Monday, July 25, 2011

Picking and Choosing

As a pro-choice organization, we are used to getting criticism from our anti-choice opponents. But our last blog entry received an intriguing comment questioning the “faith” part of Faith Aloud, and we thought it was intellectually stimulating and worth engaging. Here’s the comment:

"Its strange to me how people quote the bible to vilify conservatives. Nice Zacharia quote! But the bible also says to stone homosexuals, burn witches, slaughter cows and sprinkle their blood and a lot of other things. Either accept it or do not, this is America, who cares, that is your right. But do not be so intellectually dishonest as to pick and choose which parts you like and which you do not to establish some sort of moral high ground. It is as though you are shaking your finger at those who disagree with you. If you are not against homosexuality, promiscuity and religious tolerance (which are all condemned throughout the bible) throw the damn bible away, don't pick the solitary pieces that further your agenda and ignore those that do not."
By Anonymous on Sluts of St. Louis Unite on 7/19/11

We’d like to thank this blogger for posting his/her unique perspective, but also humbly defend our mission here at Faith Aloud. As a pro-choice organization we do openly disagree with people who try to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare. And that’s not something we’re willing to be wishy-washy about. But by quoting the Bible, we were trying to communicate the values we as an organization stand for: compassion and love. If standing for compassion somehow “vilifies” our opponents, that probably says more about our opponents than it does about us.

At Faith Aloud our goal is not to convert or evangelize. We have tons of followers who identify as ethical atheist and we love them and what they do for our organization. But we believe that scripture and faith can be a great source of inspiration and strength. The bottom-line is, a majority of women who obtain abortions identify as religious and they especially need a little extra spiritual support that empowers them.

As an interfaith organization, we believe wisdom can be found in many forms and many languages, and we look to a variety of religious traditions to gain inspiration and insight into how to live ethical lives. But it is important to read any text with a critical and thoughtful eye. So let’s clear up any “dishonesty” about our stance on scripture. When it comes to scripture, everyone “picks and chooses.” We acknowledge and absolutely agree that there passages in the Bible we choose not to follow: case in point, we do not believe in using Leviticus 18:22 to try to keep our LGBT friends from obtaining the rights they deserve. We also enjoy eating shrimp from time to time.

The Bible has been interpreted in countless different ways throughout history; any time a religious leader reads a passage of scripture and delivers a sermon, he or she is actively interpreting that scripture. Every different denomination within a major religious tradition sets itself apart from the other sects within that religion by the way in which it chooses to interpret the same major text. Few would argue that the Christianity we see today is different from the kind of organization in place immediately following the death of Jesus. Throughout history, religion has been used for both good and bad. We at Faith Aloud choose to “pick” verses that we think promote a positive, empathic, and just approach to the social issues we are faced with.

Just because we don’t follow every verse of the Bible or any other text literally, does that mean we should throw out the entire text? This all or nothing approach is unrealistic rhetoric. The world is not black and white, and to answer this particular blogger, neither is the Bible. The Bible was written by many men in very different times and cultures, and some passages no longer apply to us. Does that mean there is nothing left in the Bible from which to learn or gain inspiration? Absolutely not. Do we all have to follow a religious tradition in exactly the same way? Sure don’t. Is it okay to doubt, ask questions, and seek all over for answers to life’s hard questions? We think so.

What do you think? If you have a thought or opinion (and we know you do), please leave a comment. We’d love to have some healthy (and respectful) discourse.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sluts of St. Louis Unite

This Saturday, Faith Aloud joined a lace and leather-clad crowd to march in support survivors of sexual assault. The purpose of the provocatively named “Slutwalk” is to protest victim blaming that cites “slutty” clothing as a legitimate explanation for rape.

The original Slutwalk took place in Toronto as a direct response to policeman Michael Sanguinetti, who declared to a group of university students that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized." Since then, Slutwalk events have been happening all over to the US to continue to protest against blaming the victims of sexual assault for their attacks.

At the St. Louis Slutwalk, one protester, sporting leather shorts and pasties proudly wielded a sign that said “Stop Slut Shaming.” This sign, though only three words long, makes a poignant observation about the way in which issues such as such as sexual health, abortion, and sexual assault are addressed in the media and politics alike: with a heavy dose of shame.

Recently, when voting against funding for Planned Parenthood, New Hampshire council member Raymond Wieczorek said, "I am opposed to abortion. I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don't ask me to pay for it." But with respect, Mr. Wieczorek, this is not a “party.” This is life. The reality is (surprise!) people have sex, so we need to make an effort to keep them safe and healthy. Regardless of any attempt to condemn them, women will claim their power to choose when to have children and when not to, and we must be respectful and understanding of their choices. The very sobering reality is that people will be raped, and they need our compassionate support, and absolutely not our blame.

Shaming accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t end rape, it just keeps survivors from being able to speak out about their abuse without somehow being blamed for it. Similarly, abortion patients are shamed into silence for fear of face a torrent of judgment for the most responsible choice they could have made. Shaming is nothing short of bullying—it seeks to build up oneself (or one’s political party) by degrading another.

Worst of all, shaming creates the false security that comes with “othering.” By blaming rape on “slutty'' clothing, or abortion on a “promiscuity,” people think they can distance themselves from the issue and convince themselves that it will never happen to them or someone close to them. However, rape occurs across all ages, race, genders, incomes, and levels of education, in mini-skirts and sweat pants. Across all demographics, nearly half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and bullying will not decrease the number of abortions. One in three women in America will have an abortion in their lives, and believe me, this includes Republicans and Christian women (in fact, 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians, and 27% say they are Catholics)*. Odds are that at least one woman Councilman Wieczorek respects has had an abortion, but would never feel comfortable telling him.

The Bible explicitly forbids the kind of victim blaming we see all too often, quite frequently coming from self-proclaimed Christian sources. Let us kindly remind them: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” (Zechariah 7:9-10).

Faith Aloud calls on our followers and opponents alike to have a little compassion. Morality is not about blaming others, morality is about looking within oneself to cultivate “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Collossians 3:12). True morality lies within the way we treat others. So stop shaming. Love your neighbor. And as always, carry your faith aloud!

*Photo from

*All statics come from the National Abortion Federation website.