racial justice politics

21st century racial politics always takes place in the shadow of our inability to do anything about our racial problems. We are forever creating weird rituals to center and honor and elevate Black people, in lieu of feeding poor Black children or freeing Black prisoners. The deal we’ve made, essentially, is to say “Sorry about all the oppression, Black people. Can’t do anything about it! But tell you what, white liberals will be very weird around you for the rest of your lives, out of a very sincere desire not to offend or oppress you. We can’t do anything about Black poverty or violence against Black people, but we’ll act like racial injustice is, like, double plus bad in polite society. Also Wells Fargo will send out a very respectful Kwanzaa email every holiday season. So that’s nice.”

Freddie DeBoer, “I’m Somehow Less Concerned with Whether the Holocaust was ‘About Race’ Than I Am with the Six Million Murders”

Trying the Newsletter….Again

I’ve been intending and trying to start a newsletter for a couple of years ago. And, well, here I am trying to get back on that horse. I’ve rebranded it, as The Compendium. Here is a little bit about it that I wrote up recently:

The Compendium is a collection of thoughts, on a variety of subjects. Writing is a cathartic process for me, an opportunity to work through and think about any number of things that interest or perplex me. Writing in public is even more so, as I gain the advantage of having other amazing humans to bounce these ideas off of.

So why a newsletter? For several years now, I’ve run a small blog, with a bit of success. But, that format seems to be running its course for me, in terms of being a place I can be creative and original. I’m an avid reader of a variety of Substack newsletters, so it seems natural to be trying this format out.

Why should you subscribe? If you are interested in thinking, reading, and conversing about theology, books, culture, politics, history, philosophy, or sport, at a minimum, then this will be a space to explore those things. I look to create a community of thinkers; I hope you’ll want to be a part of that.

Anyways, I hope you’ll subscribe. Just click the link below.

Click here to subscribe to The Compendium.

Pro-Choice and Pro-Life: Against the Texas Abortion Law

I believe two things about the abortion debate. One, I think the act of abortion is a terrible one, I pray a world where there are no abortions, and I can’t imagine ever having to decide to have one (which I never will, as I am a man.) Two, I am ardently in favor of allowing women to make their own decisions about their bodies and their pregnancies, and I think the Texas abortion law passed a few weeks ago is a terrible law that attacks women and is unconstitutional and immoral. In short, you could say I am both pro-life (in that I believe all life has worth and should be protected) and pro-choice. To assert that there is a hard dichotomy between the two is to acquiesce to a politicized debate I refuse to entertain.

The issue of abortion has long been difficult for me. On one hand, I want to stand with women, and I believe it is important that they be able to make the best choices for their lives and their bodies. One the other, I understand the arguments made by serious Christian thinkers around the importance of family, child-bearing, and the arrogance of a humanity that believes it has any semblance of control over just about anything. I have mostly stayed quiet on the issue, trying to walk a line between solidarity with women and a belief that the act of abortion is one of the most difficult situations human beings face. In the end, it has often come down to the fact that I am a man, and I do not ever have to face down the decision personally.

But, as the debate has heated up again recently, and with the passage of the Texas law, I have once again come to understand that my position of leaving it to women – even in the face of my moral misgivings – doesn’t put me in the middle of the abortion debate. In fact, it puts be squarely in the the pro-choice camp. Because that is what it means to be pro-choice: not that you think abortion is an unalloyed good. Not that you want abortions happening all the time. Not that you think abortion should be on the table as a form of birth control. No, pro-choice means that you think this issue is hard, that it contains a lot of gray, that you don’t know what the best choice is for every women in every situation, and so, you would rather leave that choice up to women and their medical care professionals. Being pro-choice means you think government should stay out of the exam room and not make decisions for people.

And, now, being pro-choice means you don’t think it is ok for a state to outsource legal enforcement to vigilantes and bounty hunters. It means that you don’t think conservatives should be able to circumvent constitutional precedence and basic law enforcement by writing a clearly unconstitutional piece of legislation with the sole aim of getting judges on the Supreme Court to let it stand not on its merits, but because they have already decided what outcome they want and thus are willing to rubber stamp just about anything that comes their way.

No matter where you stand on abortion, we should all be on the same page about Texas: the law they have passed – the regime of coercion, fear and enforcement they have directed at women who are already undergoing one of the most difficult times in their entire lives – is unconscionable and shouldn’t be allowed to stand, on both legal and moral grounds. The effective outlaw of Roe in Texas is a blow to the dignity and autonomy of women in that state. Into law has been written the idea that the lives, choices, beliefs and dreams of women don’t count as much as the theoretical future life of a fetus. The desires of those who are anti-abortion have been elevated as the most important in Texas, and the desires of the women who are actually affected by the law have been made last. In addition, Texas has created a legal wild west, opening up a space for vigilante justice, where anyone can be hauled into court at any time if someone even suspects that might want to “assist” abortion by doing something like passing on the phone number of a women’s health clinic or donating money to NARAL. Additionally, that person is now on the hook for forking over $10,000 plus legal fees to their accusers. And if they try to challenge it in court? The state can wash its hands, because enforcement has been outsourced to citizens, a legal scheme as unconstitutional as it is horrifying. This isn’t justice. This isn’t pro-life. This isn’t the land of the free. It’s religious belief made law, a mockery of the rule of law.

The decision to carry a pregnancy to term should not involve the state. Choices made around a difficult or traumatic pregnancy don’t need a federal official to help officiate. For all of the small government blathering of many of the same conservatives who support this law, it’s awfully hard to see this as anything but the imposition of government into the relationship between a women and her doctor. And it has been done in a way that, in another context, would have these conservatives howling with anger and outrage. Can you imagine, for instance, if California wrote a law stating that all personal firearms are illegal, and that instead of the state sending agents to seize guns, they instead deputized every citizen in the state to snitch on any gun owners, and then those same gun owners had to pay those snitches $10k plus legal fees? Fox News would implode. Conservatives would overturn the entire state government in Sacramento. And I agree: that would be a legal travesty! You can’t overturn constitutional rights and precedence by legal trickery. But, this showcases the civic bankruptcy of much of the conservative political movement in America: tactics and values don’t matter as much as the ends achieved. But any means, this law says, conservatives values be damned. It’s utilitarian thinking at its apogee, and it undermines the rule of law that American democracy is founded upon.

And here is the thing: abortion will still happen. Abortion did not start with the advent of Roe, and it will not end with it being struck down. Instead, abortion will go from being the safe confines of a sterile doctor’s office, back to where it once existed, in basements and alleyways and in the dark. Women and babies will die. Being pro-life can’t just mean blind opposition to abortion at all costs. Want to reduce abortions? Support birth control access, sex education in schools, women and children’s health, the elimination of poverty, more monetary support for working families. If you oppose abortion, but also oppose policies that address these things (like universal basic income, universal day care, effective and targeted welfare programs, funding for health care and education) then you aren’t being very pro-life. Study after study shows: reducing abortions comes through these means. If the anti-abortion crowd sunk as much energy and passion and anger into these causes as they did legally attacking women, their doctors and their advocates, then abortion rates would plummet.

But, the priorities of the movement to “protect babies” have never been clearer, thanks to Texas. Its not about better policy and safer birth. Honestly, it probably never was.

I am pro-life and pro-choice. That’s what it means to support women and want more happy, healthy babies and families in America. We must support the right of women to make their own decisions. We must realize that discomfort with and grief at abortion doesn’t require certainty, but instead opens a place of uncertainty and difficulty, and thus, a one-size-fits-all policy response like Texas – or like the repeal of Roe – cannot be the answer. We must give women the space to make the best decision they can, stand with them in grief or joy and above all love when they make decisions, and stop making their lives harder and scarier in the meantime. That is the most compassionate and most Christian thing we can do.