Monday, October 13, 2014

Ruthless Misogyny: Exploiting and Erasing Women

LGBT activists have a range of strategies for discrediting women who question their goals. 
Rivka Edelman | 13 October 2014
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Janna Darnelle’s recent essay, “Breaking the Silence: Redefining Marriage Hurts Women Like Me—and Our Children,” reveals what is behind the heartwarming pictures of gay families from a mother’s point of view. As someone who was raised by a lesbian mother, I would like to weigh in. I will comment not only as a former child who was once all smiles in those pictures, but also as an academic, a woman, a mother, and a feminist.

Darnelle’s essay struck a nerve and went viral. It is not surprising that, within a few hours, LGBT activists had taken up arms against her. Keyboard warriors manned the ramparts. Soon, the usual thugs took up their clubs and pitchforks.

For those of you who avoid the subterranean landscape of online same-sex parenting debates, it is useful to be introduced to Scott “Rose” Rosenzweig, a virulently misogynistic LGBT activist. As soon as Darnelle’s essay was published, Rose went into action, darting from the blog Good As You to other sites in an effort to destroy her personally. (Rose’s obsessive internet commenting has attracted attention at other news outlets as well.) Darnelle’s ex-husband even weighed in. A helpful fellow, he left her personal information in the comments section of several activists’ blogs, including her full legal name.

Janna Darnelle wrote under a pen name in order to protect her family. Unfortunately, her ex-husband’s comments helped Scott Rose embark on a campaign of harassment and intimidation. As I will discuss below, Rose was not content to confine his character assassination to the internet; he has also contacted Darnelle’s employer in an attempt to get her fired.

Readers will recall that Darnelle’s essay discusses her divorce from her ex-husband and her struggles as a single mother to provide a sense of family. Although her conclusions are controversial, her story is well-written and articulate. Sadly, the hate-driven response from extremist LGBT activists and bloggers confirms what many women are beginning to realize. While these activists laud the ex-husband for “living his truth,” they hold women and children in such contempt that they refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Janna’s account of her difficult experiences as a mother. Although they purport to represent the disadvantaged, certain wings of the LGBT-rights movement function as all-white men’s rights groups. In our contemporary climate, these men are allowed to do great harm to women and children with impunity.

Erasing and Exploiting Women

On the most superficial level, what Darnelle described could have parallels in a heterosexual divorce. In most cases, a woman’s standard of living drops significantly after a divorce, while men’s goes up significantly. So, in that sense, there was nothing surprising in Janna’s story: the judge favored the husband, who had a steady high income.

The bloggers and activists who comment at Jeremy Hooper’s Good as You blog have used this judge’s decision to suggest that Darnelle was an unfit mother. Darnelle’s piece did not give details about the family’s custody arrangement, but I have confirmed that the mother has 60 percent custody of the children. This indicates that she has not been found to be “unfit” in any way.

The “unfit mother” trope is very important, because it helps justify taking women’s children, eggs, or the use of their uteri. Darnelle is right. Many families headed by gay male couples are built upon exploitation of women. Practically speaking, Scott Rose and his compatriots have formed a men’s rights group that seeks to use women as breeders. These egg donors and surrogate mothers supply infants for a bustling market full of same-sex couples, for whom reproduction is naturally and biologically impossible.

In the name of equality, groups such as GLAAD (which employs Jeremy Hooper as a consultant) have pushed through gender identity laws that have legally erased women. The term “woman” now legally can refer to the way that a man chooses to identify himself. Once women have been erased legally as a group and as individuals, it is not hard to erase “mothers.” This lends support to the practice of using one woman’s eggs and another woman’s womb to supply children for gay male couples, obscuring the concept of motherhood and making it seem dispensable.

A Guide to the Playbook of Extreme LGBT Activists

The publication of Janna Darnelle’s story led to a spate of blog posts full of vitriol, calling her “a pitiful creature,” accusing her of mental instability, and questioning her very existence.
With the help of her husband’s comments, Scott Rose set off to dig up and publicize as much personal information as possible about Darnelle, such as high school graduation and real estate records. Rose has harassed Darnelle with threatening messages. He has even contacted Darnelle’s employer, leaving this message on the company’s Facebook page:

This is a COMPLAINT against […], an executive assistant in […]. Under the nom de plume of “Janna Darnelle,” […] has published a horrifying, defamatory anti-gay screed on the website “Public Discourse.” The first problem would be that she is creating a climate of hostility for eventual gay elders and/or their visiting friends and relatives. The second problem would be that in the screed, she comes off as being unhinged. Her public expressions of gay-bashing bigotry are reflecting very poorly on LLC.

Sadly, all of this conforms to a predictable pattern of attack. If you study the routine that plays out whenever extreme activists like Scott Rose decide to take someone out, you will see seasoned patterns. Four steps comprise their usual character assassination.

First, they call the individual a liar and say the person’s existence cannot be verified without more data about him or her. Second, once they have such data, they write to the person’s employer to get him or her fired or professionally destroyed. Third, if they cannot get the person fired, they go after the family members. Fourth, if they cannot turn the person’s family against him or her, they blast endless broadsides against the person, trying to make him or her feel afraid or unsafe at all times.
They have a bag of rhetorical tricks as well. Learn these.

Soft derails: “What about straight divorces, adoptions, and blended families?” Such asides are meant to distract and create false equivalencies. The fact is, every single family headed by a gay male couple had to take another person’s child. In order to accept this, one must accept that men have the right to use women’s bodies and buy their children.

Shocking derails: “Look at all the bad parents that are heterosexual.” The existence of such parents, while tragic, does not give men the right to harvest eggs from women, to use them as breeders, or to take their babies and children.

Appeal to emotion: “We want children; what should we do?” This tries to make people feel guilty or shame them into handing over poor women to be used by rich men. My response: I have not asked you to solve my problems, have I? You can’t demand society legislate a special subclass of women to beused explicitly as breeders so you can feel happy.

Born this way biology: “Do not live a lie; be true to yourself.” This tactic becomes another erasure of women. In this scheme, we are asked to accept that men’s biology matters. A man who is attracted to other men could not possibly be asked to stay with his wife, because he is biologically fated to be attracted to other men’s bodies. Yet, simultaneously, we are told that women’s biology—especially their biological bonds with their children—are of no importance. Despite the scientific evidence of maternal and fetal bonding during pregnancy, and despite the long histories of women who have suffered lifelong grief because their babies were taken from them, we are expected to think of women as breed animals and to believe that men have the right to raise other people’s children.

You want to marry a man and you are a man? Society does not owe you women’s children, women’s eggs, or women’s bodies.

They Can’t Silence Us Forever

In writing this piece, I know that I risk being labeled a bigot. Like Janna Darnelle, I will probably have to endure a whole host of misogynistic terms. I’ll be called crazy, unhinged, laughable, bitter, fat, old, and ugly. In other words, I am just a woman who dares to say rich privileged white men do not have the right to women’s bodies and body parts.

Male sexual pleasure has been a protected industry for both gay and heterosexual men for ages. By and large, the industry exploits women and children. Now we have a new industry: surrogacy, or the commercial-industrial uterus. How very progressive. And at the same time, how very old and predictable.

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Rivka Edelman is a visiting professor of literature and writing. She has published widely under a different name. She is also a feminist, a children’s rights activist, and an active member in the network of adult children raised in LBGT households. This essay was originally published at Public Discourse and has been republished with permission. 
This article is published by Rivka Edelman and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

How we justify a market in children

Third-party reproduction inexorably leads to violations of human rights.

Rickard Newman | 25 September 2014

Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation.

Last month, news broke about an Australian couple that, after commissioning a Thai surrogate in the creation of twins, left the male twin in Thailand due to his diagnosis of Down syndrome. According to the surrogate mother, when they got the diagnosis, they wanted her to abort, but she refused, carrying the child to term and naming him Gammy. They also demanded a refund. It has furthermore been revealed that the Australian father spent several years in jail for 22 convictions of child sex offenses. The little girl, baby Gammy’s twin, is still in his care.

Later this fall, the UK’s Department of Health will be launching a national sperm bank to “meet demand,” using £77,000 in public funds to effectively subsidize fatherlessness. British women can reduce their child’s father to the conveniently assorted drop-down menu categories of ethnicity, eye color, hair color and education level with just the click of a mouse.

The fertility industry and now legislators are saying “Love is all that matters” and that these children should be grateful that they are so “wanted.” With high rates of infertility and delayed parenthood, almost everyone knows someone who has suffered from involuntary childlessness. While sympathy is due to those who experience this painful struggle, the popular script that veils the inherent evil of third-party reproduction is based on three grave moral errors: materialism, relativism, and consequentialism.

Materialism: “I Have the Right to a Child”
If people are really just things, it is reasonable to assume that those who want the things will take good care of them, while those who don’t want the things are more likely to abuse or neglect them.

Say there is a very lucky teenager whose parents give him a car for his 16th birthday. The teenager is happy about it for a while, but soon enough he neglects to maintain it and wrecks it beyond repair through carelessness and irresponsible behavior. Another teen is not as lucky when it comes to cars. There are no relatives willing or able to bestow such a gift. This person wants a car more than anything else in the world, so he saves for years and even starts an online fundraising campaign to meet the price tag of the car. He proclaims his desire for this item and promises to always and forever take care of it.
Which character do you feel is most entitled to the car and would be a better steward of such a valuable item? What if we switch the car for a child?

Desire equals good stewardship, goes the logic, because it is often true in the context of material things. And when it is not, the worst thing that we end up with is a broken, abandoned thing. But things come from factories, and people come from other people, specifically their mother and father by way of God’s generosity. Removing people from the source of their creation has severe consequences.

When the baby boomers put themselves and their children on the pill faster than they could say “birds and bees,” we inherited both the logic and the mindlessness of the pill. People invert the right not to have a child and conclude that there is also a right to have a child. The result is a marketplace for the commoditized human being. Disposable when unwanted, purchasable when desired.

Relativism: Morality Defined by Desire and Intent  
We are asked to believe that no particular family structure is better than any other. In our culture, there is often not even an understanding of the principle and fact that kids do best when raised by their married biological parents.

Following Stockholm Pride week, I read an op-ed in one of Sweden’s most prominent media sources advocating the redefinition of parenthood. The article was written by a 33-year-old woman and reflects a growing view:
Today it is just the one who gives birth and accounts for the sperm, who is the child’s legal mother and father. The other parent must apply for adoption. It not only reflects an ancient view of parenthood, but also creates an unsafe situation for the new family.
Children’s best interests must continue to be paramount. But why must there be a defining line of two parents? If more adults are prepared to take parental responsibility, it’s just something positive.
People are creating their own moral criteria. Five parents are better than two. Two rich dads are better than one single mom. One single mom who reallywants a child is better than two biological parents accidentally getting pregnant. It is heartbreaking to hear women facing infertility justify their use of different reproductive services. Egg donors don’t matter, it’s the woman who gives birth that is the real mother. Gestational carriers don’t matter, it’s the woman who passes on her genes who is the real mother. Or more bravely, neither the egg donor nor carrier matters, it’s the woman who raises the child alone who matters. Collectively, motherhood itself is degraded.

To understand this mindset, we need to back up a little. People in their 20s and 30s witnessed the breakdown of the family firsthand. Their parents gave up on each other, opted out of marital and parental responsibilities, and left our generation hurt and confused about love. The new solution is that anybody who wants to be a parent should be allowed to be a parent. Intent conquers biology, desire triumphs over nature.

But what if donor-conceived people express their feelings, share their painful stories, and come to different conclusions? Shouldn’t their testimonies be a valuable guide? The counterargument is usually, “All children have problems growing up!” This is followed by an example of a child who grew up in a nuclear family who had issues, or somebody who grew up without a father who went on to become president. Anecdotal exceptions puncture every moral principle. There is no absolute truth, our interlocutors imply, just opinions and different perspectives.

Consequentialism: The Ends Justify the Means
Yet most people will often admit a certain gut feeling telling them that third-party reproduction is not quite right. But since the noble goals are to remedy a type of suffering and to create healthy children, they are willing to look the other way.

And if concerns do surface, the born children are often used as human shields to block any potential criticism of the practices. Indeed, this year Louisiana’s Gary Smith gave state representatives photos of his two children born via surrogacy in an effort to prove the legitimacy of the practice and legalize commercial surrogacy in Louisiana. State reps who otherwise would have voted against the bill said, how am I supposed to vote against Gary’s kids?

In 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help, Benjamin Wiker concludes that modern Western history is full of people who have devoured humanity in an attempt to save humanity. In fact, the grander the vision and the more beautiful the goal appears, the greater the temptation is to do the most horrific things.

Marx, Hitler, and Margaret Sanger all dreamed of a world where mankind would be free from disease and social ills, but in their attempts to get there, millions suffered and died. Today, we overlook the abortive, eugenic, inhumane, and family-fragmenting effects of third-party reproduction, letting ourselves be dazzled by the images of smiling commercially conceived kids.

The utopian vision is a world in which the individual can have sex and babies with all the perks of pleasure and genetic immortality but without any risks or sacrifices. A world where individuals may defy nature itself whether limited by age, partner status, or sexual orientation, to have the perfect children of their choice.

How many more people must be sacrificed, physically and emotionally, before we understand that this utopia too is unachievable? Baby Gammy is not the first and will not be the last tragedy that results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.

Rickard Newman is the Director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles. He is also the Campaign Manager of The Anonymous Us Project. This essay has been republished with permission from Public Discourse, a MercatorNet partner site. 

This article is published by Rickard Newman and under a Creative Commons license. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Woody Allen and the Buffered Self - Fr. Robert Barron

It was Samuel Johnson, in his poem "The Vanity of Human Wishes," who used the phrase, "To point a moral or adorn a tale." D.H. Lawrence quoted the line and pointed out that often the (author's) moral pointed one way and the tale another (think of the famous example of Milton's Paradise Lost). "Never trust the author, trust the tale!" says Lawrence. Fr. Barron makes a similar point about Allen, his bleak vision, and his art: Don't trust the auteur, trust the film!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Aliens in Our Own Land: Persecution of Christians and Western Indifference - Dwayne Ryan Menezes

Can Christians ever be victims of genocide? asks Professor Mark Movesesian over at First Things magazine. Not only President Obama and his people, but also Condoleeza Rice and policy elites more widely seem to have a blind spot when it comes to the world's most persecuted major religion. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute reported that Rice's response to her attempts to draw the attention of the Bush Administration to the plight of Iraq's Christians was that assistance to Christians by the United States would appear sectarian. Britain's failure to defend the persecuted Christians in the Middle East has also been shameful.

When I posted a link to Movesesian's article on my Facebook page, my friend Dwayne Ryan Menezes, who is a director of the new London think tank, Human Security Centre and head of its Religion and Politics division, responded with this deeply moving and personal comment.  Dr. Menezes' research interests are in Christianity in the non-Western world and Christians from the non-Western world in the West. Here he tells a story, too little understood in the West, about the meaning for Christians in many lands beyond the West of the embarrassed silence of Christians in face of anti-Christian persecution.  It is a hostile, politically correct multiculturalism that is as insensitive as possible to persecuted minorities where these do not fit the dominant narrative.

This postmodern secularist pose of Western elites approves of every culture but its own, and values, in the name of diversity, every religion except those at the heart of its own culture and civilization, Christianity and Judaism. What Dwayne experienced in India, where he was born into a Catholic family of Indo-Portuguese descent, was rejection as a living reminder of empire, an attitude mirrored in the post-Christian, anti-Christian West, where he and others like him saw no support. "All we  saw was the post-Christian garb of the West, a cultural hemisphere where Christians had been crushed into silence, embarrassment or apathy."

Here are his observations:

Aliens in Our Own Land: Persecution of Christians and Western Indifference

by Dwayne Ryan Menezes

The fear of 'appearing sectarian' or 'showing favouritism' is the poorest, the weakest and the most appalling excuse for not speaking up for a persecuted group in a distant land that happen to share your beliefs.

During the wave of intensified persecution of Christians in India in 2008, I had to head to Ottawa and Washington to get people to even listen to my concerns. It was only later - once the overseas Indian Christian diaspora was mobilised into action - that the West took some notice.

I shall never forget how despondent and frustrated I used to feel as the sole Christian in my school in India for 10 years. Throughout my childhood, you were accepted, but only to a point, and only so long as you surrendered to the expectations of the majority on the minority.

I shall never forget how it felt to be treated as an alien in one's own land, where I was expected to defend everything the West did as if being Christian made me its Ambassador, all while the same West appeared so removed from my plight, so beyond my reach, and so embarrassed and reluctant to come to my defence.

I will never forget the year 1999. I was 14 when the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two boys were burned alive by a mob of 50 or so in Manoharpur, Orissa, while they were sleeping in their vehicle. His two boys - Philip (10) and Timothy (6) - were only a few years younger than me. I saw them in my dreams that night, their little hands tapping the window of their locked vehicle, summoning me to do something.

I remember the pain and confusion I felt in my 14-year-old heart when I saw people celebrating their demise and warning other Christians that the same fate would befall them. I remember some of my best friends remarking scornfully the next day, "You've still gone back to school? Haven't you learnt a lesson? Why don't you go back to Rome or London or Lisbon, wherever it is that you come from?"

I would have left, had I happened to have come from any of those places, but what could I do as one born into a Roman Catholic family in India of Indo-Portuguese descent? The West didn't want me, if at all they knew "my kind" existed. The Indians didn't want me, for they saw "my kind", quite literally, as the last, but living, vestiges of the empire. There I was: an alien in every land, a stranger to every people.

Perhaps there were people (like yourself) and organisations (like Christian Solidarity Worldwide) then who did indeed stand up for Christians like me, but how was I - a child born in distant India - supposed to know? All we saw was the post-Christian garb of the West, a cultural hemisphere where Christians had been crushed into silence, embarrassment or apathy.

If you are born a Muslim in India, you can at least tap into some sort of transnational Muslim community that is visibly and vocally attentive to your concerns. If someone in Denmark publishes a cartoon that Muslims find offensive, Muslims in lands as far as India will rise up in uproar. There is a sense of collective honour and collective responsibility, at least within some transnational sectarian communities.

We must not stigmatise Muslims for their transnational and trans-ethnic solidarity; we must learn from their example. We must put Christian teachings into practice, see (and not just call) ourselves a global 'community of the faithful', have a sense of transnational solidarity and responsibility, and set a 'Christian' example of how to respond to the challenges the most vulnerable among us face: a response borne in dignity, peace, love and humility.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chinese State Theology: Caesaropapism Lives - in China

Chinese State Theology

Why on Earth would an officially atheist country’s ruling class decide to create a new theology? Furthermore, why on Earth would anyone listen to what that ruling class had to say? The answers to those two questions: to buttress their authority and because their people have to listen to what they say on fear of severe penalties, may give you a hint as to which country we’re talking about. Yes China! The Communist Party controlling China has decided that spying on the menstrual cycles of its citizens is no longer enough, now it is going to pronounce on theodicy, the problem of consciousness and the whether it is holy because God wills it, or whether God wills it because it is holy. According to the International Business Times:

“The [Chinese] government will create a “Chinese Christian Theology” to guide the practice of Christianity in the country, the China Daily reported Thursday. Although the government has yet to provide any details into what this new theology entails, its purpose is clear: Speaking to China Daily, Wang Zuo, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said, ‘The construction of Chinese Christian Theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.’”

I always thought that Christianity was universal and that the state should have little to say about Christian practice, but I suppose Caesaropapism has a long history. I think the importance of this attempt at a new theology is that the Chinese government is worried about an “unguided” Christianity, a religion that is claiming more and more Chinese adherents:

“Since relaxing prohibitions on religious faith in 1982, the Chinese Communist Party now recognizes five official faiths: Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam. Because much religious faith remains underground, it is difficult to establish the precise number of worshippers in China. But a 2007 survey estimated that 31 percent of the country’s population, a number exceeding 400 million people, practiced a religious faith of some kind. Each religion has an organized, government-sanctioned hierarchy that is headquartered in Beijing and under the direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party.”

There have been other attempts that the government has taken over the years to ensure that religious belief is according to the government’s rules:

“In 2007, Beijing passed a law prohibiting Buddhists from reincarnation. (The government has thus far not revealed whether there have been any violations.) In Tibet, government minders have replaced monks as supervisors of Buddhist temples throughout the region, reversing a long-standing policy.

In the far-western Xinjiang region, whose 9 million ethnic Uighurs practice a mild form of Sunni Islam, Beijing limits permission of Muslims to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, while in July China banned fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. And this month, in Karamay, the local government said residents wearing Islamic clothing, and men wearing long beards, could not legally board city buses.”

It will be interesting to see what the Chinese government approved theology ends up looking like and to what extent it is followed by the various Christian denominations in China. Quite frankly I’m not surprised at the attempt to “de-fang” Christianity. The trouble for a totalitarian dictatorship is that the state is not able to tolerate a competitor for people’s affections and faith.  Especially a competitor that presumes to judge the actions of the state and its officials according to a universal moral precept that isn’t that espoused by Marx, Lenin and Mao.  The attempt to defang may be a bit late however:

“Still, in a country where Web searches for Jesus far outnumber those for President Xi Jinping, Beijing may have a major challenge on its hands.”

This article is published by Marcus Roberts and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

An African woman’s “Thank-you” letter to Meriam Ibrahim

Obianuju Ekeocha | 28 Jul 2014 

The great news of Mariam Ibrahim's arrival in Italy filled me with so much joy and elation.

The images of this graceful and beautiful African woman, babe in hand, stepping out of the plane was a sight to behold especially after her unspeakable pain and suffering in the Sudanese prison.

So I thought I should, in a very simple letter, write down my reflections and thoughts of gratitude for this resilient daughter of Africa whose freedom is being celebrated by the entire world today.

On behalf of all African women, I thank you Meriam Ibrahim, for showing the world the indomitable courage that is at the core of authentic femininity. I say this because your pain and persecution were tied so firmly to your femininity. And so your triumph was a most powerful witness to life, to motherhood, to marriage, to love and to faith.

You are indeed a true picture of faith and virtue, a true symbol of strength and resilience. You are, in my humble opinion, a real woman of substance, an African woman of substance and your story fills my heart with courage and audacity in my own vocation to defend our African culture of life,marriage, motherhood, faith and family, no matter how difficult, no matter how shameful and no matter how painful for me. 

For under intense persecution, you refused to deny your Christian faith. Under the threat of the extremists, you stood as a witness and a martyr.  Under the pain of incarceration, you would not deny your husband or renounce your marriage. Under the heavy shackles of prison you still had the strength and defiance to give life , to give birth. Under the certainty of a death sentence you had the determination to nurse your precious little baby.

By your powerful example, the world has come to witness the resilience of a young African woman who in the worst conditions bore heroic witness to the virtues of faith, marriage, and motherhood. Your unspeakable struggles in the last few months have been a most radiant ray of light that has pierced through the darkest clouds to contradict a modern world that is telling us that faith means nothing, that religious freedom is not all that important, that marriage is whatever we want it to be, that motherhood should be a choice we make under the most conducive situations, that our babies should only be born at the most convenient of times.
You, my African sister, have become a lightening rod to the radical feminists of our times who repudiate and denigrate every virtue that you epitomize .  

Within your body, you have borne the marks and scars of a true Christian, a wife, a mother and a martyr, and in this way you have shown us what it means to be an empowered and liberated woman, and I'm glad to say it is certainly not what the western radicals and ideologues are telling us. They try to tell us that for African women to be empowered, they need to be "sexually liberated", selfish, individualistic and fiercely autonomous, but you Meriam , by your own example , have taught us that the liberated African woman is the woman who is free to live and practice her faith, love her husband , and protect her children (born and unborn). A liberated woman is a woman of faith and family. This is the truth that must be spoken throughout Africa. 

Today, the world watched you as you breathed the fresh air of freedom and as you made your first stop, not at the Whitehouse, but rather at the House of St Martha (Casa Santa Marta) which is also the house of the Holy Father Pope Francis. Instead of the presidential handshake that many others would have craved first, you chose the papal handshake. And instead of the political reception you chose the apostolic benediction for you and your family. You chose the Pope over the POTUS! 

You are a woman of great wisdom and strength and indeed Africa raises, praises and celebrates you. 

We rejoice with you and for you. We rejoice that you are free at last. And out of our rejoicing,

I pray that more women (from our Africa and from every corner of the world) will reflect deeply on your experience so as to emulate you.

I pray for women of faith to rise up and bear courageous witness even to the point of martyrdom. 

I pray for women who are pregnant to choose life for their babies at all cost.

I pray for women who are wives and mothers to stay true to their vows and vocations.

I pray that beyond our global rejoicing, we would be adorned with even a portion of the heroic virtue of Meriam Ibrahim's authentic feminism purified and forged in the fiery crucible of religious persecution.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author: Editor

This article is published by Obianuju Ekeocha and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jewish births “Trending Upwards” in Israel

Marcus Roberts | 23 Jul 2014 | 
With the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza showing no signs of abating, despite the best efforts of the UN Secretary-General, I thought that this piece from the Jerusalem Post dealing with Israeli demography was interesting and challenged many assumptions that I had.  The author is Barbara Sofer, a Jerusalem writer who serves as the Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. She makes some interesting personal observations in the course of explaining her interview with one Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli ambassador.  Sofer explains that the conversation took a turn that she was not expecting:

“I expect us to discuss Diaspora-Israel relations, but instead we talk mostly about babies – who is having them and why.

When it comes to Middle East demography, Ettinger maintains that most of us have our facts backwards. We’ve become so accustomed to thinking we’re sitting on a demographic time bomb that will implode when Jews are outnumbered, that we’ve failed to follow the latest statistics.

Indeed, Ettinger’s ideas are counterintuitive for all of us who have long believed that the demographics of our region are pitted strongly against us.”

As Sofer acknowledges, there is a perception that demography is against the Jewish population and that in time there is a danger that Jews living in the Middle East will lose the “fertility race” to its Muslim neighbours, not all of whom are well disposed to the Jewish State. I used to think as much until I wrote about this last year.  But Israeli Jews are very different from their Western world counterparts when it comes to fertility.  

“According to Ettinger, from 1995 to 2013, the annual number of Israeli Jewish births surged by 65 percent – from 80,400 to 132,000. In 2013, the Jewish fertility rate was 3.04 births per woman – and trending upwards. It’s 3.04 births when both spouses are Israeli-born, no matter where their parents were born.

‘Trending upwards” is the operational term here. There are many factors, including population age, which are important in predicting future population growth or shrinkage. But, taking all these factors into consideration, the Jewish population is growing fast, and will grow even faster.”

In contrast, the Muslim birth rate is declining:

"A CBS report earlier this year, citing UN estimates, shows there’s been a drop in family size among Muslims throughout the region. The most fertile Arab nation, Jordan, has a projected 2035 fertility rate of 2.41 children. Israeli Muslims are projected to decline from 3.37 to 2.71. This is consistent with the greater education and urbanization.

Says Ettinger, ‘Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is currently higher than any Arab country, other than Yemen, Iraq and Jordan, which are rapidly declining. The Jewish population is also growing relatively younger, which bodes well for Israel’s economy and national security.’”

But why is this? Why are Israeli Jews bucking the first world trend and why is their fertility rate increasing? Sofer states that’s Ettinger denies that is solely down to the haredim, the ultra-orthodox who make up about 12% of Israel’s total population (we’ve noted this before).

“Ettinger names the following factors: a sense of the collective and community patriotism; attachment to religious, cultural and historical roots; and optimism.”

This last point is one we’ve alluded to before on this blog. If societies and populations are confident and optimistic about the future, then they are more likely to want to share that future with future generations. Conversely, when societies lack confidence, when populations cannot think of a reason why they would want to propagate their existing culture through a new generation and when individuals are too hedonistic to have children, then you see a declining birth rate. Like we see in most of the western world. Sofer agrees:

“Optimism is the answer that resonates for me. Despite the many challenges of living here, the low-frills lifestyles in contrast to the members of the OECD whom we lead in fertility, we believe in the future and want to share it with a new generation.”

But so many would point to Israel’s intermittent wars and its almost daily dangers of battle, rocket-fire and kidnappings. Israelis live in a country where certain neighbouring groups do not recognise their state’s right to exist. What is there possibly to be optimistic about? Well, maybe Israeli Jews recognise that something worth living for is the only thing worth dying for. And a homeland for many Jews is something to preserve and to hand on to a future generation. Is that what we in the West are missing? Something we want to hand on to our children? Something worth having children for? 

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