Are We Saved By Good Works or God’s Grace?

An Episcopalian’s Interpretation of Recent Traumatic Events

Raised an Episcopalian, I have always been encouraged to think for myself and question the scriptures. For me, the Bible has always been a compilation of metaphors, symbolism, and opinions. In my particular brand of Christianity, literal interpretation of the Bible has never been a requirement. As a result, my education has included science, philosophy, mathematics, and more.

In high school, I learned about the term, “God’s grace.” As an Episcopalian, I had never heard of the term, “saved.” My religion simply existed as part of my life and ethnicity – my family has been Episcopalian or Anglican since 1533. The dual concept of being “saved by God’s Grace” also entered my consciousness during this time period. My religion teacher explained to me that Christians make it into heaven, not by works, but by faith, and that Grace is a gift freely given by God to us, as long as we believe. During my high school years, this concept mattered little to me. A rebel without a cause, my time in religion class consisted of arguing needlessly with religion teachers about whether or not Christianity comprised “the one true religion.”

These questions are for the ages, and for many, mean very little, until real tragedy strikes, and we are forced to reexamine the role these concepts actually play in our daily lives. Despite my obstinance, the teachings regarding God’s grace did resonate with me. I remember contemplating whether our eternal lives rested in good works or God’s grace. In many ways, I felt it might be a combination of these two concepts-that perhaps good works resulted from God’s grace. I also felt that these concepts might only matter on a theoretical level, holding little actual value.

Last Friday, my car hydroplaned, did a 360 turn, and then crashed into the guard rail. As the car spun out of control, I closed my eyes and “gave it to God.” After the car came to a stop, I realized that, while the car had suffered profound damage, everyone in the car remained unharmed. A supreme being, the universe, or God’s grace had saved us.

That Sunday, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly. While suffering from cancer for many years, she had actually been doing quite well. But when death came, it came quickly, and without much warning.

“Grace may be defined as the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are under condemnation.” – Enns 2. My life and behavior have not always been perfect, and Lord knows there have been times when I most certainly did not deserve God’s grace. However, these two back to back tragedies resulted in an unmerited gift, that I did not deserve, but nevertheless received. My worries of having to take on a new car payment quickly disappeared, as my late mother-in-law’s SUV suddenly transferred into my possession. At this point, I believed in God and its presence in my life. I recognized that I am not in control and that some sort of a higher power is.

As I recall this story of God’s grace upon me to others, their eyes light up, and they realize it’s impact on this particular situation. As a cradle-born Episcopalian, I question scripture and I think for myself. However, this compilation of events has demonstrated to me that God’s grace is real. I did not deserve it, but received it anyway, because God’s grace is not earned, but instead freely given. As the priest says at the end of every church service,” Go in faith to love and serve the Lord.” And that I shall do, from this day forward.

Is Citizenship a Right?

An Analysis of the Cases of Shamima Begum and Hoda Mathuna

Is citizenship a right? Children born in the United States have a right to US citizenship, as long as they are not born to a foreign diplomat. However, citizenship can be revoked if the person:

  • Lies on their application. Foreign-born residents must complete an application process to become citizens of the United States.
  • Owes allegiance to another country.
  • Commits treason. (1)

A citizen is defined as “a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.” (2) Being a subject is defined as “a person who lives or who has the right to live in a particular country…” (3) A right is further defined as “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” (4) Therefore, one can surmise that citizenship is not an absolute right, but one that is eligible by being obedient to the government of which one is a citizen, and acting in a way that shows one is subject to it. An absolute right to citizenship does not exist. If one acts with malice toward one’s country, the qualified right to citizenship can be revoked.

Whether citizenship is a right or not has come center stage in the news lately, as two young girls who ran away to the Islamic state several years ago, now wish to return to their countries of origin. One such case is that of Shamima Begum. As a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, she ran away from her home in the UK and joined the Islamic State or ISIS. Shortly after arriving in Syria, she married an ISIS soldier, effectively giving aid and comfort to one of the UK’s enemies. During her tenure with ISIS, Ms. Begum gave birth to two children, both of whom died. The Syrian military ultimately arrested her husband, and she fled to a Syrian refugee camp. It is there she claimed British citizenship and asked to return “home” to the UK. In the UK, the government can deprive one of citizenship if the act of doing so is conducive to the public good, and if the person being deprived of citizenship is not left stateless. (5) The UK Home Secretary revoked Ms. Begum’s citizenship, almost immediately after her case appeared in the news. He stated that Ms. Begum could easily become a citizen of Bangladesh, the native country of her mother, and thus not be left stateless. Ms. Begum herself indicated, that while disappointed that she could not return to the UK, she could nevertheless seek citizenship in the Netherlands, the native home of her husband. (6)

Hoda Muthana is another individual recently in the news for wanting to leave ISIS territory and return to her country of origin. Born in Alabama to a newly retired Yemeni diplomat, Ms. Muthana fled to Turkey at the age of nineteen. Once in Turkey, ISIS fighters received Ms. Muthana, arranged a marriage for her to an ISIS fighter, and eventually gave birth to a child of ISIS. Following the substantial loss of territory experienced by ISIS, Ms. Muthana publicly indicated her desire to return to the USA. In fact, she indicated that she has a right to return to the USA because she is a US citizen. In response to her claim and stated wishes, the United States Secretary of State declared that “she does not qualify for citizenship and has no legal basis to return to the country.” (7) In an official statement, the Secretary of State indicated that “Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.” (7) However, one can easily argue that this is not the case. Born in the United States to a former Yemeni Diplomat, Ms. Muthana is almost certainly a native-born US citizen. Following this line of reasoning, Ms. Muthana’s attorney stated that she “is trying to turn herself into federal authorities and face consequences for her actions.” (7) Some believe, as a result of her treasonous activities, if she is a citizen, should have her citizenship revoked, thus blocking her from re-entering the country. However, citizen or not, it is reasonable to state that Ms. Muthana will not be returning to the USA anytime soon.

If joining ISIS constitutes treason, then both Shamima Begum and Hoda Muthana can legally be deprived of citizenship to their countries of origin. But what constitutes treason? In the UK, treason is defined as, “the crime of disloyalty to the Crown.” (8) By joining ISIS, and swearing loyalty to the Islamic State, Ms. Begum most definitely committed treason. Similarly, in the United States, a traitor is one who, “owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, …(and is thus) guilty of treason…” (9) By marrying an ISIS fighter, and adhering to the will of ISIS-a known enemy of the United States-Ms. Muthana committed treason against the US. As previously stated, the US government failed to even recognize her citizenship in the first place and is subsequently refusing to allow her entry into the US period. They could of just as easily recognized her citizenship, and then deprived her of it. In either case, she is unable to return to the United States.

In conclusion, citizenship is not an absolute right. Instead, it is a qualified right that can be revoked if a person commits a crime that fits the punishment. Shamima Begum and Hoda Muthana both constitute cases of individuals, born to western countries, pledging allegiance to ISIS, and committing treason by giving comfort and aid to the enemy. As a result, they are officially traitors, and will not be permitted to return to their countries of origin.

  1. https://legalbeagle.com/8068185-ways-lose-citizenship.html
  2. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/citizen
  3. https://www.google.com/amp/s/dictionary.cambridge.org/us/amp/english/subject
  4. https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/nov/14/primer-prisoners-constitutional-rights/
  5. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/20/shamima-begum-could-the-plan-to-revoke-her-citizenship-be-stopped
  6. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/shamima-begum-citizenship-revoked
  7. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/world/middleeast/isis-bride-hoda-muthana.amp.html
  8. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_treason_in_the_United_Kingdom
  9. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason#Federal

Cain, Abel, Christ, and Free Will

How The Crucification of Christ Changed our Society, Families, and Businesses

For millions of faithful followers around the world, the Holy Bible represents the inspired word of God. Some choose to take the Bible literally, while others view it as a compilation of history, symbols, and metaphors. For instance, in the Old Testament, Cain killed Abel, creating a possible metaphor for followers of Christianity to unravel. In the opinion of some, Cain, a farmer, represented the beginning of farming and agriculture. Abel, on the other hand, a shepherd, represented the, soon to be extinct, hunter and gatherer culture. In this story, Abel is the favorite of God the Father, and brings to him the gift of a slaughtered sheep. Cain brings fruit he has raised through agriculture. By rejecting the fruit, and accepting the lamb, one can infer that God prefers not only Abel himself but also the culture Abel represents-that is, hunting and gatherers, rather than farming and agriculture. When Cain killed Abel, it represented, against God’s wishes, the rise of not only agriculture, but also learning, questioning, and the end of the blind, or child-like faith. This arguably personified the dawn of man and the end of our innocence. While God the Father preferred us to be simple-minded and unquestioning, we had “outgrown the playpen,” and any belief in God at that point would be by choice, and not because of ignorance.

The killing of Abel, represents not only the end of the blind following of God the Father, but also the end of wives blindly following their husbands. Before the killing of Abel, both sons blindly followed God the Father. On the same token, within the confines of the home and society at large, women blindly followed their husbands. Essentially, women stayed home and cared for the family, gathering wild fruit and nuts, while the men traveled in bands away from their homes, hunting animals and slaughtering them. When they returned, women would clean the meat and prepare it. Just as the hunter gave the best meat to God as a sacrifice and to give thanks, the gatherer prepared for her husband the best cut, giving thanks to him. After the death of Abel at the hands of Cain, everything changed.

The rise of farming signaled the beginning of civilization, as well as the rise of women in our society. Free from gathering, and now able to exercise their minds, women’s lives expanded far outside the realm of the home. At this point, in the Old Testament Christian tradition, one can put forth that God represents an angry and spiteful figure. To say the least, he is not happy with his rebellious children, who have abandoned their simple lives of hunting and gathering, for the more complicated life of civilization and agriculture.

It can be asserted that the death of Abel foreshadows the killing of Christ. The crucifixion symbolized the death of God as an angry father, and the rebirth of God as something that resides in all of us in essence, an egalitarian figure that assists men and women in making choices of their own free will. In the home, the husband no longer represented the Godhead-instead, God resided now equally in both husband and wife. This is further displayed in the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion, where men and women equally ingest the body and blood of Christ, making it a part of them, rather than something that is separate and authoritarian.

Can the crucifixion of Christ represent God the Father approving a new egalitarian social order? One can assert that it most certainly does. With the sacred Host ingested by both men and women alike, the death of Christ initiated a new dawn of civilization, encompassing philosophy, mathematics, and enlightenment. Through history, our free will has led to advancements by both sexes, ultimately culminating in the feminist movement of the 1960’s.

The business world today also reflects the egalitarian changes in society, later affirmed by the crucifixion of Christ. Many new business owners, unfamiliar with management techniques, initially behave as the God of the Old Testament-angry, bitter, and jealous. They fire people who do not do as they say, or who disagree with their opinions. In time, the business owners who succeed are the ones who quickly adjust their method of thinking. This change recognizes that employees are intelligent beings with free will. If employees do as one asks, it is because they choose to do so not because they are threatened if they do not. The need for a strict separation between the shepherd and the sheep is no longer relevant in essence, everyone in a company is part of the metaphorical farm. Some employees plant the seeds, while others water and others harvest. Some employees go on to invent better farming methods. It is essential that everyone is important in the process. The idea of an all-knowing, all-seeing Godhead is gone. Just as surely as we crucified Christ, a new dawn has risen.

The death of Christ, foreshadowed by the death of Abel, symbolizes the end of a primitive society, and the dawn of a new one. Civilized societies, made possible by the rise of agriculture, encompass civilized families and companies, where egalitarianism, as well as free, will dominate. Successful leaders recognize that they are not Godheads. Rather, they guide and influence, recognizing the free will of others as important parts of their family or business model. The recognition of this free will, and the method of guidance as well as the influence it requires, leads to healthy societies, families, and companies.

Clan Loyalty, Tribalism, and Racism

Does Genetic Memory Play A Role in Modern Day Prejudices?

When Lisa Halaby married King Hussein of Jordan, she envisioned turning Jordan into a cradle of democracy. A bright-eyed idealist, she used pillow-talk to encourage her husband to launch democratic elections in the kingdom where he held absolute power. She fought hard to embolden women to run for parliament and put behind them her full support. In fact, she indicated, anyone with the desire to better their country could run for office. She encouraged minorities, the poor, anyone with an interest, to step up and make their case for bettering the Hashemite Kingdom. On election day, Lisa Halaby, now known as Queen Noor, waited anxiously for the results of the elections for which she had so dearly campaigned. When the results arrived, she could hardly believe her ears as the courtiers informed her that only approximately 1.5% of the population exercised their right to vote. The polling places remained largely empty throughout the day, with the Jordanian populous almost entirely disinterested in the historic elections occurring. Over the years, this Jordanian statistic has changed very little, to the great disappointment of leaders in Parliament.

Jordan is occupied by clans, encompassed by tribes, who have inhabited the area for millennia. Each clan has a leader, and within those clans are tribes with individual leaders. These leadership positions are largely inherited. There are no elections, as these traditions are intimately intertwined within their culture. The reality is, Jordan is a country created by Great Britain in 1921. For most of the people in Jordan, and for that matter, the entire Middle East, clan and tribal leaders have the largest impact on people’s day to day lives-not a parliamentary leader in a distant city, from a family no one has heard of, and with causes not reflective of their own. The fact of the matter is, the country of Jordan represents a creation for its citizens, but their clan and tribe are very real. The inhabitants of Jordan rely on their tribes for safety, food, and other goods. Real decision making is largely made on the clan and tribal levels, such as business deals, marriages, and alliances. Clan and tribal loyalties comprise the bedrock of one’s existence, and betraying one’s tribe is the most egregious of sins, often resulting in death. Clan leaders arrange marriages within the tribes, allowing for some genetic diversity, but still retaining the familiar culture, religion, and customs. These generational patterns have resulted in different tribes having certain physical characteristics, that indicate their membership without having to say a word. Tribal members have come to expect and to rely on these characteristics when encountering tribal members outside of their safety zones. Members expect safety within their tribes, but on the outside, they expect violence and/or death.

In the Western World, it can be argued that we follow similar patterns of clan and tribal behavior. We all have surnames that denote our clans. Furthermore, many of us belong to churches, that denote our tribes. For those of us who do not attend church, we often ally ourselves with others who share a similar disbelief in God or organized religion, coming together at sci-fi conventions, pot-lucks, and other similar events. New forms of tribalism are coming into play in the form of online meetup groups, focused around similar interests, such as the love of the outdoors.

This way of thinking leads me to ask, has clan loyalty, and its long-term effect on our DNA, contributed to the racism we know of today? Is racism ingrained in our DNA? One can argue, that to a certain extent, it is. We exist today because of the impact clans had on us in the past, including the protections they offered, as well as marital and trade alliances they made. While we may live in a somewhat different world today, elements of this way of life still exist and raise their ugly head in what we now call racism. Put more simply, birds of a feather flock together. We seem inherently more comfortable around people who look like us, talk like us, and believe like us. Nothing is more telling than during the filming of “The Planet of the Apes,” the actors, all dressed in animal costumes, segregated one another according to the breed of animal they portrayed. The film’s producers noted this irony, and it has since been referenced in various anthropological studies. Behind closed doors, people with similar beliefs mock those with other beliefs, as do people with one skin color, sometimes mock those of other skin colors.

“Clan loyalty,” affects social, economic, and marital patterns, similar to those of days past. For example, interracial and interfaith marriages are often considered controversial. A few years ago a family member asked me, in a threatening manner, if I had ever dated a black guy. When I answered, no, he responded with, “Well good, because if I ever caught you with one, I would kill you both.” Similarly, when a member of the Episcopal Church I attended married a person of the Jewish faith, a member of my family stated, “The fact that she did that is symptomatic of the weakness of our church. We just never did enough for our youth.”

What are the solutions for creating a more diverse society? And what are the solutions for overcoming prejudices that are, very possibly, ingrained in our DNA? As a society, we have worked hard to desegregate the schools, eliminate red-lining when offering home-loans, and to rid our language of racist verbiage. Yet still, when we are walking down a city street, encountering people who do not look like us, our reaction is often fear, anger, and distrust. How do we change something that, at times, perhaps contributes to keeping us alive, but then, at other times, hurts people around us for really no reason other than the fact that we have pre-judged them?

One solution for creating a more diverse society is “exposure.” In therapy, “exposure” is known as “therapy to treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.“ (1) Quite simply, by exposing people of different skin colors, religions, and cultures to one another, their distress and/or prejudices they feel toward one another may ultimately lessen and perhaps even disappear. Exposure occurs mostly in the workplace, where employers base their hiring strategies on skill sets and talents, rather than religion, family name, or race. As a result, the American workplace has become, in many cases, a hub for genetic and cultural diversity. Employees eat together, socialize together, and have been known to marry one another. All of this flies in the face of a traditional clan and tribe loyalty, leading to what many are calling a “new America.”

When Queen Noor married King Hussein in 1978, she embraced the history of Jordan, but sought to change its future. What she learned, however, is that the clans and tribes are what rule Jordan, and her husband comprised their tribal head. Jordanians are truly ruled by their clan and their tribe. In many ways, America is the same, but one can argue that the conflicts occurring within our society display that we are trying to change. It can be asserted that the best way to overcome one’s own prejudices is exposure to different types of people and cultures. This exposure is actually occurring in the American workplace. Despite the strides made in overcoming racism in America, we remain a deeply conflicted society. While looking toward the future with idealism, we often are plagued by the genetic memory of our past. While espousing equality and freedom, we often still associate with and marry individuals who look, talk, and believe the same things we do. While many of us continue to evolve into better people, we are often plagued by incidences of the past, which perhaps do not portray the people we are today. For example, the Governor of Virginia is being asked to resign because of a yearbook picture, taken of him in “blackface” in 1984. Is this picture, taken nearly 35 years ago, indicative of who he is today? We are a society on the helm of leaving our clan and tribal past behind, yet still fighting to embrace it. Where will the future lead us? Only time will tell.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy

Sex, Gender, and the Feminist Movement

Does the Non-Binary Gender Movement Threaten the Recognition of Female Special Considerations?

Raised by a feminist woman of the 60’s, my mother always taught me that, under the law, men and women should be equal. However, she also indicated that inequalities still exist within our society, because of differences biologically between the sexes. The most significant inequality, she told me, exists in the form of economic servitude-that is, women who do not exercise their ability to earn an income and remain economically dependent upon their husbands. This dependency began, she explained, because of the extended length of time it takes to raise a child. Feminism acknowledges differences between the sexes and makes special considerations for them. As a result, our society has taken steps to remedy the social inequalities created by the fact that women give birth and remain the primary caretakers for our society’s children. Examples include insurance that covers childbirth, maternity leave and working hours that allow women to retrieve their children from school. Stay at home positions have also been created, allowing for further flexibility required for childcare. Feminism also acknowledges that, biologically, women have less physical strength than men. Women are more likely to be raped or taken a prisoner of war. Furthermore, a rape occurring during wartime can lead to women giving birth while captive, creating a plethora of additional problems. As a result, placing women on the front-line during a war arguably creates an uneven playing field, thus constituting an unwise situation. Obviously, women have vulnerabilities during wartime that men do not, because of biological differences between the sexes.

The biological sex of men and women is a different concept than the gender roles adopted by them. Gender roles are defined as “a social role encompassing a range of behaviors and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their actual or perceived sex.” (1) Challenges arise when individuals perceive their gender roles as different than their biological sex. Some of the American states have requirements that transgendered individuals use their biological sex on legal and formal documents. The problems caused by this have resulted in some parents choosing to identify their children at birth as “non-binary,” or having no declared gender. That way, later in life, the child can select the gender role with which they most identify.

As a woman, I understand the plight of socially disenfranchised individuals-our struggles are similar and the discrimination real. Transgendered individuals are especially vulnerable. I also understand the perceived need not to identify a child’s biological sex on their birth certificate. However, not identifying a child’s biological sex does not negate that their biological sex exists, nor does it negate the special social considerations their biological sex demands. In essence, feminism acknowledges, accepts and embraces these biological differences, allowing for the meaningful consideration they require from our society as a whole so that the female sex can participate as fully functioning members.

The possibility exists that failing to acknowledge one’s biological sex can create an illusion of gender progressivism, while actually contributing to the further economic disenfranchisement of the female sex. For example, couples might simultaneously identify with the gender role opposite to their biology but still fall back into the traditional gender roles concurrent with their biology. In one arguably extreme scenario, the female sex, identifying publicly with the male gender role, gives birth and stays home with the baby, while the male sex, identifying publicly with the female gender role, economically provides for the female sex, and works outside the home. It seems progressive, with a person at home identifying with the male gender role, while the person at work identifies with the female gender role. In reality, however, the fact remains that the female sex is still economically powerless, and indentured to the male sex. Nothing has actually changed, save for the couple’s perceptions of themselves. While the perception of change exists, no meaningful social change has actually occurred. More dramatically, the lack of social change is actually hidden behind a social mirage of progressivism.

Regardless of sex or chosen gender role, one can argue that the elimination of acknowledging and/or providing special treatment for biological differences between the sexes creates further economic disenfranchisement for individuals on the margins. Identifying a child at birth as non-binary does not allow for the recognition and subsequent protections that are required for true social equality. In reality, our sexes are binary even if our perceived gender roles, or lack thereof, are not.

In conclusion, while some elements in our society wish to eliminate formal recognition of societal gender roles, doing so arguably negates the recognition of special societal considerations for which the feminist movement has wholeheartedly fought. Regardless of how individuals may or may not perceive themselves, the biological differences between the sexes remain very real. As a result, one can subsequently assert that any movement failing to acknowledge these differences and to make special provisions toward them is harmful to feminism and the female sex. Any ideology that wishes to eliminate such recognition of biological differences between the sexes will merely delay social change and result in false mirages of it.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_role

The Space Shuttle, Ted Bundy, and Unplanned Pregnancies

Should Women Have an Absolute Right to An Abortion?

The explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger followed three previously aborted flight attempts. As a young elementary school student in 1986, we lined up our chairs for the fourth time to watch the Challenger launch. Our teachers, the news, and the entire country had us excited to observe a lesson taught from outer space. NASA, under pressure for the launch to occur, overlooked icicles on the landing pad. This led to the “major malfunction” that caused the Space Shuttle Challenger to explode after takeoff, killing all seven crew members. The explosion left school children bewildered and the nation shocked. A subsequent investigation led to the conclusion that the mission should have, once again, been aborted.

The word “abortion,” while appropriate in relation to the space shuttle, nevertheless has negative connotations in our society. In high school, I had a teacher who refused to use the word abort or abortion for anything, except in reference to a woman choosing to end her pregnancy. She found it offensive and inappropriate. Repeatedly, she stated, “Abortion is wrong because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Conversely, during my graduate degree, I had a tutor who worked as an attorney. Day after day, he would tell me about visiting his clients in jail, and how badly the place smelled. He also told me about consistent observations he made amongst the prisoners. The most astounding observation included the fact that the majority of the prisoners had been born out of wedlock. As a result, he found illegitimacy to be a serious threat to our society. If one has a child born illegitimately, he would say, one’s major goal in life is to then keep that child out of prison. Abortion, he argued, is for the good of society.

In 1986, the space shuttle took off, because NASA felt pressure to deliver to the children of America the “first teacher in space.” As a result, they killed every astronaut on board. Is it appropriate to compare aborting a space shuttle mission to a woman aborting her pregnancy? Perhaps not, but I am going to do it anyway. Pregnancy occurs because a woman has sex with a man. Sometimes this sex is consensual, and sometimes it is not. Pregnancy often includes the conduction of various genetic tests, determining if the fetus is viable, or suffering from genetic problems. At this time, if either of these problems arise, abortion is the most likely resulting scenario. Continuing with pregnancies that have severe problems can result in catastrophic hospital bills, overwhelming caretaking bills, and even the death of the mother, and/or child. Like the space shuttle that resulted in such cataclysmic devastation, sometimes, one can argue, abortion is the wisest solution to the problem or potential problems that are most likely to occur.

Society often puts pressure on young, unmarried women to continue with their pregnancies. For example, my father has a dear friend who asserts he is pro-choice-before conception. Once one is pregnant, he argues, abortion is not an option. But what about birth defects, I responded? Or if the mother’s life is at risk? No deal, he answered. As a Roman Catholic, he believes, the child’s life is paramount. As a young woman being raised by a feminist woman of the 60’s, this belief system did not sit well with me.

Can abortion, in cases of rape and/or incest, represent a sensible decision? Ted Bundy, the world’s most notorious serial killer, entered this world likely as the product of just such a scenario. Initially raised as his mother’s brother, he only discovered his true parentage later in life. Shocked by this betrayal, coupled with a devastating breakup, he embarked on a devastating trail of rape and murder. After wreaking havoc on young women across the country, Ted Bundy finally met his end in the electric chair. However, it can be asserted that, had abortion been legal at the time of his conception, many women and their families would have been spared a great deal of torment and pain. What is more moral-society ending a life before it’s birth, or far after, when the person is an adult? Does Ted Bundy represent an example of abortion representing a sensible decision?

Religion often takes exception to abortion, regardless of the circumstances resulting in the pregnancy. Like my father’s friend, many Christians believe that life begins at conception and that as a result, the fetus, representing the most vulnerable members of society, is entitled to protection by the strongest members of our society. As a result of this belief, I observed many girls in my Christian high school become pregnant and drop out of school. Some of them married the father of the child, and the majority of them divorced. Few, if any, of these women attended college, but all of them underwent the overwhelming struggle of young motherhood. Financially, emotionally, spiritually, these women gave everything they had so that these children could be born and raised. While speaking with them later in life, many of them indicated to me that they felt pressured into having sex, pressured into having the baby, never even contemplated birth control, and routinely encountered boys refusing to wear protection. After the birth, more often than not in a charity ward, the father disappeared, or showed little concern. The woman, in the end, almost always became the primary caretaker to the child.

Does a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy if she does not feel ready to raise a child? Did the operators of the space shuttle have the right to abort the mission? Today, knowing the result of the space shuttle not being aborted, the result is an astounding yes-the space shuttle launch should have been aborted. The children of Christa Mcauliffe and the rest of the astronauts would have had a parent. Their husbands and wives would have continued to have spouses. Instead, because of pressure and expectations placed upon the operators of the space shuttle, they made bad decisions, and destruction occurred. On the same token, if a woman’s life is at risk by giving birth, and she does not find out until the twenty-eighth week, does she too have the right to abort her pregnancy? Is it worth risking her life so that, potentially, another can be born? What about the risk that her current children will lose their mother, or that her husband will lose his wife? Even more profoundly, should this question be left to our slow-moving judicial system, or to a woman and her doctor?

Our legal system is attempting to clarify this difficult situation. New York recently passed “the Reproductive Health Act, (in which) non-doctors are now allowed to conduct abortions and the procedure could be done until the mother’s due date if the woman’s health is endangered or if the fetus is not viable. The previous law only allowed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if a woman’s life was at risk.” (1) Responses to this ruling have been comprised of shock and dismay. Children can now be aborted even if they are viable. How could such a ruling have occurred? Is this not murder? How can women have an absolute right to an abortion?

The Reproductive Health Act is likely a response to people in our government wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many of these individuals want to make abortion illegal in all instances, including rape, incest, and birth defects. This arguably extreme view has now been met with another-the Reproductive Health Act, allowing just the opposite- that is, abortion up until the time the fetus or child takes its first breath. The war is on. Who does society value more-the mother or the child? Who has an absolute right to life-the mother or the child?

As a feminist, I firmly believe that the life of the mother is always paramount. I am consistently and profoundly bothered by cases in which mothers, forgoing cancer treatments so their children could live, often resulting in their deaths, are hailed as heroes. In such cases, a family is left without a daughter, a husband is left without a wife, and a child is left without a parent. I find myself afraid of being in such a situation, where my society states I must stop treatment and die, so my unborn child can live. I often feel that our society does not value women and finds us expendable. This both frightens and saddens me.

There are no easy answers to the abortion question. As a writer and researcher, it is often easier for me to take an external point of view. The reality is, society may fight extraordinarily hard to have unplanned children live, only to ultimately execute them later in the electric chair. We are born to this life, and we learn along the way. Good sense must prevail in all things, and in this matter also. So what are we as a society to do? For now, the judicial system of New York has spoken, but the struggle between what is more important to our society-the absolute right to life for mothers, or the absolute right to life for unborn children is very real and ongoing. Only time will tell, and we may never have a firm and definite answer.

  1. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/new-york-celebrates-legalizing-abortion-until-birth-as-catholic-bishops-question-cuomos-faith

Eating Right, Exercise, Mental Health and Genetic Awareness

Why Our Raw Genetics Must Become an Integral Part of Our Overall Health Plan

Traditionally, the achievement and maintenance of overall health has included exercise, eating right, and mental health awareness. Children in the United States are provided school breakfasts and lunches that adhere to the official nutritional pyramid. Many children are required to attend gym class every day of the week, beginning in Grade one through twelve. Additionally, stress management and suicide prevention are routinely taught in school. After the high school years, colleges offer classes in nutrition, exercise, as well as breathing and relaxation. One important facet missing in this overall picture, however, is genetic health, or even the awareness of it. As a result, many children go on to suffer disastrous problems, fundamentally unaware that solutions exist for these various issues

The completion of the human genome project in 2003 set the stage for a health revolution. But this revolution would take time, and is still taking time. While researchers successfully mapped every gene in the human body, they needed to conduct additional research in order to understand the function of each gene. This research is still ongoing. Furthermore, the medical field is arguably traditionally conservative, so any significant changes to the health field would likely require a changing of the guard, or introduction of a new generation of more open-minded physicians.

The availability of tests such as 23andme to the masses is slowly and quietly creating an impact on the American populous. Founded by Anne Wojcicki, the ex-wife of one of the founders of Google, 23andme.com, coupled with sites such as geneticlifehack.com, squarely puts the power of genetic awareness, understanding, assistance, and treatment into the hands of the common person. Today more and more people are taking the test, yet many are still unaware that the results also contain their raw genetic data. Caught up in the findings related to their ethnicity, the health ramifications of their genetics is often forgotten. This overlooking of something so fundamental to one’s health has, inevitably, led to further delays in our popular understanding of the importance of one’s genetic health.

It can be argued, that for the American populous truly to be healthy, genetic health must be incorporated into the already existing health paradigm of exercise, healthy eating, and mental health awareness. In order for us to reach successfully the next level in our overall health, we must all be aware of our genomes, and what they specifically contain. By doing so, we can then not only be aware of our ethnicities, but also have an awareness of our genetic predispositions, sensitivities, mutations, and polymorphisms. One can argue that without the integration of genetic health into our public consciousness, many preventable, curable, and/or treatable conditions will be misdiagnosed, mistreated or overlooked.

My life has been directly impacted by awareness of my genetic health. As an American child in elementary school, I suffered from crippling anxiety that only exacerbated over time. Eventually diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, my life became of a regimen of counseling and pills. Doctors blamed my disorder on “a chemical imbalance” coupled with a range of emotional issues merely caused by life itself. Eventually, I came to completely blame myself and tried to tackle the OCD on my own. The sheer terror of living with this disorder ultimately led to TMJ disorder, muscle problems, and migraines.

It is better to discover one’s genetic health later rather than never. After exercising vigorously for years, eating according to the official health pyramid, and attending counseling with certified individuals, I received a referral that would change my entire game plan. At the age of 40, a physician’s assistant referred me to, what she called, a non-traditional MD, outside of Chattanooga. This physician sat and listened to my ailments, as well as my original diagnoses of OCD, and proclaimed he needed a blood sample. This physician also indicated he would be checking the levels of vitamins in my system. A few weeks later the results arrived, and his staff summoned me back to his office. Subsequently, a medical assistant informed me that I have a genetic polymorphism called MTHFR C677t. She also explained that as a result of this polymorphism, my Vitamin B levels fell to a critically low level of 13%. These factors led to my plethora of symptoms, but could easily be treated with Vitamin B pills, creams, and shots. The medical assistant than indicated to me that within six months of Vitamin B treatment, I would begin feeling better, and indeed I did. Today, my OCD symptoms are kept under control through this treatment of weekly Vitamin B shots, a diet high in Vitamin B, and exercise with a personal trainer. Additionally, I drink little to no alcohol, because I now understand that my genetic polymorphism makes me more susceptible to inebriation. Other factors include not drinking tap water, and the removal of mercury fillings from my mouth, because I am unable to push toxins out of my body like other individuals without this genetic polymorphism. My efforts have resulted in a quieted mind and a much happier life. At one point, I mentioned to a physician at an urgent care clinic that I had the MTHFR C677t polymorphism, and he looked at me in bewilderment. At that point, I understood that, while I had worked to become aware of the root causes of my issue, the medical profession, in many ways, had not kept up with this health revolution.

In order for the American populace to experience true overall health, genetic health must be incorporated into the basics. While exercise, eating right, and mental health awareness are important, there are a multiplicity of other issues that simply cannot be treated according to traditional medical methods. Without this shift in public consciousness, various conditions will remain mistreated, misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed. As a young woman growing up in the United States, my youth came before the completion of the human genome project. However, today, armed with my raw genetic data, I am free to interpret it, understand it, and treat it accordingly. As time goes on, I can only hope that others chose to do the same and that the medical professional ultimately catches up with these truly revolutionary health innovations.

Society, Cultural Norms, and the Application of the Law

Is the Commutation of the Original Sentence for Cyntoia Brown Appropriate?

The case of Cyntoia Brown, the young teenage prostitute who murdered Nashville native Johnny Allen, has become the cause of the day for various celebrities. While some feel that her original sentence of fifty-one years to life represents a fair and just application of the law, others have argued that Cyntoia’s age and circumstance make this particular case worthy of a second look. This turn of events then begs the question-is our law static, and not subject to change, or is it flexible and subject to change with the evolution of societal norms?

Cyntoia Brown conceivably represents many of the poor, black females we observe walking the streets. Rather than acknowledging or helping these women, we glance away and judge them for their poor choices. The reality is, however, that many of these young women are runaways, with no authority figure other than a violent pimp. Their lives consist of humiliation and sexual objectification, often spiraling into a deadly cycle of violence and drug abuse. This cycle is often only ended by the murder or drug overdose of the prostitute. Like the state of nature itself, their lives are nasty, brutish, and short.

Cyntoia Brown’s life started in a daze, just as her victim’s life ended in one. Born to a drug-addicted, alcoholic single mother, her life quickly devolved down the same destructive path. Running away from her adopted parents, she fell into the claws of a savage pimp. One night, a real estate agent in his forties picked up Cyntoia. After rebuffing his many attempts to have sexual relations with her, Cyntoia ultimately shot him in the head. Was it in self-defense from Johnny Allen, or did she do it while he slept beside her? Either way, Johnny Allen died, and Cyntoia immediately took what should carry and ran.

Justice for the victim, Johnny Allen reigned down swiftly on Cyntoia. When prostitutes are murdered, society often fails to notice they are missing. When the Johns of the world go missing, it usually results in anger and a trial. The outcome of this case is arguably cliche-the disadvantaged, black, female prostitute, sentenced to fifty-one years to life for murdering an advantaged, white, professional male. Following the trial, with justice duly served, society forgot about Cyntoia and moved on….for a while.

As society changes over time, so do the views and values of its citizens. (1) The year 2004 represented a world quite different from today. The conservative George W. Bush had just defeated the liberal John Kerry. Conservatism pervaded our society, and the Iraq War remained in full force. As a country, we had little time, interest, or sympathy for an underage, black female prostitute. The sacrifice of Cyntoia Brown simply represented good sense, according to the cultural norms at the time.

Today, our culture has perhaps evolved into one of greater responsibility toward our youth and redemption for our sins. Many celebrities have taken up their own particular cause de jures, with Cyntoia Brown being among them. Consequently, many people have found it hard to stomach incarcerating, effectively for life, a once sixteen-year-old, sex-trafficked by adults. Society has changed so much that, despite having commuted her sentence, many still say Governor Haslam should be ashamed for requiring Cyntoia to serve another eight months.

Like our current society, the business culture has evolved also, into one of custodial and transformational leadership, rather than one of dictatorship. As the CEO of a digital marketing company, I feel a responsibility toward my staff, to make their lives better, more hopeful, and more productive. I am not just their boss in many ways I consider myself a parent, not only here to make sure the company prospers, but that their personal lives prosper also. My office has food for the staff, web seminars for continued learning, lights dimmed to protect their eyes and paid vacation for those on salary. I am constantly thinking of new ways to improve their lives because the welfare of the individuals within my company has become just as important as the welfare of the company itself. This is quite different than just a few years ago, where the bottom line mattered the most, even at the expense of the staff’s private lives and paychecks.

The case of Cyntoia Brown, including her conviction, and the commutation of her sentence, represents broader changes occurring within our society. Rather than our law remaining static, it is instead dynamic, and changing with societal norms. In 2004, at the height of conservatism and a foreign war, the case of Cyntoia Brown generated little interest. Today, however, our society simply cannot stomach locking up a sex-trafficked child for life. Tomorrow may be different, but today, society dictates that Cyntoia Brown shall be freed. Society also dictates that business owners care more for their employees than they ever have before. Consequently, it will be interesting to see what societal norms hold for us in the future.

  1. https://www.google.com/search?q=Is+the+application+of+the+law+static%3F+or+does+it+change+over+time%3F&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS790US790&oq=Is+the+application+of+the+law+static%3F++or+does+it+change+over+time%3F&aqs=chrome..69i57.22919j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-)

The Federal Government, The Partial Government Shutdown, and the Ordinary Citizen

Would Daily Life Really Change if The Federal Government, As We Know It, Disappeared?

Years ago, while a student in college, I learned about the various Antitrust Acts that redefined the power of the Federal Government. I also learned that, originally, the Federal Government had three strictly defined purposes.

  1. A united military
  2. A united currency
  3. The elimination of tariffs between the states

However, the rise of commerce led to to the rise of monopolies, arguably damaging consumers with high prices created by the lack of competition. This resulted in Antitrust laws. “United States Antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws that regulate the conduct and organization of business corporations, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. The main statutes are the Sherman Act of 1890, the Clayton Act of 1914, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. These Acts, first, restrict the formation of cartels and prohibit other collusive practices regarded as being in restraint of trade. Secondly, they restrict the mergers and acquisitions of organizations that could substantially lessen competition. Thirdly, they prohibit the creation of a monopoly and the abuse of monopoly power.” (1) It is the compilation of these three Acts that led to the formation of the Federal Government as we know it today. While as a Feminist, I appreciate the rules and regulations that protect women and other minorities in the workplace, as a business owner I feel the burden of taxation that hits my business every other week from the Federal Government. As a citizen, I feel like our government is a bloated fish that needs an enema.

As our current government is deadlocked on its current funding situation, we are now faced with a partial Federal Government shutdown. We have all heard about this on the television and the radio, but visibly, nothing in my life or business appears to have changed. Past government shutdowns led to the Chickamauga Battlefield being closed, but people simply took down the barriers and went in anyway. We were told that, as a result of the government shutdown, the Battlefield had only “essential workers” taking care of it. As a business owner, I can assure you that everyone in my business is essential, and people who are not, are eliminated, for the sake of efficiency. Our Federal Government, while once with defined duties under its original purposes, is today very, dare I say, INEFFICIENT, with the additional purposes created for it by the passage of Antitrust law.

As an average citizen and business owner in the United States, the partial shutdown of the Federal Government has not noticeably changed my life or my business at all. I remember in the past, during partial government shutdowns, hearing that the police would no longer be funded. I suppose one could be afraid of such a prospect, and yet, I could not help but feel that we govern ourselves pretty well. Furthermore, in the American South, we all have guns, with the police essentially there to take reports after the fact. Additionally, as an advocate of Laissez-Faire economics, I tend to question the value of the Antitrust laws, that led to the bloated monster we now call the Federal Government. The “invisible hand” of the economy would likely take hold, and the matter of monopolies and unfair competition would sort themselves out, according to the laws of efficiency, supply, and demand. Again, it is hard to believe that, with the shutdown of the Federal Government, anything would really change in our day to day lives.

As our Federal Government continues to grow, comparisons with the Roman Empire are inevitable. Reaching across Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and into the Middle East, the Roman Empire arguably brought order to a vast group of people. However, like a bloated animal that keeps taking in more water, it ultimately exploded in a most spectacular manner-or did it? Did the day to day life of the people change during the fall of the Roman empire? Did Rome actually fall in a day?

An examination of the fall of the Roman Empire reveals that the day to day lives of its citizens actually changed very little. Rather than a catastrophic blow, the citizens merely gradually changed their allegiances and continued on with their daily living. Reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire include:

  1. Invasions by Barbarian tribes
  2. Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor
  3. The rise of the Eastern Empire
  4. Overexpansion and military overspending
  5. Government corruption and political instability
  6. The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes
  7. Christianity and the loss of traditional values
  8. The weakening of the Roman legions (2)

The reality is, just like today, while these issues impact civilization on a broad scale, they arguably have very little impact on the average person’s day to day life. The typical Roman citizen engaged in local commerce, like buying food and clothing. They loved their families and spent time with them. They enjoyed walks and experienced the change of seasons. None of the factors listed above had a real impact on their day to day life. Studies of this time period focus on leaders, and the wealthy. The peasants are virtually ignored because their lives consisted of uninteresting factors and primarily stayed the same, regardless of regime charges.

I have often felt that if the Federal Government shutdown, we would never even know it, except for the media. Power would simply fall back to the states, and day to day life would continue on as usual. The average Americans would still get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, love their children, etc. One could argue that most of us have an internal locus of control, and would not simply start killing or stealing from one another. As the Queen of England says, we would simply, “Keep calm and carry on.”

The Federal Government originally had three very narrowly defined purposes. Various Antitrust Acts created the path to the over bloated American Federal Government we know today. It, therefore, begs for comparison with the Roman Empire, that ultimately fell under the burden of its own weight. However, just like the Romans during the Empire’s fall, our day to day lives have changed very little, if at all, during this partial government shutdown. Is our government on the same path as the Roman Empire? Only time will tell, but even thousands of years after its fall, there is still a Rome, only now it is a city instead of a country, with people living there as they always have, for thousands of years. While the elite battle amongst themselves, life for the common man changes very little, as we continue to find happiness or otherwise on our own terms, in our own worlds.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_antitrust_law
  2. https://www.history.com/news/8-reasons-why-rome-fell

Fairy Tales, Feminism, and Their Effect Upon Women

Are Fairy Tales Harmful, Or Do They Have A Productive Place In Modern Society?

People have always had a fascination with fairy tales. To this day, they are still being reimagined in the general public’s imagination. The likes of Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty continue to inspire young women throughout the generations. Young girls, from a very early age, are read these stories about damsels in distress, and the prince that saves them from a long slumber with true love’s kiss. These girls also learn about the ensuing beautiful wedding, followed immediately by “happily ever after.” This then begs the question-are these fairy tales realistic, or do they create unhealthy stereotypes and expectations for our daughters? In essence, is encouraging our daughters to believe they need to be saved by a knight in shining armor a storyline that needs to be buried and forgotten?

Growing up in the 1980’s, my generation received more than just stories. Disney pandered to our imaginations, bringing us movies, books, toys, and even theme parks, all easily available for our parents to purchase. Trips to the grocery store consisted of the obligatory stop in the magazine section to select our future fairy tale wedding dresses. Throughout all of these fantasies, the message remained clear-girls are princesses, and somewhere in the world lived our prince charming. In essence, life really began after we found him and married him.

I distinctly remember the day, in 1981, when I realized princesses really exist. Walking through the grocery store with my mother, my eye caught a picture of Lady Diana Spencer on a magazine cover stating “Diana, Princess of Wales.” Suddenly, a light bulb switched on in my head. At that moment, I realized princesses really exist, and not just as fairy tale characters, but as real people making real differences; and my life changed.

Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles promised us a traditional fairy tale, but failed to deliver. As it turned out, our damsel in distress evolved into her own woman, who instead of conforming to a traditional role, chose instead to reinvent herself. This decision inspired countless women, including me, this decision inspired countless women, including me, to look up to her up and follow suit. Instead of waiting for prince charming, many women emulated Diana’s sense of independence coupled with good deeds. For example, many of these women spent their time volunteering in soup kitchens and churches. A poignant moment occurred when Diana stated, “People think that at the end of the day, a man is the only answer. Actually, a fulfilling job is better for me.” The fairy tale had not ended but instead been reimagined, as a beautiful princess, bravely facing the world alone.

The arrival of an independent, and dare I say, feminist Princess Diana, led to the reimagination of the fairy tale for many women around the world. Rather than planning our royal weddings, many of us began planning our own futures, and that future no longer relied upon finding a prince. I personally expressed to my mother that I would never get married, and instead began planning to successfully brave the world alone. Many women of my generation excelled in school, and then their careers, but continued viewing themselves as princesses. Nothing had changed, and yet everything had changed. This generation of women arguably navigated into uncharted territory.

Girls born in the 1970’s, today represent some of the most independent women in history. They are CEO’s, physicians, professors, and priests, amongst other professions. Many are married, and many are not, but what distinctly stands out with this generation of women is their level of financial independence. Most of my female contemporaries emulated Princess Diana in some way at some point in their life, and still carry fond memories of her to this day. While dressed in the obligatory Diana dress and hat, we count ourselves amongst the highest levels of volunteerism. For us, the fairy tales read to us in childhood evolved into a representation of financial independence and professional success. Whether we married or not is now of little consequence, because we learned through Diana’s example that the knight in shining armor is no longer necessary. In essence, we did not need saving, because we saved ourselves.

As a woman of the Princess Diana generation, I consider myself lucky to have learned how to reimagine the fairy tale for myself. Quite simply, this could not have been done without the fairy tales of my youth, coupled with the reality of Princess Diana’s life. For me and my generation, throwing out the fairy tales, and branding them unseemly, would have arguably negatively impacted our lives. Perhaps the fusion of fairy tales and feminism, that has so defined my generation, will serve as an example for future ones to come.