Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Healthcare: The Good the Bad and the Disgustingly Ugly

The other day on someone else's FB page, an old friend defended nationalized healthcare and, in particular, Britain's NHS.  I knew her experience was dated and I knew there had been multiple reported problems in Britain's nationalized healthcare system, but tonight I found it was even worse than I had imagined.

I already knew that 1 in 4 NHS Trusts failed basic hygiene standards like cleaning up blood spatter and basic handwashing rules.  In another report (link no longer available) 25-30% of Trusts were found to be failing on basic safety measures like bedrails.  In addition, back in the 1990s when I first began researching NHS before lobbying against "HillaryCare", I was astounded to learn that waiting times for basic surgeries like cataracts had stretched beyond statutory limits and patients were being shipped across the channel to France for surgery.

Perhaps most troubling, as we face aging populations, one report has HALF of NHS hospitals failing to provide adequate nutrition to their elderly patients. And an Ombudsman's report found the following cases of appalling treatment of the elderly:

  • An 82-year-old woman died alone because staff didn't realize her husband had been waiting hours to see her.
  • One elderly woman spent 13 weeks in the hospital without being bathed.
  • Another woman was sent home covered in bruises, soaked in urine and wearing someone else's clothes
  • In yet another case, life support for a heart attack victim was turned off despite his wife's asking it be left on to give the family time to gather and say good-bye.
There have also been numerous reports of elderly patients being denied food and water.  

There are two things that help explain the discrepancies in Britain's healthcare system.  The first is that Britain has a 2-tiered system which allows private insurance.  The second is that their nationalized healthcare system is administered by regional trusts - which can leaves the quality of care dependent upon the ability of the regional trust's management to, well, manage.

And yet, in this country we still see pressure to move toward a nationalized single-payor system while at the same time we continue to build new hospitals with 100% private rooms!

Let me close on a happier note. The next time you hear someone complain about the number of uninsured in this country or the problems in our healthcare system. I want you to recall this story in the Denver Post about the theatre shooting this past summer:

University of Colorado Hospital worked with Medicaid and private insurers so that none of their patients paid deductibles or other out-of-pocket expenses. Doctors also wrote off expenses. CEO John Harney says his hospital wrote off more than $2 million in care.

THAT's what I love about America's healthcare (non)system. Every day, in much less spectacular ways (Thank you, God!), we give care to those who cannot pay.  And we give an exceptional quality of care.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cultural Literacy: Kate Smith

I don't recall how it came up in conversation, but the other night I found myself asking my co-workers if they knew who Kate Smith was.  I was a little surprised to find out none of them (mostly much younger than I) had never heard of her.

Now, to be honest, since Smith retired from public life when I was still in high school, I must admit I am only familiar with her because of my enjoyment of television variety shows.  Not something your average teenager indulges in.  In fact, they are a relic of the younger days of television. Before I became familiar with her from her appearances on shows like those hosted by Dean Martin and the Smothers Brothers, she had a lengthy career as a recording artist and was one of America's most popular radio personalities - having top variety and news/commentary programs.

Kate Smith had a big voice, not one you would ever forget if you had once heard her sing.  She is most famous for making famous what Irving Berlin called his most important song:

That song was also to be the last one she performed in public, during bicentennial celebrations in 1976.  After that, she retired from public life.

Even though she was gone for 15 years when terrorists attacked on 11 September, 2001 -- that afternoon, as the terrible reality began soaking in and I realized that there were people on this planet that hated this country so very much they would commandeer full commercial airplanes and fly them into a pair of skyscrapers in New York City, the Pentagon and attempt a fourth attack on the White House -- that afternoon almost more than anything else I wanted to hear Miss Smith sing, "God Bless America".

Smith, in addition to her recording, radio and television work appeared in 7 movies herself and her voice is found on the soundtrack of 19 more, according to IMDB .  So, even though you may not know her name, you may have heard her voice.  

Go to YouTube and IMDB and get to know this American Icon.

Half the Truth

Carolyn Custis James is riding the Half the Sky movement for all its worth.  In the wake of this week's showing on PBS's Independent Lens of the movie based on the book, James has a piece in the Huffington Post this weekend.  See here.

One thing Mrs James forgets.  One thing Kristof and WuDunn deny.  One thing World Vision ignores in their partnership with Half the Sky.

Without the right to life, no other right matters.  It means nothing to have any other right if we do not first have the right to our own lives.

Nothing. Else. Matters.

James is "cut to the bone" by the accusation that Christians don't care as much about African women as we do about "the lives of unborn fetuses."  The first problem with that is that they are not merely "unborn fetuses".  They are human beings made in the image of God, same as the African women we Christians are accused of not caring enough about. 

I'm beginning to wonder where Mrs. James has really been for the past 40 years. In the 1970s I know I heard little, if anything, about sidewalk counseling and the horrors of abortion in my suburban, mostly white, Evangelical church. But I did hear about missionaries in Africa and I did wear a bracelet which helped me remember to pray for a woman who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union because she was a Christian. Since then, I've heard as much about child brides, female genital mutilation, acid attacks and a sort of enforced sati as I have about abortion.

I've been privileged to hear women (and men) who have risked their lives for the sake of others around the world. Women like Baroness Caroline Cox who has risked her life multiple times to redeem slaves -- a woman who continued the practice even when her own government (she was Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords) told her, "If you get caught, we've never heard of you".  And read about young women like Grace Akallo, a former child soldier from Uganda ( you will learn more about Grace in a week or two when I post a review of the book she wrote with my friend, Faith McDonnell).

So, if Mrs. James wants to say we haven't done enough, she'll get no argument from me.  But that's not what she says.  She uncritically uses the language of pro-abortion "family planners" to deny the humanity, the image-bearing status, of the child before birth. And then agrees with them that we have turned a "blind eye" towards other atrocities happening around the world.

And that's a lie.  It only looks that way to some because they  have turned a blind eye to the humanity and vulnerability of the child in the womb.  The have turned what should be the safest place on earth into a place of unspeakable violence, of tearing the most vulnerable members of the human family limb from limb and discarding them in the trash like so much offal (in fact, one abortionist is now facing charges for feeding the human remains of abortion to dogs).

We care about abortion, about children even before they are born, and we care about their moms because we know this comes first.  We act because we know that if we don't do this work, we won't do that work in a way that helps rather than hurts.

And hurting is precisely what Half the Sky and their partners and promoters do when they promote the myth of overpopulation and the necessity of "family planning" which harms women physically, emotionally and spiritually.

We know that the only way to really help women, instead of imposing an agenda that harms rather than helps, is to be unashamedly prolife in word and deed.

And to those who are not unashamedly prolife?  Well, I guess it probably does look like we care a whole lot more about "unborn fetuses" than we do women in Africa.  When the truth is, they are one and the same.  They are both victims of evil in this fallen world.

I wish to God they weren't.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

World Vision's Disturbing Partnership

The Independent Lens/Half the Sky movie premiered on PBS this week. The movie is the outgrowth of a movement sparked by a book of the same name from NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.  I review the book here.  As I show in my review, the book is flawed by the premises of its authors who are staunch abortion rights supporters with a prejudice against Christianity.  Their aim is more than simply admirable but their approach is so flawed that their work and the organization cannot be commended to Christians.

In spite of this, the Half the Sky phenomenon has been heavily promoted by Carolyn Custis James (echoing it in the title of her own book, Half the Church) who invited WuDunn to speak at the last Synergy conference and has used her blog and twitter feed to regular promote the Kristof/WuDun work.  Half the Sky has also been promoted by Bill Hybels and Willow Creek who turned over all three services one weekend this past May to an interview with Kristof (my reaction and video of the event available here). Willow Creek also had WuDunn speak as "faculty" for their summer leadership institute.  While Kristof is more widely known as a NYT columnist, WuDunn is every bit as dangerous to the health and well being of women around the world as evidenced by her TED talk linked in this post . In that talk, WuDunn peddles the repeatedly discredited overpopulation myth while also advocating the putting aside of morality for pragmatics in "helping" women. Putting together the overpopulation myth with education advocacy, it becomes clear that WuDunn thinks the best way to help women is to ensure they have fewer babies.  Never mind that the overpopulation and  "reproductive rights" that WuDunn supports have overwhelming victimized (before they are even born) the littlest women on the planet to the point where demographers estimate the number of missing girls may be as high as 200 MILLION.

Even though I knew many Christians had been shocked into indignation by the atrocities Kristof and WuDunn reveal, in preparing to watch the documentary I was caught up short when I noticed on the bottom right corner of the page listing sponsors that World Vision is a featured partner of the Half the Sky Movement:

Holding onto a bit of disbelief, I telephoned World Vision and was asked to email them my concerns.  I sent an email including many of the same links I am including in this blog post here. I also contacted some friends for feedback, one of whom responded to World Vision with a letter of his own (he is a pastor, theologian and missionary in Africa who well knows the devastation and abuse that western aid agencies with a pro-abortion/birth control agenda visit upon women they deem in need of their help). My concern is not simply the abortion agenda, for I understand there are legitimate projects upon which Christian groups can work with secular groups without compromising the pro-life beliefs of the Christian group.  But this is not simply a limited cooperation for a particular project, this is a major partnership which World Vision is promoting on their own web site.  

By doing so, World Vision is not simply partnering with a new movement, they are partnering with the partners of Half the Sky as well. Other partners include Marie Stopes International and Center for Reproductive Rights the former is a major international abortion provider and the latter an international advocate for uninhibited "reproductive freedom". The abortion/overpopulation agenda is neatly tied together by having the Gates Foundation as a major funder .  Melinda Gates, you may know, has created some controversy by claiming there is No Controversy in contraception. 

Because of these concerns I have outlined above, it was with deep disappointment and sadness that I received World Vision's response to my concerns.  I include the body of their response here (excluding a few words of greeting and closing which are particular to my relationship to them and past sponsorship).  Please take note that, while they assert their pro-life views, they both defend their partnership with Half the Sky as well as making positive references to family planning:

World Vision is one of 32 partners with Half the Sky, and some of these groups may approach maternal health and family planning differently than World Vision. However, we are working together toward a common goal to help women and girls reach their God-given potential in a world that would allow them to freely live, work, and express themselves. As World Vision addresses serious issues that affect the poorest of the poor, we belong to advocacy and technical networks that may include groups with whom we disagree on theological grounds or certain issues. This does not mean we endorse their positions on other issues or support these organizations. However, we are working toward the same goal, which is preserving lives and advancing the cause of those in need.
We share your concern for the well-being of all children, including those in their mother's womb. For more than 60 years World Vision has been working to save the lives of these children who are so near our Savior's heart-not only to save their lives, but to break the cycle of poverty so that they, their children, and their children's children can live healthy, productive lives.
Please be assured that World Vision inexorably opposes the use of abortion, as it runs contrary to everything for which we stand. All of World Vision's efforts seek to save, extend, and enhance life. World Vision's policy denies the use or promotion of abortion as a method of family planning in any of its projects.
World Vision's survival programs have saved countless lives of children and their mothers. Through improved nutrition, diarrhea control, expanded immunization, and birth spacing, families are healthier and more of their children are surviving the first few perilous years of life.
We are concerned that much of the progress we have seen in the lives of mothers and their children might be reversed if families do not have access to maternal education on topics such as birth spacing methods and prolonged breast-feeding practices. Children born to mothers who are too young or too old have a diminished chance of survival. The health of the mother and all children in a family is affected when births are too close together.
World Vision believes that life begins at conception and encourages family planning programs, that are proven not to be abortive in nature, in areas where the programs are desired by individuals and acceptable to both the culture and government of the region. World Vision faces challenging issues of economics and culture in its sponsorship communities around the world. Our aim is to ensure the survival of each child through community development and health efforts. We believe family planning and child spacing are only part of our efforts to enable families to enjoy healthier lives.

Nearly half a century ago, the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae fell like a bombshell on the Catholic Church as well as the wider world.  It was widely ignored, condemned and a year later termed a dead letter.  And yet the intervening decades have shown that the four broad predictions Paul VI made have come to pass.  One of them was the prediction that there would be a coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.  Here is just one example of US foreign aid being tied to family planning.  In this, governments and foundations such as Gates work together to promote abortion, sterilization and birth control. It is not a beast you can tame, thinking you have forged a relationship of trust -- and then turn your back on it.  

Because of this, I have informed World Vision that I will not be sponsoring another orphan.  In fact, I will not knowingly give them one thin dime of my money so long as they are partnering with groups promoting practices that harm women, men and their children.  

I urge you to consider doing the same.  Contact World Vision and tell them you will not support an organization that joins hands with the Culture of Death.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'd buy it just for the bathtubs (If'n I had a spare $949,000)

Can you be simultaneously dancing on the inside while being weighed down with sadness?  I think that's the best I can do to describe the conflict I feel this evening.  An interesting blog hit caused me to check in on our  friends at Pomegranate Place and I was greeted with this:

You can read the whole letter from Vaun Swanson here.

It seems that without free support from Denver Seminary, this formerly thriving "Oasis" for women in the heart of Denver couldn't make ends meet.  From the letter, it sounds like Vaun and her Affiliate Guides couldn't attract enough women to keep their programs going.  Are these vibrant, educated and privileged women not quite as needy as the helping hands at Pomegranate Place wanted to believe? Life Coaches and Art Therapists and Dream Workers and Transformational Breathers and assorted other therapies and therapists including the graduate of the "Jack Kerouc School of Disembodied Poetics" turned out to be not quite so marketable in this economy.

If you, on the other hand, are thriving in this economy, I know where you can pick up some great digs with not one, but two, bathtubs that I could only dream about having in my little house:

Making the men wonder

It's that time of year again ....

Yeah, not gonna do it this year, either. The Facebook breast cancer awareness game is getting more prurient, more sexually suggestive and less reticent. More unholy exhibitionism than holy bashfulness, having more in common with Eve Ensler than Alice Von Hildebrand, it's just not proper.

I'm not sure what it's supposed to accomplish anyway.  A bit of sniggering together while the men wonder just what it is you're talking about?  No it couldn't possibly mean THAT. But of course, THAT is exactly what the game is designed to imply.  My, aren't we cleaver, coming up with these little games and all you post is the appropriate response. And the appropriate response is always cryptic, designed to be sexually suggestive. 

Have we all regressed to silly adolescents trying to shock the adults?  Do we have to be semi-exhibitionists to prove we aren't prudes? I guess "fight like a girl" is the proper battle cry here because mature adults have no need of these games and recognize some things just aren't meant for public view.  Not because they are "dirty" or "nasty" or "icky", but because they are hidden for a reason, being meant for something greater than a cheap voyeurism.

So, your word for today is: pudeur.

Go look it up in your Funk & Wagnall's. And if you want to play the suggestive game, don't tag me, please.


Within moments of this blog post crossing to Facebook, I was contacted then "unfriended" by the woman who tagged me in the message.  Apparently, my deficient sense of humour causing my inability to laugh at deliberately sexually suggestive facebook memes is a problem.  As I said more Eve Ensler than Alice von Hildebrand.  It's sad this this woman was one of my mentors at Denver Seminary and a fellow alumna.  Kind of makes you wonder what kind of "spiritual formation" is going on there, doesn't it? Oh well.  

Everyday graces - The Gargoyles

Many of us rush, rush, rush through life.  Errands, work, the bits and pieces of our lives just pile on, don't they?  But there are quiet moments, ones we must make a point to notice and savor.  The next time something catches your eye, pause to capture the moment, the flash of color, or a snatch of music.  These tiny gifts are graces, occasions to remind us that there is something more to life than the rushed pace at which many of us live.

The street I drive down nearly every day provides one of these graces.  On that major street is a property that marks the corners of its walls with gargoyles, one on each side of the half-circle drive.  A woman I refer to as the gargoyles's mom decks them out during the year - fishing hats and poles for Father's Day.  Lunch boxes and back packs for "back-to-school" and when the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, the Gargoyles were appropriately decked out with goalie masks and Avalanche Jersey.  They made the sports report that night on local television.

Today, they were presenting the passing traffic with little bouquets of fall flowers.


What are the everyday graces flowing past which you might have been too busy to savour?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Emerging from hibernation

Some creatures, generally those of a lower order, hibernate during the cold winter months.  But there is one particular variety of creature, one bearing the image of God, who exhibits an opposite pattern.  She is known to be absent from the kitchen during the hot summer months, even eschewing non-heat inducing kitchen activities such as making her own iced tea.  But we can observe the creature, Antinomia Crustulum, emerge as days grow cooler, nights crisper, and leaves begin to turn color and fall from the trees.

Such was the case today when the kitchen resounded with crashing pots and spurting water, knives chopping and spoons stirring.  The Antinomian Cook wishes she could provide you with recipes, but then she wouldn't be so antinomian, would she?  Nevertheless, she offers here a rough guide as to the day's kitchen activities and their results:

First up was the favorite fall stand by, Mexican Chicken Stew. This is a simple slow-cooker dish.  Take 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and 2-large cans of crushed tomatoes and place them in the cooker. Turn on high to get the chicken cooking.  Add 2 chopped onions, 3-4 cloves of garlic, some salt, crushed oregano and the number of hot peppers equal to your courage.  I prefer the dried red pods, but sliced jalapenos and habaneros work just as well.  Cook for 3-4 hours, until both the chicken and onions are thoroughly done and tender.  Take the breasts pieces out, shred them and return them to the pot. This stew keeps for a few days and freezes well.  You may also add zucchini if you prefer more vegetables.

Next, it happens to be squash-is-on-sale week. Today, I bought three butternut squashes, roasted them in the oven and they are now cooling.  I will scoop them out and puree them, then freeze them in portions.  Tonight, with some of the squash, I will put together a quick soup seasoned with a delightfully complex spice mix from Williams-Sonoma:

Butternut squash can be pureed and easily made into soup using broth, milk or cream to get the desired consistency.  One of my favorite ways to change it up is to season the soup with nutmeg and add chopped apple and walnuts.  Mushrooms, chickpeas and bacon can all add a bit of protein while flat-leaf parsley or watercress and a splash of green.

There is also sauteed sweet peppers and onions with thyme on the menu.

'Tis the nesting season!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is Christianity Sexist?

That's the title of a section in Doug Groothuis' Magnum Opus:

Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith  -     
        By: Douglas Groothuis

I'm tempted to say, "Yes, of course it is!" and be done with it. Because, truth be told, if we are to judge Christianity by Groothuis's hyper-logical paradigm, it is.  And it has to be because the central icon of Christianity is "sexist".  In marriage, a wife is to submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ and a husband is to give himself for his wife as Christ gave himself up for the Church. Marriage presents the Church and our relationship to Jesus Christ in microcosm. Unless Groothuis wants to accuse our Lord, his Apostles and the Church as guided by the Holy Spirit for virtually her entire history of the "mistreatment of half the human race" he should re-think his advocacy of feminism. Because the Church, following the dominical practice, has never ordained women to the presiding office.

The poison of the feminist paradigm doesn't stop there. It compels him on to skirt around something that sounds dangerously close to denying God the Father as Father. "...Jesus called God his Father not to emphasize masculinity against femininity but to highlight that God is a personal and powerful being." Groothuis is right that Jesus did not call God his Father to emphasize one sex over the other.  But he is quite wrong, so very dangerously wrong, when he goes on to claim it was to show that God is a personal being.  On the contrary, Jesus called his Father because He is Father. According to Paul in Ephesians 3, human fatherhood derives from God's divine Fatherhood.  Of course the Apostles already knew how to pray to the Father, as Christ taught. In fact, while God does exhibit motherly care and the actions we associate with motherhood, He is always Father, never mother.

The feminist wish to avoid acknowledging God's fatherhood and his establishment of patriarchy in creation results in a third error which is at least a near-heresy, a form of neo-modalism wherein Jesus's maleness is held to be incidental and not essential.  Both Groothuis and his wife (see Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Ch, 18 of Discovering Biblical Equality) make the case for their paradigm by referring to Jesus Christ's humanity as if humanity is some sort of generic foundation upon which specific male and female characteristics are overlayed. It is not. In the beginning, we are told, God made them male and female.  Both male and female are made in God's image (hence our ontological equality) but we are always either male or female (hence our teleological distinctions). Jesus's maleness is important because his taking on human flesh is important and that human flesh was and is male.

The feminists have to jump through so many hoops, I wonder they don't tire of it and have done with Christianity altogether. The have to pretend patriarchy is a result of the Fall and that Adam's creation first, with Eve being create for him, from him and being brought to him tell us nothing about how men and women are to relate in marriage. They have to pretend that Israel was established as a patriarchy because of the surrounding culture and that it was not due to God's sovereign choice and that the Bridal imagery shot throughout the entire Old Testament teach us absolutely nothing about how men and women are to relate and how authority among God's people is to look. They have to pretend that poor Jesus just had to come to us as a baby boy because women were so devalued and that He did not come, as the Scriptures say, in the fullness of time. Need I go on?

I am glad Christianity is sexist.  I am glad I have a Father in heaven who cared so much about me and you and every feminist out there, that He sent his Son who died to save me. Even though I will likely never marry, I am glad for all the beautiful bridal and marital imagery in the Bible. I won't have my own wedding reception but one day, if I am found faithful, I will sit at the wedding feast to end all wedding feasts. I am glad that I am different from a man and that even though I could not bear children of my own body, I am a mother of a different sort. I recently received the highest compliment I think I could ever have paid to me when a young mom and sister in the Lord referred to me as a "mother in Israel".

It wasn't always so. Many of you know that I once embraced the lie that Doug and Rebecca Groothuis introduced me to.  It is only by the grace of God that I have repented of that heresy.

I am sure there are many fine chapters and sections in the book and that it is a useful reference. But beware the poison of feminism that runs through it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chick-fil-A: Setting the record straight (added info)

The man said,
         “This is now bone of my bones,
         And flesh of my flesh;
         She shall be called Woman,
         Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:23-25, NASB)

Now I have to admit, I haven't tried to read a lot on the current lib/prog cause of the moment.  I've read some quotes from Dan Cathy (founder of Chick-fil-A) and browsed a few "how dare you" blog posts and I kinda wonder if the professionally offended class were waiting for a chance to pounce on the man who makes a damn fine chicken sandwich, treats his employees well, and (dare I say it?) trains them to be polite to their customers.

Yes, even insignificant me is watched on a semi-regular basis by some in the professionally offended class. So I am quite sure there are folks out there who think it is their job, their solemn responsibility to be on the look out for any utterance by someone who has yet to get the message. Ho Hum.

But there is one thing I would like to set the record straight on.  As far as I've read, Dan Cathy has nothing against marriage equality.  I'm pretty sure he doesn't support "marriage" equality, though.  That's a problem. Because our professionally offended class is very adept at wielding their Newspeak as an offensive weapon and those who walk into the arena unprepared are usually cowed (as we've seen so recently).

Two men can no more be married to each other than one of them can be married to his dog.  Two women can no more be married to each other than one of them can be married to her pet dolphin. Such things are metaphysical impossibilities akin to claiming to be a married bachelor or to have drawn a perfectly round square. They just do not exist in this world.  They don't exist in any world that is not imaginary.

Marriage is the publicly recognized union of man and woman.  Every single one of us has the equal right to marriage.  Sally Ride's right to marriage was no more infringed than my right to marriage because Clive Owen won't return my phone calls (OK, so I've never called him and he is married already, but you get the point, right?).  Depth of feeling does not create a right to anything, much less something as foundational to society as marriage.  Yes, marriage is limited by custom and reason in circumstances of age and consanguinity.  But again, those limitations apply to all equally.

Desire, deep emotion, years of building a life together - none of these create a right to marriage. Because that is not what marriage is.

So let's just drop the Newspeak, shall we?  You may win society's recognition of a fiction.  But that is not a victory.  It is a defeat for us all.  A defeat for our children's future and our very survival as a culture. It will be left for the children of marriage, the real thing, to pick up the pieces of the society you broke. There will be a few of these sterile "marriages" which can afford to purchase the manufacture of a child with the help of outside parties.  But they will remain few.  It will be the children of fertile marriages that rebuild the future.

I pray they are strong enough and faithful to do the hard work we will leave for them.