale
When it comes to sustainability, people have a multitude of responses – from completely changing their life to responding with exasperation. Most people have the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle memorized by heart, but this mnemonic device lacks clarity outside of the realm of materials such as with plastic, paper, and metals. What do you with food or electricity usage? With systems change, it is easiest when it is simple to participate in and remember. Thus, I propose the 3 S’ of sustainability: Swap, Shift, Scale.
This is the simplest form of change – swapping out one product for another with similar cost and usage. Examples of this include: choosing to use paper/compostable plates instead of plastic/styrofoam, using cleaning products without harsh chemicals, choosing to purchase recycled paper over non-recycled, eating organic foods, and even choosing a plant-based meat alternative. These sorts of actions are useful. The important thing to remember is to swap when you can and encourage others to do so while understanding that sometimes the swap is not as obvious for everyone. Over time, the more sustainable products can become the only option for everyone as less and less people buy the other products. Try to do a swap every day (especially for anything plastic)!
Lifestyle change is not easy, but necessary for . Shifting lifestyles can occur for small things (such as lowering the thermostat in the winter or increasing the thermostat in the summer by a degree or two) but still have major impact over time and across millions of people. Sometimes, lifestyle changes aren’t as easy or small, such as choosing to drive less and use public transportation more or to change to more plant-based diets. Instead of using disposable items, choose to use reusable ones. Instead of choosing the more convenient route, try out different options to get more comfortable with them. Be gentle on yourselves and others, as you probably grew up used to one way of doing things and have to re-learn! Additionally, some actions to shift may be hard because the world around us may be configured for the more convenient option over sustainable ones. In your own abodes and life, try to make it easier to default to sustainable choices – for example: keep a reusable water bottle in your bag and reusable bags in your car, use a smart thermostat in your house and let it maintain temperature, or keep the compost bin next to the sink for kitchen scraps. Identify a list of a couple lifestyle changes that you can shift and commit to do a new one every month.
Finally, it is important to recognize that sustainability is not just up to you, but your surrounding systems. We can’t just spend our way out of a climate crisis or change how we and our family live, we need to reconfigure our societies onto platforms that can scale to be sustainable. The easiest example of this is electrification – if all of your household appliances run on electricity, then even if the electric utility still uses a lot of fossil fuels, you or the utility could switch some or all of the electric generation to more renewable sources. Electric vehicles also fall into this category. Actions here can be costly and challenging, so it is also important to recognize how elected officials can incentivize and make it easier for everyone at scale to switch onto a platform. Besides the realm of politics, think about what your place of work might be able to change to make it easier for everyone! Work with your family, neighbors, or coworkers on making a couple of these changes each year.
swap, shift, scale
- Swap one item for a more sustainable one each day
- Shift one aspect of your lifestyle each month
- Scale your household, neighborhood, or workplace so it’s easy to make sustainable decisions
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wishes to settle accounts with his people. When he began the reckoning, [Harvey Weinstein/Jeremy Smith & Jake Chelios/Myles Cosgrove, Brett Hankison, & Jonathan Mattingly] was brought to him; and, as they could not pay their debts, their king ordered them to be [ostracized/ridiculed/convicted], together with their family and all their possessions, and payment to be made. So they fell on their knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the king released them and forgave them the debt. But the same people, as they went out, came upon [Will Smith/Eileen Gu/Breonna Taylor] who [had a public outburst/played for a different country’s Olympic team/was sleeping] and seizing them by the throat, they said, ‘[Give up your Oscar/You are a traitor to America/Your life is less valuable than ours].’ Then their neighbor fell down and pleaded with them, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But they refused; then went and threw them into prison until they would pay the debt. When others saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their king all that had taken place. Then the king summoned them and said to them, ‘You wicked person! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow neighbor, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger the king handed them over to be tortured until they would pay their entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
Abortion has become a litmus test of political and moral fealty. The pro-choice argument is that abortion has been a critical tool in equality for women and that women should have sovereignty over their own bodies and livelihoods. The anti-abortion argument is primarily that life begins at conception and thus nothing intentional should be done to harm that life. But to be pro-life is to understand the importance of the life of the woman, the unborn child, and the child outside of the womb.
Before further discussion, let us first frame abortion only in the context of consensual sex. The challenges that arise out of rape and incest deserve their own dialogue. An additional filter to apply is where the life of the woman is at stake, as there are confounding ethical considerations.
To break down human reproduction into three rough categories, we would have Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth. Everyone would agree that stopping conception would not end life while terminating a birth would. In the US, we have legal means for non-abortive contraceptives (e.g., condoms or diaphragms). We also have legal means to terminate parental rights, whether by a parent (see Safe Harbor laws) or by the state to protect a child (such as with foster care). The only question that remains is about pregnancy.
The US legal framework of Roe v. Wade limited abortion to until viability outside of the womb — as in when a child might survive independently without the woman. This, of course, was not an attempt to answer the question of when life began, but to set a boundary of when the state might intervene to protect the life of an unborn child. As technology has continued to develop, this line of viability has continued to be pushed back (somewhere around 24 weeks out of 40). If we had the technology for an artificial womb from conception to birth, the legal framework for abortion would instantly collapse. Without such technology however, in believing that life begins at conception invariably means in forcing some women to carry a life to birth.
The moral and legal arguments for abortion that focus on burdens of parenthood are, as Justice Barrett pointed out, primarily resolved with the ability for people to terminate parental rights and place the responsibility to the state. However, it is important to note that many people who want to be, are willing, or even already are parents may also choose to terminate a pregnancy due to sex or ability selection. Few people likely think that sex selective abortions are a moral good or should have legal standing. Selection of keeping a pregnancy where the child has presumed disabilities is a unique case as there may be significant financial, emotional, and social costs to raising a child. It is important to note that prenatal testing is notoriously inaccurate outside of a few specific genetic disorders. Additionally, the state does not discriminate based off of any ability in taking responsibility of a child. Thus, even in the case of a child with disabilities, burden of parenthood is an insufficient reason for abortion. While it is imperative that we order our societies for people of all abilities to thrive and for all parents to feel like they can support their children of all abilities, addressing the burdens of parenthood also deserves its now discussion.
What remains unaddressed is the burden on women with pregnancies, which can be broken down into three major categories: Economic, Life Change, and Shame.
- Economic: For many women, pregnancy can have a huge impact on their jobs, whether due to leave or performance ratings, or finances, through hospital visits.
- Life Change: While pregnancy is a temporary state, pregnant women undergo many physical, biological, emotional, and social changes to carry a child.
- Shame: Finally, pregnancy may be a shameful event, even in the context of consensual sex. Shame of giving up a child may even be a reason for choosing abortion instead.
How do we address these burdens?
For the first two, these can be addressed within legal frameworks. Job concerns could be addressed with policies such as paid family leave and stronger enforcements against job discrimination. Additionally, guaranteed free maternal healthcare would also address any financial concerns with visiting a hospital. Abortion as a solution to economic burden is sorely lacking as this is also a burden faced by women who do want to carry pregnancy to birth. The focus should be on ensuring all pregnant women have economic protections. Furthermore, if we believe that the life of the child and the life of the woman are equally valid, it should be our duty to ensure that pregnant woman have as much resources they need to care for themselves and the unborn child, whether that be physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Existing programs in the US, such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) provide some food assistance but should be entitled to all women who are pregnant, regardless of income or status. Additionally, acknowledging the burden to women would also mean providing above and beyond just basic needs. For example, if we believed that all women who are pregnant should carry the child to term, one policy may be to give pregnant women regular payments paid via payroll taxes above any existing entitlements.
Shame, however, this can only be overcome through cultural change. The amount of judgement reserved for pregnancy outside of wedlock in conservative Christian circles is simply bonkers and antithetical to promoting life and caring for both the woman and child. The act of ending a life to reduce or avoid shame of giving up a child for adoption or to the care of the state is morally fraught. How do we choose life above shame?
When, Mary, Mother of God, was pregnant with Jesus, St. Joseph had an initial reaction of shame. But, his vocation was to take that shame upon himself and love Jesus as his own. With a mother born without shame and a father who learned to carry it, Jesus recognized and taught the power of choosing life above shame — the father of the Prodigal Son is open in celebrating the Prodigal Son and his return despite the immense shame he has caused to the father. Jesus on the Cross chose life above shame, being willing to take on all of our shame in order that we might have life. As a society, as a human family, we must celebrate life regardless of any associated shame and seek to carry the shame of others.
“South Carolinians, you have come a long way, but we, just like every other part of this country, still have
a long way [only sixteen years] to go.” - Sen. Lindsey Graham of SC, on voting to reauthorize Voting Rights Acts in 2006
(Source: The New York Times)
prayers for 2022
In the dawn of the new year, the past two years continue to weigh heavily. We continue to live in an apocalyptic age, experiencing the revelations of deep, systemic injustices towards all of Creation, including our fellow brothers and sisters.
The pandemic has unraveled many myths and hidden truths of how we get things. The reality is that we are all deeply intertwined, in need of one another. We cannot believe that we are an island to ourselves, nor that we ought to create communities that have no need for others. We must pray in repentance for having taken for granted so many people who work, often unjustly, for us to receive and pray for the just recompense for the laborers of the field, factory, transportation, and store.
Our treatment of the planet entrusted to our care is abysmal, and we continue to experience the natural consequences. Even more pressing is the outsized impact of these consequences to those most vulnerable already. Our mindsets of controlling our environment limit us from the freedom of cooperation with the rest of Creation. We must pray in repentance for what we have taken for granted and pray for the will to live in new ways that honor the Earth and all life within it.
A Prayer of Remembrance
Bless us, O Lord, in these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive
which provided Thy gifts
Bless the laborers
who brought us Thy gifts
And bless those unable to share in these gifts,
that they may receive also
out of Thy bounty
through Creation, laborers, and Christ our Lord
And Jesus said, “it is not what goes into a country that defiles it; rather, it is what comes out of the country.”
Hundreds of armed men stormed the government building. Shouts of joy and exclamation echoed the hallways with phrases such as “for the glory of God!” and “God wills it!” reverberating.
A spokesman for the militia members shared why they were there. “For too long, this country has been run amok by leftists and liberals who have no idea what they are doing. They have turned this beautiful country, a country that belongs to God, into a cesspool of corruption. We are doing the will of God.”
As he was speaking, another militia member walked by shouting, “DRAIN THE SWAMP” as others cheered in adulation.
Speaking to another militia member, he shared his concerns about the illegitimacy of the government. “Did I vote for this president? No, I did not. Many people who voted should not have the right to vote and the whole thing is a scam.”
Another man standing nearby with a large assault rifle shared his thoughts. “The gender politics that the liberals have been trying to use got me involved in this movement. And when I realized how much foreigners are ruining our country, I knew I needed to defend our way of life.”
Speaking to the spokesman again, he shared his concern with the misportrayal by media. “There has been so much fake news out there. People think that we are against equality for women, but I have a wife and daughters too. I’m not a monster. We just all want to raise our families with the traditional family values taught to us by our Holy Scriptures.” When asked about others who interpret the Scriptures differently, there was a simple response: “heretics.”
Holding up a cell phone and smashing it to the ground, the spokesman illustrated a crucial point for the movement. “This technology and liberal values have distorted our children. They have been seeking to silence us for too long, but we have now spoken. We are bringing law and order. We will drive out all the foreigners who are trying to destroy our way of life, by the will of God. #MakeAfghanistanGreatAgain!”
immortal cell lines, pray for us
To the persons of aborted fetal cell lines – as Christ died to bring us new life, through your unjust deaths, you also have brought forth life. Your cells have delivered immunity for generations from a multitude of diseases and sickness. Persons of WI-38 (she, 1962) and MRC-5 (he, 1966?), through your stolen breath you have protected many from polio and measles. Person of PER.C6 (unknown, 1985), your clarifying sight has guarded against influenza; Person of HEK 293 (she, 1972), your kidney provides purifying hope against Covid-19. Pray for us, that we may be faithful with our lives and work towards the preservation and respect of all made in the image of God, from conception to natural death.
Henrietta, as Christ poured out his blood for the healing of nations, your cells have been poured out for the advancement of healing of the human community. May we always remember your contributions with gratitude while seeking justice and merciful care for all. Comfort those who are sick, especially those who are uncared for or exploited by those empowered to heal. Pray that we will approach our neighbors and our community with respect and love in protecting our common health.
the great american worker short
Two facts that everyone can agree upon right now – a lot of industries need workers and a lot of people are not returning to the jobs they have had or even quitting. This has been true across industries, from the service sector to white collar jobs.
Some would have you believe that the pandemic and the boosting of the social safety net have created lazy Americans who no longer want to work. There have been three fundamental shifts that contribute to American workers collectively calling the bluff of companies and businesses.
1. Increased Social Safety Net
Admittedly, this shortage is only possible because of the various increases to the social safety net, from boosted unemployment benefits to the direct pandemic payments. The fundamental question is: without the boot of survival on the neck of American workers, how would people react? If they were working a job for survival instead of thriving, it should be of no surprise to anyone that they might want to change jobs. If they were working a low wage job with extremely challenging hours, why would they want to return?
2. Focus on Life
In general, most people who work jobs spend over half of their lives at wage work. The focus on jobs also discounts the many aspects of labor that people do (especially women and mothers) that are fundamental to society and the economy but are not recognized financially. Most people would agree that the most important aspect of their life is their family – yet historically, people have struggled to have the space and time to invest everything that they want to into these critical relationships. The pandemic hit a big reset button: life is not about work, life is more valuable than work.
3. Collective Action
In this past year, our individualistic culture has been rudely awakened to the importance of thinking and acting communally. Staying home wasn’t just about staying safe, but also to not spread Covid to others. Wearing a mask wasn’t that effective to protect yourself, but it was very effective at preventing spread to others. Racial injustice was not just a problem for some people, but it was a problem for all Americans. We marched, we sanitized, we voted. Even moments, such as when the average, everyday person bought stonks and wiped out hedge funds shorting businesses, highlight how Americans are beginning to reawaken to the power of collective action.
For too long, many businesses have collectively shorted American workers – now Americans are collectively holding out for better work/life balances and better benefits. The groveling of many businesses about American workers being lazy shows the mismatch in valuation of labor. If people aren’t willing to work for you at the pay you are offering, maybe it’s because your business model is broken and not because people are lazy. The hold has been working – wages are up, benefits are up, and people are reorienting their lives beyond survival. We must continue to organize together to demand that all people have the opportunity to live flourishing lives.