Saturday, July 3, 2010

Incrementalism: An effective strategy?

While learning the actual arguments and detailed information about the life issues is extremely important and valuable, the Academy is also helping us learn effective communication skills and helping us to lay a foundation on which to put all these facts and figures.  What do I mean by this?

Let me try to explain through this analogy: say an incredibly brilliant guy knows everything there is to know about cars - specific information for hundreds of models, the fuel efficiencies of each kind, the year they were made, their safety ratings, etc, etc, etc. Is his knowledge useful in selling cars at the dealership if he stumbles all over his words, speaks with incoherent phrases, rattles off numbers in no logical order? No, of course not. Suppose however that he learns public speaking skills - how to speak clearly and concisely, how to express his opinions in a logical flow, how to use hand gestures to make a point... But the final piece of the puzzle before he can become effective in helping people buy the best car is an effective strategy. He wonders - "Should I be upfront, loud and coercive when I trying to convince people to buy the best choice in a vehicle? Should I always tell them my opinion upfront and then challenge them every time that they are wrong? I know that I am right." He tried this approach for awhile, but realized that he is not selling any cars. People got angry and frustrated at his absolutism and just walked away if their opinions didn't match his own. He tried a new strategy the next week: after meeting his new potential customer, he started by asking questions, trying to find common interests and building a relationship. He then began sharing pieces of information in a calm, clear way and then asked hard questions, slowly but surely leading the customer to decide for himself that this car was truly the perfect one!

While this analogy is definitely not a perfect one (and very silly!), I think it does convey the important message that we've been learning so much about. Its not enough to know a lot about pro-life issues, we must also have an effective strategy in how we will communicate that information.

A few days ago, we had a lecture entitled "What is National Right to Life Committee?" - given by a lady who has been working in the pro-life movement for over 30 years. She defined NRLC's strategy very clearly. First of all, it is broad-based, which means that it is not founded upon a particular denomination or political affiliation. It is clearly focused on a single issue - the right to life for all. This strategy has helped them unite all kinds of people from all over the country versus alienating potential allies. NRLC has affiliates in every state at the grassroots level that are completely autonomous entities. Every state looks like a little different and operate with different "tactics" but through NRLC, they share the broad, overarching vision and strategy, through Education, Legislation and Political Action. This is exactly when Jesus asked us to do in John 17 - "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one."

The other critical strategy of NRLC can be defined in one word: Incrementalism. They are willing to take the biggest step possible toward their goal versus waiting until the perfect path (or bill) comes along. For example, they fought for the Partial Birth abortion ban a few years ago and are currently fighting for a bill that would stop all abortion after 20 weeks (because of proven fetal pain). They sometimes get heavy criticism for conceding and not focusing on all their efforts on overturning Roe v Wade and stopping ALL abortions, but they would rather protect as many babies as possible, slowly chipping away at the foundation of pro-abortion agenda, moving closer and closer versus virtual inaction until Roe v Wade could be overturned.

They believe that this is an effective winning strategy because it has been proven in history to work.

We went on a field trip yesterday with Burke Balch - the resident genius in pro-life history among other things - to talk about Abraham Lincoln's strategy to save the Union and free slaves. We visited a statue of Abraham Lincoln - the first place to be named after him after his assassination.
We read about 10 first-hand documents - the speech that Fredrick Douglas gave at the inauguration of the statue, speeches and letters that Lincoln wrote, letters that were written to Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, etc, etc, etc. Lincoln was criticized in his day and still is for not taking a firm position on freeing the slaves. He even says in his Inaugural Address and in letters to the Editor that his interest is not in freeing the slaves but in saving the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves that were only in Southern states, and didn't even mention the slaves that were in the North (who actually in Lincoln's jurisdiction versus the Southern slaves). Fredrick Douglas, a staunch abolitionist, strongly rebuked Lincoln multiple times during his presidency.

HOWEVER, throughout the morning, we came to realize that Lincoln was not a man who flip-flopped on the issue of slavery because of a lack of convictions about freeing slaves based on human rights and equality. Instead, this seeming non-committal was his strategy. Let me explain: If Lincoln had always expressed his views on slavery and had made a point to clearly identify it as his goal from the beginning, the Union could not have been preserved. There were SO many opinions about slavery - even in the North - that he would not have had enough support to win the war and keep the country together. The result would have been that he could not have freed the slaves even if he wanted too since the South would have become their own country. He tried to unite as many people as possible, and slowly introduce the idea of freeing slaves, so that the end result would be freedom for all. Fredrick Douglas, at the end of the war, wrote that he had never met a man like Lincoln who treated a black man as a true equal and friend.

The Civil Rights Movement also operated under this incrementalist strategy. We learned about how the NAACP slowly fought for the rights of freed slaves. Even though the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments  abolished slavery and guaranteed equal rights and voting rights, the courts began defining that segregation was constitutional because they were "separate and equal" at the same time. Instead of trying to attack the fundamental issue (equal treatment for all) and fail because of the deeply rooted racism, the NAACP began slowly bringing up court cases that attacked smaller issues from shortly after the Civil War ended up until the 1950’s and 60’s. Finally in Brown vs the Board of Education, the courts granted that segregated but equal was really not possible, and they allowed black children to integrate into schools. This decision was the turning point for the Civil Rights movement. If the NAACP had not been willing to accept small victories for decades, this turning point would have probably never come.

The point to studying several other movement’s strategies was to give all of us a clearer picture of why NRL operates the way that it does, and to show us that this strategy can work. This question of incrementalism is an important and a difficult one - when is it okay to compromise and “settle” on a issue instead of fighting for the whole issue all at once? The Bible verse that kept coming to mind during the whole discussion was Matthew 10:16, “...Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stopping the legalization of Assisted Suicide

The past 4 days at the Academy we have been focusing on understanding and learning how to articulate the pro-life position against assisted suicide/euthanasia. I am actually personally very interested in this topic because of all the issues that I dealt with in the deaths of my grandmother and great-mother in the last several years AND because of its extreme relevance to the future of our country. Once we devalue life even more by saying the those who are terminally ill should have the right to die - then the elderly, the disabled, the imperfect, and the useless are also in danger of being eliminated (as evidenced by Oregon and the Netherlands).

While I had read about assisted suicide issue before, this four day intensive study has definitely helped cement what I believe and why. Additionally, I feel more confident in expressing why upholding the sanctity of life at all ages is so important. I still have questions about various aspects of this very complex issue, but Burke has assured us that "we are not done with this discussion!" I am glad - While abortion is still a very big part of the pro-life movement, upholding the sanctity of life at any age or stage is critical at this time. Only 2 states (Oregon and Washington) have legalized it and we must do everything we can to stop the progress of the pro-death agenda.

So that you can feel like you're learning right alongside me - I will write in my own words a few of the main points that I have found to be most convincing and helpful. (but warning - I have a hard time being 'non-wordy' - sorry) I have many, many, many personal stories, examples from the unfortunate test cases in Oregon, Washington and the Netherlands - if you want more specific examples or have any questions - please let me know.

The whole debate can really be framed into two areas: the Autonomy argument and the Quality of Life argument.
"Isn't it a person's choice whether they live or die? Its really none of our business. They should have the right to die"
The autonomy argument leads to an extreme position - With this precedent of extending the right to die to the terminally ill or those with permanent disabilities, it follows that it shouldn't be society's right to judge that any individual's life is worth living and so should not interfere with the suicide of anyone - including an 18 year old who has just been dumped by her boyfriend or a 35 year old whose business has just gone bankrupt.

Why would the right to die only apply to the terminally ill? Do we really want to legalize suicide for everyone?

"She's a competent adult - she wants to die and she's making a logical decision. We should let her." 
Actually those attempting suicide are generally not exercising true autonomy because they have their judgement impaired by a mental disorder.

At least 90% of those who commit suicide have a mental disorder - and of the terminally ill, 24% have expressed a wish to die, and ALL of those people have clinical depression.

The good news is that depression is TREATABLE - with medication and psychological counseling.
The depression is causing the person to desire death, but this can be a reversible condition. If attempters were stopped and counseled, in 5 years, less than 4% attempted suicide again.

The true attempt is usually not to die, but it is most commonly a cry for help. If we address this cry for help by helping them commit suicide - then we really are reinforcing their hopelessness by saying, "You're right - your life really is worthless.”

Quality of Life
"Its reasonable in some cases that people would want to die : intractable pain, depression, disabilities, or feeling like they are a burden on their family." 
90-99% of all pain can be controlled according to the Washington Medical Association. The problem is that not all medical professions are trained to use the most advanced medical technology to control pain effectively without the sedation/groggy effects. The solution is to expand training in pain management, not kill the person in pain.

Depression - see above. Depression can be treated even for the terminally ill. Too many primary care providers don't truly know how to spot or diagnose depression, and not enough doctors refer their patients to psychiatrists before giving them the lethal prescription in Oregon and Washington in 2007 and 2009.

Most people with disabilities don't want to die because the think their quality of life is low, but because of the prejudice and discrimination of non-disabled people. If assisted suicide is legalized for the disabled, we are not respecting their "right to die", but instead we are discriminatorily denying them suicide prevention counseling that we would afford to non-disabled people.


There is less pressure to devote energy to finding positive alternatives since death is the easy way out.

Doctors are not longer healers, but killers. People will be afraid to go to their doctors - "Am I worth saving?" There are case studies of insurance companies in Oregon who refused to cover life-prolonging medication/treatments but would cover assisted suicide.

The right to die becomes the duty to die... social, economic and familial pressures cause the elderly to be seen as selfish for not wanting to die and get out of the way.

And once the psychological barrier is crossed, killing becomes easier and easier for less and less reason.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A change in direction

I was planning on posting about assisted suicide today but have changed my direction. (Though I promise to write about what I've learned soon).

I have realized that it is often far to easy to lose sight of the true story - His story. As I walk to the office with the beautiful morning sun glinting off the buildings and the breeze rippling through the flags, I can't help but be reminded of the legacy that's gone on before me: the many brave men and women who have fought for freedom and upheld God's truth. But I also sense that there is a very deep cynicism in DC, because people have lost sight of real reality: God's. What I mean by this is that it seems that politics has become a new god - statistics, polls, probabilities, chances for re-election, a presidential bid, a vote outcome in the House, etc, etc, etc and even a Supreme Court Justice nominee decision. 

You might have been following Kagan's hearings this week - and some very startling news has surfaced. She is so unabashedly biased towards a pro-death agenda that during the Clinton administration she managed to have a major medical group – the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - change their findings in their conclusion on partial birth abortion because the findings would have been "disastrous" for the cause.
Many of us were talking in the office a few days ago about this turn of effects, and one guy said that it was unfortunate that such news like this won't make much of a difference in the votes - "we all know the outcome anyway. It doesn't really matter what the truth is. That's how politics works."

I realized tonight that I took this proclamation as my own belief when my dad sent me an email today about Kagan. I immediately responded with, "well thanks for the info- but it doesn't really matter - nothing is going to change the votes unfortunately." 

This kind of thinking is not true if you put on God glasses and look at the world from his perspectives instead of ours. Our God is so powerful and mighty - he is not controlled by statistics or odds or political insider knowledge - He is Lord over all and no matter how much people want to get rid of him, He is still the one who is control in this country too. 

I repent of my pervading doubt that all is hopeless - for this particular nomination and many other areas where we look like we are losing ground, such as upholding the sanctity of life at all stages.

Of course, I am not saying that God is going to solve every problem exactly the way that I wish it - but I can rest assured that He's got everything in control even when it looks out of control to me. Our job is to not worry, keep the faith, keep praying fervently in all circumstances, and keep our focus on Him in the midst of everything. 

May our whole country have a genuine change of direction. Especially during this upcoming election cycle- may we not hang our hopes on getting the right people into office, but on the God Almighty/Yaweh Yireh, the God who Provides.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The nitty gritty of the Academy

I promised you that today I would share how the Academy works... I knew that it was going to be hard - but am realizing that I underestimated just how challenging it actually would be. But this is not really a problem, because it means that I will learn way more than I ever anticipated!

On a typical day (subject to change because no day is ever completely typical!), we are in the office from 9am to 4pm. 9 to 10am is the History of the Pro-life Movement lecture, part a, b, c, d, e, f, g, etc. (you get the idea!) Our "professor" is Burke Balch, and he is literally one of the smartest men that I've ever met, especially in regards to pro-life issues. He is a lawyer who has devoted his entire career to the cause, and has actually written many, many articles that (I have been told) have been used by the Supreme Courts as evidence by experts. He and a few others brilliant people at the office are also responsible for writing the vast percentage of all the pro-life legislation in the federal and state congress. All that to say, we all feel very privileged to have this man teach us a little of what he knows. The purpose of the history portion every day is to give a thorough background of the abortion debate, and then to branch into the history of fight against Roe v Wade so that we, as the new generation, don't repeat old mistakes. 

Then, every day, we'll explore a life topic for two hours. This week, we're discussing assisted suicide - aka euthanasia. This is the portion where guest speaker experts will be brought in to share with us! Then we have a two hour lunch break where we dash to one of the myriad of restaurants in the area and then try to find a quiet spot to study for practicums in the afternoon. What is a practicum you might be asking? Good question :-) We get the opportunity to try and learn/memorize/be able to communicate effectively a pro-life position on the certain topic that we talk about in the morning. Two hours for lunch might seem like a long time, but it flies by because we are trying to be thoroughly prepared for the afternoon "grilling. I really like this aspect of the Academy - it definitely makes it unique and very helpful. I've learned a lot of information about life issues over the past several years but much of it has gone one ear and then out the other because I didn't have an opportunity to verbalize it myself. Each day we will be given different scenarios - whether it be lobbying, debating, speech-making, etc. Yesterday and today we have tried to convince a Senator to vote "No" on a bill that would legalize voluntary assisted suicide. 3 groups of 2 are made, and the two attempts are videotaped so that we have the opportunity to see ourselves and see how we can improve. To conclude the afternoon, then we all come back together and repeat it a third time to try and cement into our minds and hearts. It was definitely very (very!) intimidating on the first day, but even by today, we have all grown more confident. 

Today Natalie, Andrew and I decide to go on an adventure!  We skipped the metro and walked to 'work'. We figured out that it was only 12 blocks or 1.56 miles and the real bonus is that we would get to walk by the White House! Its not every day that you get to walk by the White House and see the Washington Monument and the Capitol building during your commute! Unless its reeeaaalllly hot and muggy (because its usually just hot and muggy) then the three of us will probably try and walk to work every day. All six of us walked home in the afternoon, and ended up having to take a detour because what we presume to be the President was landing in his helicopter at the White House and they had the whole area blocked off. This whole adventure definitely helped us feel as though we were really here in DC since we haven't had any free time to go and explore. I love being surrounded by history - makes me feel appropriately that while I am definitely apart of God's story, many others have gone before me in order to pave the way.

So far, our explorations have really only included trips to CVS and the Safeway grocery store that is inside the Watergate hotel courtyard (you read that right - THE Watergate). Our first occasion to visit the CVS a few doors down was as soon as we arrived late Sunday night. We all walked into our apartments, looked around, immediately noticed that there was no toilet paper (none of had thought to bring that!) and all six of us made an immediate trip! In the morning, we all realized that we'd forgotten something else: shower curtains. HAHA. I felt like I'd transported back to Europe where the whole bathroom is supposed to get soaked every morning. We put up our newly purchased shower curtain last night with rainbow colored embroidery thread. It looks very homey! 

I love my roommate Anna and am very, very, very grateful that God put us together in room 606 for these six weeks. We get along very well yet we also get very angry quite frequently - but we're not mad at each other. Every night for several hours, as we complete our reading assignments, there are random bursts or explosions. "I can't believe what this guy wrote! He said that ...."   "Have you read the part where _______. I can't believe that actually happens." "Unbelievable. We've got to do something."      
Since we're reading such heavy, depressing journal articles, legal documents, case studies, etc it is wonderful to have someone to share our frustrations with and at the same time give each other hope that God is still in charge. 

Tomorrow I'll post some key points that I've found to be very helpful in how to fight for the lives of the elderly and how to combat the lies of the assisted suicide agenda. 

for life, 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Adventure Begins

I have officially been in DC for 2 days now! Wow - I can't believe it!

The kick-off to the entire program was the National Right to Life convention in Pittsburgh, PA. I got to meet my 5 fellow classmates, who are from all over the United States. Anna is from Philadelphia, Andrew is from North Carolina, Devyn is from North Dakota, Natalie is from New York and Vanessa is from Texas. Our majors range from history, political science, philosophy, writing, becoming a doctor and obviously nursing (me!). It is such a testament to God's perfect plan as we all can bring our own perspectives to the learning experience at the Academy... and when we leave DC, we will all utilize what we have learned in many unique ways.

  Devyn, Vanessa, Natalie, Anna, Andrew, Me

My parents had been praying that they would get to meet some of my new best friends for the next six weeks during the one night stay at the hotel and God answered our prayers. I had made an open invitation, "Hey if you want to meet my family, come up any time tonight!" and Anna and Andrew came in and we all talked for a couple of hours. Through this first fun night, I knew that God had answered my prayers. I would have "kindred spirits" to spend to the next six weeks with - friends who are as deeply passionate about protecting life as I am, and are very excited and eager to learn about God and all that he has to show and teach us this summer.

Sunday, after the convention was over, all of us Academy students had the opportunity to sit in on a closed door legislative strategy session for one representative of many of the state affiliate Right to Life affiliates. From 10-4, we heard about how God is leading and directing this movement to try new legislative tactics in the states. Although many times the news from DC is very grim about the battle for life, we were all very much inspired and hopeful to hear the news from the front lines in each of the 50 states. More and more legislature is being passed that is again and again pushing the envelope on giving the unborn and elderly more and more rights to life and freedom. Some of the key, brilliant leaders in the movement are not hopeless - but very hopeful - they see a window of opportunity as more and more Americans are realizing the importance of the life issue in more and more states. This was a great way to kick-off the Academy - it gave us all even more passion than before and a vision to apply much of the knowledge that we're learning.

Right after the legislative session, we all packed in a mini-van and drove 6 hours to DC. We all had ALOT of reading assignments to do, so the ride was pretty quiet until the last few hours. We started off with a bang - we read all of 60 pages of Chief Justice Blackmun's opinion during the Roe v Wade trial, among other long articles! They weren't joking about this Academy being rigorous, but I have a feeling that I am going to love every minute.

We are staying on George Washington University's campus in the "International House", which have little apartments - bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom (and my favorite part: a balcony!). We are on Virginia Ave, and less than a mile away is the Mall and Washington Monument.

We are going to be metro-ing to the National Right to Life Office every morning, which is located right across the street from Ford's Theater, where President Lincoln was shot. I love being in DC - surrounded by history everywhere you turn! The first day we metro-ed (is that a word?) to the office to pick up all our luggage which had to go on another truck the night before. After getting a tour of the 4 story little office, we lugged our suitcases back to the metro stop a few blocks away. This was definitely an adventure to say the least. Awesome Andrew only had one suitcase, so he helped me with my second one - thank goodness. We were just saying that the trek hadn't been so terrible, when we realized at our Foggy Bottom stop that everyone was standing at the base of the escalators and not going outside. It didn't take long to figure out that in the 15 minutes of being underground, it had started POURING outside. People who ran inside were completely soaked to the bone. We mutually decided to try and wait it out a little bit as most of our umbrellas were stuffed in the bottom of our suitcases. After 10 minutes it showed no sign of stopping, and we didn't want to wait any longer. We dashed up and outside and under another awning. God was watching out for us, because as soon as we step foot in the rain it slowed down to a drizzle. We were all very grateful as we walked the 5 blocks back to our new homes. It just proved that life is always an adventure and you just have to walk in the rain to truly experience all the joys of life!

We just had our first day class today, but I will wait until tomorrow in my post to explain how the Academy itself works. I plan to write a least a little bit on this blog every day or every other day and give you a quote of the day from class, or something especially interesting that I learned, that way you can feel like you are learning right alongside with me!

Thanks for walking alongside me in this journey, and thank you even more for your prayers.

for life,