How to Write an Open Letter

Dear Public Figure Who Recently Did Something or Said Something I Find Offensive,

I’m going to start by providing some background information. I’m going to explain how a certain belief (or policy) is One Of The Most Important Things, because reasons. I’m going to tell a tragic (or sentimental, or inspiring) story to help illustrate my point.

Now I’m going to write something funny, to gain the appreciation and sympathy of my audience. I’m going to quote Mark Twain, because everyone loves Mark Twain. My tone is still lighthearted, right now.

But now my tone isn’t lighthearted any longer. I’m about to get very passive-aggressive. It turns out that you, Public Figure, have done something (or said something) that threatens the aforementioned belief (or policy). You have either forgotten or rejected the importance of this belief (or policy), and I have taken it upon myself to scold you.

I’m going to pretend that my intention in this paragraph is to persuade you to change your ways. Of course, I know that you aren’t actually reading this letter. My real intention is to whip my audience into a frenzy of righteous indignation. You have done something despicable, Public Figure, and all of us are here to hold you accountable.

Now I will use the internet to dig up some of your previous statements and actions regarding This Issue. I will establish an Ongoing Pattern. I will casually question your motives and suggest that your empathy is clouded by some form of social or economic privilege. {My readers nod their heads in grim disapproval.} It also turns out that I found an inconsistency in your private life. This means that you, dear sir (or ma’am), are a hypocrite! You should be ashamed of yourself.

In this final paragraph, I’ll return to a more lighthearted tone. This sentence, right here, is designed to make my readers chuckle. For the sake of symmetry, I’m going to once again explain how my beloved belief (or policy) is One Of The Most Important Things, because more reasons. I’ll then close by cleverly making a reference to the story I told in the first paragraph.

Sincerely,

Concerned Citizen

Valley of Vision

Below are a couple of my favorite Puritan prayers from the Valley of Vision collection. It’s available on Amazon HERE, and many passages can be found for free HERE.

Choices

O God,
Though I am allowed to approach thee
I am not unmindful of my sins,
I do not deny my guilt,
I confess my wickedness, and earnestly plead forgiveness.

May I with Moses choose affliction rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin.
Help me to place myself always under thy guiding and guardian care,
to take firmer hold of the sure covenant that binds me to thee,
to feel more of the purifying, dignifying, softening influence of the religion I profess,
to have more compassion, love, pity, courtesy,
to deem it an honour to be employed by thee as an instrument in thy hands,
ready to seize every opportunity of usefulness,
and willing to offer all my talents to thy service.

Thou hast done for me all things well,
hast remembered, distinguished, indulged me.
All my desires have not been gratified,
but thy love denied them to me
when fulfillment of my wishes would have proved my ruin or injury.
My trials have been fewer than my sins,
and when I have kissed the rod it has fallen from thy hands.
Thou hast often wiped away my tears,
restored peace to my mourning heart,
chastened me for my profit.
All thy work for me is perfect, and I praise thee.

Humiliation

Sovereign Lord,
When clouds of darkness, atheism, and unbelief come to me,
I see thy purpose of love in withdrawing the Spirit that I might prize him more,
in chastening me for my confidence in past successes,
that my wound of secret godlessness might be cured.
Help me to humble myself before thee
by seeing the vanity of honour as a conceit of men’s minds,
as standing between me and thee;
by seeing that thy will must alone be done,
as much in denying as in giving spiritual enjoyments;
by seeing that my heart is nothing but evil,
mind, mouth, life void of thee;
by seeing that sin and Satan are allowed power in me that I might know my sin,
be humbled, and gain strength thereby;
by seeing that unbelief shuts thee from me,
so that I sense not thy majesty, power, mercy, or love.
Then possess me, for thou only art good and worthy.

Thou dost not play in convincing me of sin,
Satan did not play in tempting me to it,
I do not play when I sink in deep mire,
for sin is no game, no toy, no bauble;
Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin
lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed,
as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.
When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me, by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive, and satisfied;
that I am feeble and unable to do any good,
but that in him I can do all things;
that what I now have in Christ is mine in part,
but shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven.

Drowning, Rabies, Cheetahs, Hepatitis, and Atheism

Hey look, I found some science:

  1. A Proposed Decision-Making Guide for the Search, Rescue and Resuscitation of Submersion (Head Under) Victims Based on Expert Opinion (Resuscitation)
    The really fascinating part, in my opinion, is the difference in survival outcomes between cold water and warm water submersion. One ER doc I met told me about the case of a young girl who was successfully resuscitated after 83 minutes at the bottom of a frozen lake. “It is concluded that if water temperature is warmer than 6°C, survival/resuscitation is extremely unlikely if submerged longer than 30min. If water temperature is 6°C or below, survival/resuscitation is extremely unlikely if submerged longer than 90min.”
  2. Survival after Treatment of Rabies with Induction of Coma (New England Journal of Medicine)
    This is a pretty famous case report, which I only recently learned about after hearing a presentation from one of the authors. It’s basically the first known case of someone surviving rabies without having received immune prophylaxis. You can watch a terrifying video showing the clinical course of rabies HERE. You can watch a documentary detailing this specific case HERE.
  3. Cheetah Paradigm Revisited: MHC Diversity in the World’s Largest Free-Ranging Population (Molecular Biology and Evolution)
    MHC allelic diversity within a species is important for long-term protection against diseases. Even if a given individual is vulnerable to a pathogen, the immunological diversity across a population increases the likelihood that SOME individuals will be protected, and helps to guard against extinction. Humans have thousands of known HLA alleles, but other species (such as the cheetah) have much less diversity. This paper basically shows that free-ranging cheetahs might actually have more MHC diversity than originally thought: “We examined whether the diversity at MHC class I and class II-DRB loci in 149 Namibian cheetahs was higher than previously reported using single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis, cloning, and sequencing. MHC genes were examined at the genomic and transcriptomic levels. We detected ten MHC class I and four class II-DRB alleles, of which nine MHC class I and all class II-DRB alleles were expressed.”
  4. RNA Replication Without RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase: Surprises from Hepatitis Delta Virus (Journal of Virology)
    Hepatitis D is an RNA virus (technically a subviral satellite, since it requires coinfection or superinfection with Hepatitis B). So you would think it would use an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase to replicate its genome, right? Wrong. Turns out Hep D is a unique case. It actually uses host RNA polymerase for the job…and scientists don’t really know how the heck that’s even possible. (Since, you know, host polymerase requires a DNA template). “Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) and plant viroids present an exception which still confounds the conventional thinking. None of them encode an RdRP, and yet they can undergo robust RNA replication autonomously once inside the cells.”
    hepatitis
  5. Atheists Become Emotionally Aroused When Daring God to do Terrible Things (International Journal for the Psychology of Religion)
    This study uses a pretty small sample size, so I think it’s important not to overstate the conclusions. Still, the findings are pretty intriguing, and seem to support the Christian view [Romans 1:18-21] that all men possess an awareness of God (even if they’ve suppressed that knowledge…maybe even to the point of no longer being aware that they’re aware). “The results imply that atheists’ attitudes towards God are ambivalent in that their explicit beliefs conflict with their affective response.”

More Hard-Hitting Journalism from “Slate”

This morning I ran across one of those articles that manages to be both frustrating and (unintentionally) hilarious. And also kind of revealing.

I’ll be addressing it in block quotes, but you can read the original piece on Slate.

The author’s primary complaint seems to be that the successful film “It’s a Girl” – a documentary about the horrific practice of sex-selective abortions in China and India – was directed by someone with…*wait for it*…religious and pro-life connections. Since the film isn’t heavy-handedly “pro-life” in its approach, it’s being screened by a number of prominent feminist and pro-choice organizations.

“How did this happen? How did a movie linked to a pro-life group become the darling of the pro-choice community? The story involves clever disguises on the part of financing sources that managed to hide their involvement and pass off a movie about the horrors of sex-selection abortions as just a sympathetic movie about the plight of women in India and China.  And the pro-life message is subtle enough that they got away with it.”

It’s often said that pro-life and pro-choice activists should compromise by keeping abortion legal and simultaneously working together to reduce its prevalence and abuses. (Trent Horn correctly points out that this isn’t really a compromise at all. “Compromise entails two sides giving up parts of their position in order to reach a middle ground. This is just asking pro-life advocates to give up fighting for the unborn child’s right-to-live.”) Yet, ironically, a documentary that manages to achieve broad appeal across the pro-choice/pro-life spectrum is being attacked here simply because it was created by someone who is pro-life.

The author discovered this insidious pro-life connection by doing some online detective work (i.e. googling a few names).

“I finally searched the owners of the domain name associated with the film’s official production company. The domain name of Shadowline Films is registered to Evan Davis of Tucson, Ariz., (the same name as the filmmaker except without the middle name). Only after searching for ‘Evan Davis Tucson Arizona’ was I able to discover that Davis is also the media director of Harvest Media Ministry, and the domain name of that company is also registered to Evan Davis of Tucson…Among its portfolio of works, the website features a video describing ‘unborn children’ as ’46 million people who will be killed this year.'”

(Nice use of scare quotes, right?)

“On the website of Harvest Media, Evan Davis’ biography proclaims that his ‘passion is to equip those who are called to bring the hope and light of Jesus Christ to the world through the provision of strategic media communication tools and storytelling methods.’ Yet on his Facebook page that is associated with the film, under his religious views, he states that ‘it’s against my relationship to have a religion.'”

…which is an extremely common expression in many evangelical circles. But to her credit, the author did manage to sort out this apparent contradiction by interviewing Mr. Davis. He explained: “I don’t identify myself with a denominational group. But I believe in God. My faith is a factor in what motivates me in wanting to help people around the world and never tried to hide that.”

“Yet the film’s press kit does not mention his affiliation with Harvest Media Ministry and describes him as a ‘social justice advocate’ who writes videos and directs educational documentaries ‘championing the causes of the poor and exploited.'”

(Since, you know, these things are clearly incompatible with being religious and pro-life.)

“Why go to such efforts to hide the fact that Evan Davis aka Evan Grae Davis has also worked for a company that creates videos on behalf of faith-based groups to promote their interpretations of the teachings of Jesus Christ?”

Wow, this guy was even using an alias! Sometimes he used his middle name, and sometimes he didn’t. What a scumbag. Fortunately, efforts to hide his connection with Harvest Media Ministry were no match for this author’s unstoppable search engine skillz.

“When I asked Davis about this, he said that there was no ulterior motive in his failure to disclose his affiliation with Harvest Media Ministry and said he no longer works for the organization even though his biography is still on their website.”

Caught. Red. Handed.

“Pro-life groups have in recent years begun using the practice of sex-selective abortion—a practice that is rare in the United States—in foreign countries as an excuse for limiting women’s access to abortion here at home. A bill was recently filed in the North Carolina legislature to ban sex-selective abortion, and a similar bill was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives last year. Although no one supports sex-selective abortion, pro-choice groups correctly worry that such laws could be misused to restrict abortion more broadly.”

Wait…”no one” supports sex-selective abortion? Clearly some people do, or they wouldn’t be happening.

“Regardless of what Davis’ goal is in making the movie, it is clear that efforts have been made to hide any affiliation with Harvest Media Ministry. In fact, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a partner organization for which the film’s official website seeks donations, and whose founder features prominently in the film is also part of a coalition that seeks to ban sex-selection abortion in the United States.”

Yeah, you read that right. It turns out that the director of a documentary exposing the “tragic practice of sex-selection abortions” (<< the author’s words, not mine) is, in fact, in cahoots with an organization that seeks to ban sex-selective abortions in the United States.

Margaret Sanger Seems Pretty Nice

Margaret Sanger was the esteemed founder of Planned Parenthood. Although she and her organization sometimes face unfair attacks from conservatives and anti-choice extremists, it turns out she was a pretty thoughtful and compassionate lady.

For one thing, she supported the right of women to decide for themselves how many children to have.

“Women of the working class, especially wage workers, should not have more than two children at most.”

She believed that reproductive decisions should be between a woman and her doctor, and that family planning should be left up to families (rather than the government).

“No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, and no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit.” (Plan for Peace, Article 4)

margaret sanger

She was extremely charitable, and believed in providing aid to the poor…

“[Charity] conceals a stupid cruelty, because it is not courageous enough to face unpleasant facts…It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.”

…and she had mercy on the children of large families.

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

Since she highly valued reproductive privacy – and all sorts of privacy, really – she tried to prevent the birth of detectives.

“Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.”

She was always pleasantly honest about her motives for providing undesirables and “the feeble-minded” with birth control…

“The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics.”

…and like every good birth control activist, Sanger believed that ALL women, even dysgenic ones, should have the right to choose.

“Give dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.”

standwithplannedparenthood

Environmentalists might like to talk about “clean air” and “clean water”, but Sanger had even loftier goals.

“Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”

She embraced diversity, and believed in reaching out to minority churches and communities.

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities.  The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Yet shockingly, Sanger sometimes resembled a backwards anti-choicer in her thinking. Although a staunch advocate for contraception, she was far less enthusiastic about abortion.

“[Abortion] is an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn. Although abortion may be resorted to in order to save the life of the mother, the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious. I bring up the subject here only because some ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not. Abortion destroys the already fertilized ovum or the embryo; contraception, as I have carefully explained, prevents the fertilizing of the ovum by keeping the male cells away. Thus it prevents the beginning of life.”

Evidently she bought into the vicious lies of scientists, who tell us that human life begins at conception. Ah well. Nobody’s perfect.