Why Conservative Christians Should Care About the Environment

Why Conservative Christians Should Care About the Environment

I’m a theologically conservative evangelical Christian who is ardently pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage. I’m also ardently pro-environment. All of these positions are connected and stem from my faith more than my politics, particularly a glad acceptance of and respect for God’s created order. Here are my arguments for why care for the environment should be a concern for conservative Christians.

We Need to Be Re-Humanized

We Need to Be Re-Humanized

This week Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted a photo of an ad that compared the “Syrian Refugee Problem” to a bowl of Skittles. The ad suggested that we can best understand the worst humanitarian crisis of our time by thinking about refugees not as embodied, suffering people but as poisonous rainbow-colored candy that could kill us. Let’s set aside for a minute the politics of this and the admitted complexity of immigration and national security.

Following Christ, Relinquishing Rights

Following Christ, Relinquishing Rights

Christians: Being like Christ does not mean looking out for your self-interest and safety and comfort and rights above all else. Being like Christ means thinking of others before you think of yourself; prioritizing the safety of others above your safety; willingly ceding your power and privilege and guns and freedom out of love for the powerless, the underprivileged, the weak and the vulnerable.

Abortion, the Environment and the Exile of Autonomy

Abortion, the Environment and the Exile of Autonomy

How is it that our society can collectively agree that an unborn life lost to a miscarriage is something to lament but the loss of millions of unborn lives each year from abortion is not? Karen Swallow Prior pondered this question recently, calling out the contradictory yet widely held idea that unborn children are babies whose lives matter [...]

Five Reasons Why I'm Voting for Romney

My vote won't matter at all in California, but I sent in my ballot last week anyway, voting for Mitt Romney. Am I super excited about everything Romney stands for? Not at all. I'm uncomfortable with his Mormon faith, regret that he supports drone strikes & the use of torture, and absolutely wince when he says things like "America is the hope of the earth."

Abortion as Art? (Critical Theory Gone Berserk)

By now you’ve all probably heard about Yale Abortion Girl, right? Her name is Aliza Shvarts, and she’s a senior art student at the esteemed Ivy League school. She made international news last week when her outrageous senior art project was made public.

According to Shvarts, her project is a documentation of a nine-month process in which she artificially inseminated herself (from a number of sperm donors) “as often as possible” and then took herbal abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. The actual project was to be an installation of a large cube suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition hall, filled with the menstrual blood from her supposed litany of miscarriages. Recorded video of her experiencing the miscarriages in her bathtub was to be projected on each side of the cube.

Schvarts initially defended the project by saying, “I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity… I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be… It was a private and personal endeavor, but also a transparent one for the most part… This isn’t something I’ve been hiding.”

But as news circulated beyond Yale and outraged criticism came pouring in, Yale put a kibosh on the project, which was supposed to be installed for the senior art show last week.

“I am appalled,” said Yale College Dean Peter Salovey. “This piece of performance art as reported in the press bears no relation to what I consider appropriate for an undergraduate senior project.”

School of Art Dean Robert Storr also denounced Schvarts’ project, saying that while Yale “has a profound commitment to freedom of expression,” the University “does not encourage or condone projects that would involve unknown health risks to the student.”

Soon after the initial hubbub, however, the University officials announced to the press that Shvarts had privately denied actually committing the acts in question, and that the whole project was nothing more than an elaborate hoax—a “creative fiction” meant to highlight the ambiguity of the relationship between art and the human body.

Shvarts responded by calling the University’s claims “ultimately inaccurate,” and refused to sign a written confession saying that the whole thing was a hoax. Instead, Shvarts began a “no one knows the truth except me” campaign of meta-meta-meta critique. And arguably, this is when her “project” kicked in to high gear.

Shvarts told the press that throughout the nine months she never knew if she was ever really pregnant or not (she never took a pregnancy test), and in a column for the Yale Daily News, Shvarts wrote that "The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading."

Huh? Being pregnant is a matter of reading? This is where it becomes clear what Schvarts is really up to—an amped-up deconstructionist exercise in sexual semiotics.

“The part most meaningful in [the project’s] political agenda … is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood,” Shvarts wrote in the same column. “Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether there was ever a fertilized ovum or not.”

"This piece — in its textual and sculptural forms — is meant to call into question the relationship between form and function as they converge on the body," she wrote. "…To protect myself and others, only I know the number of fabricators who participated, the frequency and accuracy with which I inseminated and the specific abortifacient I used. Because of these measures of privacy, the piece exists only in its telling."

Ahh, the crux: the piece exists only in its telling. With no more metanarratives, no external “Truth,” we can only trust individual perceptions, personalized accounts of experiential contingencies. What a wonderful world.

There is a lot to be disturbed by in this little viral provocation. Of course, the cavalier treatment of pregnancy and abortion (as mere tools in an artistic creation—even if just on the conceptual level) is one thing; and the notion that anything so disgusting (a cube of menstrual blood from self-induced abortions?) could be considered art is another…

But the most frightening aspect of this whole thing, for me, is that it shows just how inaccessible (and out of fashion) truth is in the academy today. When someone like Shvarts can blatantly lie to the press and write it off as part an academic project, what does that say about our academic standards? Where would she get the idea that education (formerly known as the search for truth) can be founded on lies and the privileging of ambiguity?

Hmmm, well, she can get that idea from at least 20 years of critical theory, for starters. This is the strain of scholarly thought that puts truth on the backburner (if it doesn’t dispose of it entirely) in favor of a view of reality as a contested space in which nothing is certain, everything has to do with power imbalances, and ambiguity (re: “complicating, problematizing…”) is the end of all academic pursuit. She also gets this idea from radical feminism, which in saying “the personal is the political” situates the human body in a discursive battleground of contextual ideologies that laughs off the idea of transcendent morality or gender.

Shvarts’ project shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, and Yale should look no further than their own professors if they want someone to blame. If we teach our students that all reality is perceptual, all morality personal, and all truth a narrativized fiction, “Abortion Girl” is the least we should expect.

Am I Missing Something?

Evidently I'm the only film critic in America who isn't convinced that Lake of Fire--the new abortion documentary from Tony Kaye--is the hyper-balanced, exceedingly fair film it's been touted as. My 2 star review for Christianity Today is listed at Rottentomatoes.com as the only "rotten" rating, thereby bringing the film's total percent score down from 100% positive to 96%. This both thrills me (b/c this film does NOT deserve a perfect rating) but also worries me. What are the other critics missing? Or what am I missing?

Here's an excerpt from my review of Lake of Fire:

Coming in to the film, one expects (or at least hopes) that it will be a thoughtful consideration of the issues at stake in the ongoing abortion debate. Heaven knows we are desperate for a congenial sit-down in which all perspectives, arguments, and scientific evidence are presented and considered evenly—apart from personal attacks, cynicism and vitriol. But in this respect the film is a huge letdown—a wasted opportunity to truly consider the issue/act of abortion and its moral meaning.

Instead, we get a lopsided parade of talking heads in which well-mannered, intellectual liberals (Noam Chomsky, Alan Dershowitz, Peter Singer) represent the pro-choice viewpoint and firebrand country bumpkin fundamentalists represent the pro-life side. Defenders of the film might point out that the brunt of screen time goes to Christians and pro-lifers, which is true. But the majority of time devoted to the "pro-life" contingent centers upon the fringe extremists who picket and sometimes bomb abortion clinics, and occasionally assassinate abortion doctors. This is the face of the pro-life movement, as represented in Lake of Fire. (read more...)

It seems to me that this film represents the strangely paradoxical nature of representational politics in the media. On one hand, we are an extremely PC culture in which all races, orientations, minority groups, etc are supposed to be given a fair representation (either in film, or TV, or print media, etc). In my classes in graduate school, this is a HUGE emphasis: the ways in which we should critique media for uniformed, unfair, or otherwise skewed portrayals of minority groups.

An unwritten assumption for many such "progressives" in academia or media, however, is that Christians are NOT to be included in the "minority groups abused by the media" category. Perhaps it is because Christians are perceived to be part of the hegemonic "establishment": the WASP-dominated coalition that wields all the power and money and spits out hate and bigotry. Surely this group needs no advocacy when it comes to fair media portrayal. If anything Christian representations should be actively and visibly dismantled or lampooned in the media. Or so goes the unspoken rhetoric.

Does anyone else see the contradiction here? Why, in film after film, are Christians being portrayed so unfavorably? Sure, you can't say that the people in Jesus Camp or Lake of Fire weren't asking for it, but there are plenty of other more moderate Christians who could have been featured just as easily. Documentaries (and any media, really) are in the business of selection. They reveal their bias through the choices of what and who--given all the options--is highlighted or used to "stand in for" a larger group or phenomenon.

While we scramble to fill quotas and level the socio/economic/cultural playing fields through media literacy programs and multicultural initiatives, some groups are glaringly omitted out of spite. And while the call for universal tolerance rings ever more loudly, the intolerant squelching of certain voices (i.e. intelligent, albeit exclusivist Christians) continues unchecked. I'm not calling for some reverse Affirmative Action or anything, but I do think the illogical nature of it all deserves some careful scrutiny.