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Andrew Sullivan wrote a lengthy and illuminating piece recently digging deeper into the opioid crisis, in part by examining the attraction of the drug itself. One interesting aspect of the article was his observation about why opioids have been such a draw through the ages—they help us escape from pain, from reality. As Sullivan notes, if we simply attack the symptoms on the surface, we are missing a “deeper American story. It is a story of pain and the search for an end to it.”For millennia, humans have searched for answers to life and the difficulty it brings. Some of these answers have involved God, and others have not. It is certainly clear that right now, America’s families have been hit hard by the opioid crisis.Yet while we need to go to God, we often don’t, and we reject his advances. Like God trying to rescue us, the police officers trying to rescue the addict by administering antidotes “are hated,” for “[t]hey ruined the high.”Marx’s claim that religion is the “opiate of the people” is old-hat. As Sullivan points out: “Opiates are now the religion of the people.”We must go to God in our pain, not try to escape it by our own means—whether through opioids or otherwise. It must be said that prescription opioids (along with other pain management tools) can be used properly (like for the alleviation of chronic severe pain) alongside going to God in our pain.Near the end of the piece, Sullivan again observes:To see this epidemic as simply a pharmaceutical or chemically addictive problem is to miss something: the despair that currently makes so many want to fly away. Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many. Until we resolve these deeper social, cultural, and psychological problems, until we discover a new meaning or reimagine our old religion or reinvent our way of life, the poppy will flourish.Indeed, in searching for “new meaning,” I believe Sullivan is yearning for God here, and I would point him toward the Good News: Though we have all strayed from and are separated from God (and part of this separation is pain), Jesus has paid the price for us to be restored to God. We just must accept him, choose to follow him, and submit our lives to him. This restoration then becomes our new eternal reality, even if we don’t see all its benefits immediately.Sullivan continues:We have seen this story before — in America and elsewhere. The allure of opiates’ joys are filling a hole in the human heart and soul today as they have since the dawn of civilization.I would agree with this diagnosis, but only add that the medicine involves a spiritual element, most specifically the Good News discussed above. This is something Billy Graham, who recently passed away, would want us to remember. While the issue in all its facets is undoubtedly complex, it is clear that we must not neglect the spiritual aspect of the cure.We as a nation need God, and need him publicly. Graham’s recent passing also reminds us of that. Let us remind ourselves again, and let us not forget it.
Abbas again calls on international community to cut Trump out of peace process; Nikki Haley tells him to grow up
Cecile Richards has announced she will resign this year as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America after 12 years at the helm.Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood has come under federal investigation by both the Department of Justice and the FBI for illegally selling body parts of aborted children. Two of Planned Parenthood’s California customers for those baby parts have already admitted guilt and have payed over $7 million in a legal settlement for breaking state and federal laws that prohibit the practice. But this is only one of many scandals during her tenure. Planned Parenthood has been convicted of Medicaid billing fraud in several states. It has failed to report suspected physical abuse of clients, covered up alleged prostitution pimps, and recommended that underage clients falsify documents, for example. And, tragically, women have died from Planned Parenthood abortions.Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood has consistently claimed that abortion is not their core business. This has again and again been exposed for the sham that it is. Even as the overall abortion rate in the U.S. declines, and their own client base shrinks, Planned Parenthood remains the abortion industry’s largest business, performing over 320,000 abortions per year, about a third of the nation’s annual total. Former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director Abby Johnson, who left the organization in 2009, wrote that being assigned abortion sales quotas was the beginning of the end of her relationship with the abortion giant.Planned Parenthood’s own annual reports belie Cecile’s claim that they are an essential provider of non-abortion services to women. In fact, their non-abortion services are in steep decline. Out of 9.5 million “services” provided in 2016-17, for example, only 7,762 were for prenatal care—a miniscule 0.0008%, which is an 80% drop since 2009. Adoption referrals were even more rare at just under 3,889 (0.0004%). Breast exams are down 64% since 2004 (these are the equivalent of self-exams—no Planned Parenthood center is licensed to do mammograms, despite Richards’ years of public assertions to the contrary). At an organization claiming to be the nation’s premier and essential provider of reproductive health care, that’s a remarkable failure to serve.During Richards’ tenure, Planned Parenthood has continued the veneration of its founder, Margaret Sanger, a leading proponent of racial eugenics, who saw Planned Parenthood (originally named The Birth Control League) as a way to prevent the propagation of “human weeds”—reproduction by segments of society she deemed deplorable and unfit to live. Today, 22 of Planned Parenthood’s 25 new abortion “mega-clinics” are strategically placed within walking distance of minority neighborhoods. And every year, Planned Parenthood awards their “highest honor”—the Margaret Sanger Award—to political leaders, members of the media, and others who promote the organization’s abortion business and support funding the organization with tax dollars.Meanwhile, Americans are catching on to the scandal of Planned Parenthood’s tax dollar revolving door. The organization receives a whopping half a billion dollars in tax money each year from grants and Medicaid reimbursements. Its political action arm in turn donates millions to the election campaigns of candidates who will vote for continuing the tax funding. “Your tax dollars at work.”Cecile Richards knows most Americans oppose paying for elective abortions with taxes, and she knows Planned Parenthood is poised to lose substantial tax monies in the coming months. Several states have already begun redirecting Medicaid subsidies away from Planned Parenthood to existing community health centers that provide more services than Planned Parenthood, but do not perform abortions. There have also been moves in Congress to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood’s business. With Planned Parenthood’s network of clinics shrinking (they have closed over 250 centers in the past few years) and their non-abortion services declining precipitously, there is no justification for the increased tax funding the nation’s largest abortion business has garnered each year for so many years. The money would be much better spent to support the over 13,500 community health clinics nationwide that provide a wider array of services to a much broader geographic and demographic swath of the population than the abortion giant does.Cecile’s resignation gives Planned Parenthood the opportunity to come clean and clean house.It’s a good time to come clean about the baby parts business some of their centers have been running out the back door, and clean house of anyone involved.It’s a good time to come clean about the central purpose of their business—performing abortions—and clean house of anyone misrepresenting that crucial truth. It’s a good time to come clean about Margaret Sanger’s eugenicist vision, and to renounce the practice of targeting communities of color.And it’s a good time for Planned Parenthood to stand on its own two financial feet instead of demanding that taxpayers provide over half a billion dollars annually to a business whose main product—abortion—is something Americans don’t believe taxpayers should pay for.Jay Sappington is a bioethicist, researcher, writer, educator, and policy advocate. He has worked with Heartbeat International and The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, among others.
On January 25, 2018, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Sam Brinton under the headline, “Tortured in Gay Conversion Therapy.” (The online version posted January 24 read, “I Was Tortured in Gay Conversion Therapy. And It’s Still Legal in 41 States.”) Brinton frequently speaks and testifies in favor of laws to prohibit licensed therapists from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts (which opponents refer to as “conversion therapy”) with minors. (FRC’s defense of the right to choose such therapy can be found here).Brinton gives a shocking, first-person account. It includes this:The therapist ordered me bound to a table to have ice, heat and electricity applied to my body. I was forced to watch clips on a television of gay men holding hands, hugging and having sex. I was supposed to associate those images with the pain I was feeling to once and for all turn into a straight boy.I have just one question for the New York Times. Did you make any effort to fact-check Brinton’s claims?This is an opinion piece, you might respond. Since it reflects the writer’s opinion, it does not require fact-checking the way a news story does—does it?The truth is, newspapers fact-check opinion pieces all the time. Various publications and websites routinely ask for links or other documentation for factual claims made in an opinion piece.Brinton’s piece, though, was a first-person account of his own experience. How can you “fact-check” someone’s personal life experience?One way might be by checking it against previous accounts that Brinton himself has given of his own story. He has, after all, been sharing these allegations in the public square since 2010. If there are inconsistencies in the way he has described his own experience on different occasions, it might at least raise some doubts about the credibility of the overall account.Brinton’s Story UnverifiedI first wrote about Brinton’s story three and a half years ago on the FRC Blog, in an August 2014 piece titled, “Truth Matters in Ex-Gay Debate.” Part of what follows is an edited version of what I wrote then, with added comments at the end.Brinton’s story was apparently first captured, when he was a student at Kansas State, in a video interview by Nathan Manske of the “I’m from Driftwood” project, which seeks to create an “archive of stories” on “what it’s like to be LGBTQ throughout the world.” Brinton’s story was captured on video in 2010, but received a burst of attention in October of 2011, when Manske shared it in the Huffington Post. Although the Huffington Post article remains online, a passage I quoted in 2014 does not (the web page says it was “updated” December 6, 2017). However, a detailed recounting of Brinton’s story (along with an edited version of the original video) remains online at the website of The New Civil Rights Movement. That account includes these details:“Physical therapy was my hands being tied down and blocks of ice being placed on my hands. Then pictures of men holding hands would be shown to be so that way I would associate the concept of the pain of the ice with a man touching me.”“Then we went into heat. Coils would be wrapped around my hands and you would be able to turn the heat on or off. So now if we had a picture of a guy and a girl hugging, there was no pain. If we had a picture of a guy and a guy hugging, we had physical pain.”“We then went into the ‘Month of Hell,’” Brinton explains in the video below. “The ‘Month of Hell’ consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I’d be electrocuted.”This report was so shocking that even some pro-“gay” media tried to verify this report—but couldn’t.One of the inconsistencies pointed out by commenters on this article (on a gay website) was that “Brinton’s Facebook page ‘has a picture of the entire happy family at his college graduation ceremony, May 31, 2011’”—despite the fact that Brinton said on the video that “my dad has held a gun up to my head multiple times” and warned Brinton that “he would shoot me if I ever tried to walk in the door again.” (Brinton responded in the comments section that “my parents did come to my graduation since I am the very first person to graduate from college in my family. I am working on building a relationship to them . . . I was shocked they were there but so happy to see the love starting to rebuild.”)The Mystery TherapistMore importantly, Brinton, had not (in 2011) and (as far as I know) still has not, identified the counselor who allegedly engaged in these horrific practices—not by name, not by address, not even by city and state where they occurred (more on that later).Such omissions made even Wayne Besen, a prominent “anti-ex-gay” activist, reluctant to use Brinton’s story without further verification. Here’s the full statement Besen posted in the comments section of the Queerty article which questioned Brinton’s story.[emphasis added] Wayne BesenSamuel came forward and told a story presumably in an effort to help others. There are groups like mine who would be thrilled to use his example to demonstrate the harm caused by “ex-gay” therapy. We live for real life examples like this.However, until he provides more information to verify his experience, he makes it impossible for us to use him as an example. Indeed, it would be grossly irresponsible for us to do so.If a group like mine puts out or promotes a story that turns out to be exaggerated or fake, the religious right would rake us through the coals and by extension the entire LGBT community. This would cast an ominous shadow on all of the legitimate ex-ex-gay testimonies that have helped so many people come out of the closet.So, for the sake of the movement he is trying to help — it is critical that Sam reveal exactly who the therapist was that tortured him. He could do this publicly or privately, but we need more information before we can use his narrative.We very much hope he will provide enough information so we can help people by sharing his compelling story.Sincerely,Wayne BesenTruth Wins OutOct 11, 2011 at 8:51 pmHere is part of Brinton’s reply to Besen:I was indirectly in contact with Wayne and although I know he wants me to send the information of the therapist that is simply not an option. Counselor after counselor has seen me revert to near suicidal tendencies when I try to dig deep into the memories of that time and I simply don’t have his name. I can picture him clear as day in my nightmares but his name is not there. The movement can’t use me I guess.I have no problem with people not believing my story. It is not for me to try to prove. I don’t want to be the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement since graduate school at MIT is plenty tough as it is.. . .Oct 14, 2011 at 2:11 amMemory and ForgettingNote that Brinton says of his therapist, “I can picture him clear as day in my nightmares”—but, as far as I know, he has also never provided a physical description of this individual.The entire subject of whether childhood trauma can result in repressed memories (as Brinton apparently asserts) is a controversial one. See, for example, the American Psychological Association’s Q&A on the topic here. It states:Many clinicians who work with trauma victims believe that this dissociation is a person's way of sheltering himself or herself from the pain of the memory. Many researchers argue, however, that there is little or no empirical support for such a theory.Even if the former theory is accepted, in Brinton’s case his amnesia is hardly “sheltering [him] from the pain of the memory.” It seems illogical that Brinton would be able to remember—and repeatedly recount in detail before cameras, in paid speaking engagements, and at legislative hearings—the excruciating details of the “torture” he claims he experienced, while repressing (to the point of becoming “near suicidal” at efforts to retrieve them) only the memories of the details—such as name or city—which might allow some verification of his account.Other Discrepancies in Brinton’s StoryDefenders of the right of people with same-sex attractions to pursue therapy aimed at reducing those attractions last year posted a YouTube video highlighting other problems with the story Brinton has told. For example, in one videotaped speech Brinton said that his therapy was provided by “a doctor.” Yet in one of the first written accounts of his story, from August of 2011, it says his therapy came at the hands of “the session leader¿who Sam specifies was a ‘religious therapist’ and not a doctor.” In yet another video—apparently of Brinton testifying in support of a legislative therapy ban—he says specifically that he was treated by “a licensed psychotherapist.” Note that legislative bans on “sexual orientation change efforts” or “conversion therapy” (a term never actually used by its practitioners) apply only to licensed professionals, not to “religious” counselors.Even the state in which Brinton underwent his alleged therapy is unclear. In the 2010 “Driftwood” video, Brinton says he grew up in Perry, Iowa. When the video was re-posted at the Huffington Post in October 2011, the article repeated that “Sam was raised in rural Iowa.” However, the Bay Windows account from August 2011 (reposted at LGBTQ Nation) said that Brinton “endured years of reparative therapy designed to ‘cure’ him of his homosexuality while living in Kansas.” Only two paragraphs later, however, it says, “Sam was a pre-teen, living with his parents in a conservative religious mission in Florida,” when his ordeal began. In his New York Times op-ed, he says it all happened “when I was a middle schooler in Florida.” So which was it—Iowa, Kansas, or Florida?Has Brinton Changed?There is one more discrepancy. In his Times op-ed, Brinton says his “conversion therapy” was “a trauma that was meant to erase my existence as a newly out bisexual.” This is the first time I have heard Brinton refer to himself as “bisexual.” The August 2011 Bay Windows article begins with the sentence, “Samuel Brinton is not afraid to say he’s gay.”Ironically, if Brinton went from identifying as gay in 2011 to identifying as “bisexual and gender fluid” in 2018, maybe he himself is proof that change is possible after all.
On January 19, 2018, pro-life digital activists gathered at Family Research Council headquarters for the Pro-LifeCon Digital Action Summit, the premier conference for the digital pro-life community. At our 13th annual event, we were joined by friends old and new as we discussed the most successful online strategies of the past year and looked ahead to the opportunities before us under a new administration. Activists, policy experts, and legislators were on hand to discuss the issues impacting the pro-life movement, and share practical ways to make a difference for life on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and your online platform of choice.
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