Author Archives: Craig Falvo

About Craig Falvo

I'm a former American Baptist turned Agnostic turned Lutheran. I have a Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. I write about #Theology, #SciFi, #Fantasy, and #PopCulture.

Planned Parenthood, Activism & the Ethics of Deception

This post will probably make some of you mad, question my faith and say that I’m not a Christian. But I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial topics.

Over the past few weeks, three undercover videos have been released by an pro-life group that show some of the darker details of abortion and Planned Parenthood. According to pro-life activists, these videos show doctors for Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of human organs. Supporters try to cast doubt on the videos by stating that those initially released are heavily edited and that due to their editing, the videos should be dismissed. Supporters also counter the argument that the videos are talking about recovering costs for the donation of human organs.

Before I get too involved in the discussion of the ethical implications of deception used by both sides of the argument, I want to lay out a few ground rules. This is not a discussion of the ethics of abortion! Also, this is not a discussion on whether or not Planned Parenthood is selling human organs! What I am talking about in this article is the spin both sides put on the videos and whether or not the spin is ethical.

First, I want to look at the actions of The Center for Medical Progress, the group responsible for releasing the videos. At first glance, the initial release of the first two videos do appear to a doctor discussing the sale of human organs. However, the videos that were initially released are heavily edited and are edited in a way that some information is omitted.

The big question for the activists behind the videos is, “Why do you feel the need to edit the footage to show what you want to show?” By doing so, you are creating an unnecessary bias that is hard to overcome once the unedited version is released. Basically, you’re banking on the fact that once someone has an opinion formed in your favor from the edited version, they will not change that opinion regardless of what the unedited version shows. If the unedited version of the video is as bad as you think, release just the unedited version. There’s no need to edit to fit your agenda.

To top it off, some pro-life activists have resorted to hacking Planned Parenthood, and obtained information on Planned Parenthood employees. At least a few pro-life activists are willing to break the law to take down an organization they see as breaking the law. The ends do not justify the means and the ethical stance of some pro-life activists are dubious at best and nonexistent at worst.

For those that support Planned Parenthood and discount the videos because of the amount of editing, you fail to address what is being shown on the videos and that is prices are being assigned to organs recovered from abortions. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the sale of human organs or recovering the costs from donating human organs for research. Even if the organs are being donated, there is enough evidence out there showing that Planned Parenthood is not obtaining consent prior to donating said tissue. It is one thing if proper consent is obtained from a woman obtaining abortion to have the tissue and organs donated for medical research. It is a whole other thing to do so without the woman’s consent.

And in the never ending propaganda war surrounding abortion, Planned Parenthood has gone on the attack by hiring a PR firm to deal with this latest round of videos from pro-life activists. The firm has requested that the media not show “damning videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs and tissue of aborted fetuses.” Sounds like an attempt of “out of sight, out of mind” to me.

Both sides are guilty of failing to address the root cause of abortion. One side sees abortions as ethically and morally wrong and will go extreme lengths to see that abortion is outlawed or that the procedure is damn near impossible to obtain. The other side seems wilfully oblivious to what is going on and is content to stay ignorant. (Yes, I’m talking in broad categories here. I do realize that not all who oppose abortion will resort to propaganda attacks and not all who support the right to chose are oblivious.) In short, both sides are guilty of ethical missteps. Actions like releasing highly edited footage, ignoring the overarching issues, and flat out breaking the law all point to a breakdown of ethics by opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood in ongoing discourse.

Christians and Gaming Pt 1: Games of Lies and Deception

Today, I want to start a series of posts on how Christians should approach gaming. In this series, I will look at both tabletop and video games.

Growing up in the church, I was taught at an early age that lying and bearing a false witness was a sin.

You must not steal nor deceive nor lie to each other. (Leviticus 19:11)

 

Do not testify falsely against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16)

But what is a lie? A lie is defined as “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.”

With that in mind, what implications does this have for Christians who play games where deception and lying is not only encouraged, but required to win the game? And I’m thinking beyond poker here. I’m also thinking of games like Geek Out!, The Resistance, Battlestar Galactica.


Games are designed to be fun. Fun is usually maximized when everyone play by the rules. Now, in some games, behaviors like lying, deception and false accusations are written into the rules. In Geek Out!, bluffing is encouraged to get other players to bid higher than they want to try to prevent them from correctly providing the proper responses in the category. Games like Battlestar Galactica and The Resistance encourage lying, deception, and false accusations to make people second guess your true intentions. If you’re a traitor in Resistance, you want to make people think you are part of the resistance and cast doubt on the other players so you get picked to go on the missions. (Battlestar Galactica has a similar aspect in that 1-2 players are Cylons trying to sabotage the fleet.) Part of the fun of games like The Resistance and Battlestar Galactica are trying to figure out who the traitor or Cylon is. There would be no game if I answer truthfully when another player questions me about being a Cylon!

Are we breaking God’s commands against lying and bearing false witness by playing these games? If we answer in the affirmative, then we as Christians must doe a lot of soul searching. Let’s face it, we all know good Christians who tell those little white lies to their kids about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and/or the Tooth Fairy. If we were consistent in our application of Scripture, we’d have to start demanding repentance every time a kid was told Santa was real. If we answer in the negative, then how do we reconcile our actions with Scripture? Are we hypocrites for saying don’t lie except when you’re playing a game that demands deception or to keep your kids on their best behavior near Christmas by telling them that Santa is checking his list?

The way I see it, there are a few options that Christians have when it comes to these kind of games.

  1. Don’t play them.  Politely excuse yourself from the table and leave while the game is being played. You might get some strange looks from your friends but you won’t be placed in the awkward position that is option #2.
  2. Be honest. If you’re playing The Resistance and someone asks you if you are the traitor, tell them the truth. Of course, you will ruin the game for everyone else and probably won’t get an invite to the next game night, but your conscience will be clear.
  3. Realize that this is just a game, that your eternal soul will not burn in hell for all eternity because you didn’t tell the truth while playing a game, and enjoy the time with your friends.

From my perspective, there is no sin in playing these kind of games. The argument could be made that lying and false accusations are a part of the rules of the game. And if you don’t play by the rules, then what’s the point in playing that specific game? Believe me, no one’s feeling will be hurt if lie or throw around false accusations while playing these games because it is expected. And also, it’s a gameThis isn’t real live we’re talking about where real actions have real consequences.

Why The Church Needs A Political Theology

In my last post, I wrote about why the church needs a theology of pop culture. Today I want to discuss a part of a theology of pop culture, political theology. Specifically, I will be discussing US Politics as it relates to political theology. Some might ask why does the church need a political theology? If you’re naive enough to ask this question, all I have to say is, “Wake up and take a good hard look!” In US culture, political theology is one of the most used and abused theologies out there.

In his book, Political Theology, Michael Kirwan writes

Christians who take their faith seriously know that it has political implications – that the gospel calls us to imagine and work for a transformed world. However – here is the anguish – the Bible leaves no blueprint or manifest for this transformation; only lots of opinions (some more feasible than others) about what kind of society Christians should be struggling for, and by what means. (Kirwan, 3-4)

But one wouldn’t know this from the scores of voices coming (mainly) from the Religious Right. (Note: I say mainly because there are those on the Religious Left whose voice adds to the abuse of a political theology, but they appear in a much smaller number.) One only needs to turn to Twitter or Facebook to see this in action. See the Twitter feeds for Bryan Fischer, John Hagee, Matthew Hagee, the IRD, or the Christian Post for proof. Can’t bear to have them on your Twitter feed? Check out Right Wing Watch. And this abuse of political theology just trickles down from there.

Here’s a recent example of the kind of theological abuse I’m talking about.

The reason the church needs a political theology is due largely in part to the prevailing thought in the Religious Right, mainly the Tea Party; that only “true” conservatives are Christian and only “true” Christians are conservatives. Basically, if you’re a Democrat, you are not/cannot be a Christian. And then there’s the mindset about government.  According to “conservative Christians, government is a bad word. The problem with this prevailing mindset is that an ideology (conservativism) is placed about Scripture and tradition. In essence, it is a form of idolatry. Sadly, I expect things to get worse over the next few years.

The good news for us is that I’m not the first one out there to wrestle with the question of how the church should handle a political theology. Carl R. Trueman has written an excellent book, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. For those who don’t know, Dr. Trueman is a theologian and church historian and he teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also regularly blogs at Reformation21. Let me be clear, Dr. Trueman and I probably disagree on a number of theological points, but I think his analysis of the intersection of US politics and religion is spot on.

Additional Resources
Christian Political Witness edited by George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee
Political Theology by Michael Kirwan
Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative by Carl R. Tureman