Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Is What We're Up Against

"I think I feel more sorry for the dogs ..."

"I can't vote for someone who hunts."

These are two quotes I've heard recently that I simply cannot get out of my head. When we say that we are engaged in a battle of ideas, I can't imagine anything that could demonstrate how the average person thinks than these. I will explain them below but please hear me before I do. One of these quotes comes as a response to an issue that is near and dear to my heart and that I have commented on recently. The other has a political element to it and comes from someone with whom I completely disagree politically. But please understand that I couldn't care less about my charitable priorities with the first, or my political differences with the second.

All I want to point out is the thinking behind the quotes ... what brought these folks to say the words they said. Maybe I'm warped, or maybe I'm the one who doesn't understand the way things are, but I have to say that I cannot comprehend how someone's mind could utter thoughts like these. Here goes ...

"I think I feel more sorry for the dogs ..."

Two of my most recent posts revolved around our recent family trip to Monterrey, Mexico with Back-2-Back Ministries (here and here). On our last work day down there, we went to a place the Back-2-Back staff call Rio 3. Rio 3 is a neighborhood (for lack of a better word) situated near a mostly dry river bed. In reality it amounts to a refugee camp inhabited by those the government cannot support and wants out of the city. These people are allowed to "squat" in this area on land that was previously used as a landfill. The place is a garbage dump ... and it smells like one. Mangy, diseased dogs with their ribs plainly in sight roamed slowly around the streets. The "homes" of these poor people are made mostly of the trash and scraps of things they can cobble together into some form of shelter. There are plywood, cardboard and corrugated steel shacks. They have bricks and cinder blocks (and in one case we saw, a toilet) sitting on the roof -- if they have a roof -- to hold it down. There is no way to sufficiently describe the filth and poverty of this place.

The church we worked in there was like a light to moths for the people who lived in Rio 3. Children and their mothers (notably, not a single man showed up) came running for a Sunday afternoon celebration. They sang, ate and received school supplies that most of us would never give a second thought -- and thanked us as if we had given them bars of gold. They were so thankful, and seemingly so content, living in a place that was so disgusting, it was hard to believe what we were seeing. So, without boring you with all the details, the entire scene brought many of us to tears.

On the way home a few of us floated the idea of organizing some sort of fundraising project to help provide service equipment that would go to help serve these kids and the others from the orphanages Back-2-Back supports. Then, a week or so ago, my wife approached a professional who we thought might be able to assist us with that project (I am purposefully being vague about the details so as not to identify the person or the "service" I am referring to here). When Mary told the story of these kids, the first quote above was the response she got: "I think I feel more sorry for the dogs ..."

"I can't vote for someone who hunts."

This one I owe to a recent radio podcast with Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason (you can go here to listen for yourself -- the relevant discussion is near the middle of the first hour of the 10/27/2008 show). In summary, Greg relates the story of a woman who overheard the conversation he and his wife were having about the Presidential election and Barack Obama's position on the abortion issue -- that he was the only Illinois Senator who voted against a measure that would have protected the life of a baby who survived an abortion attempt. President-elect Obama thought the baby deserved no such protection. A woman heard this and said that she was voting for Obama:

Greg: "Really? What accomplishments of Senator Obama do you think qualify him to be the most powerful man in the world?"

Woman: "Well, I never thought of it that way."

Greg: "Are you pro-life?" (he asked this because this was the topic she had overheard that drew her into the conversation)

Woman: (pause) ... "Yes."

Greg: "Do you realize what his record is on the issue?"

Woman: "I can't vote for someone who hunts."

Now, forget the politics, the qualification issue and the candidate involved. It doesn't matter who it is. Just look at the thinking methodology. Who is the woman referring to when she utters the quote in question?

Since she has claimed to be voting for Obama, she must be referring to his opposition. John McCain may or may not hunt, I have no idea. It wouldn't surprise me if he did. But who is notable for her hunting proclivities? Sarah Palin, of course -- the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. The upshot is that this supposed pro-lifer is voting for a presidential candidate who is so extremely pro-abortion he defends and supports literal infanticide. Yet she is voting for him because the vice presidential candidate of the other party likes to hunt wild animals.

I really don't know how to approach those who think like these people. How do you use rational arguments to engage in a discussion of any issue with people whose minds are rigged this way? And make no mistake, there are millions of them.The enormity of the problem discourages me sometimes.

Please don't miss my point. I am not so arrogant as to think that anyone who disagrees with me is just plain moronic. That is not the point at all. What is so discouraging to me is the way people think about what I consider some of the most basic and important issues of our, or any, time: the dignity and value of human life. Why is it worth protecting? Why should we value it at all? We can never agree on the answers to such questions if we don't even know how to go about considering them.

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