Thursday, January 30, 2014

New STAP cell research a positive discovery for pro-lifers [Megan]

A recent article reveals ground-breaking discoveries on the stem cell research front. Below is a synopsis, and you can read the full article here.

There's a myth out there that paints pro-lifers as being in opposition to some great medical and scientific advancements, especially when it comes to curing diseases through the discoveries of stem cell research.

Let me put that myth to rest. Again.

The only research I'm opposed to is the kind that takes the lives of defenseless human beings without proper justification. Embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) — the kind that involves the production of a developing human embryo in a Petri dish only to have its stem cells extracted after fourteen days which results in its death — is wrong. Physical sickness and injury are tragic realities of the world we live in. It's a scary and painful thing we face as human beings. Killing the innocent among us to help others get better is not a human response — it's an evil one.

But stem cell research in general has my full approval. I cheered when I learned of the ground-breaking induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cell research that can take an adult's skin cells and trick them into acting like embryonic stem cells. It's making a real difference, and at no cost of human lives. In fact, success is more likely since the IPS cells are a genetic match to the patients and are easier to control than their embryonic counterparts, which tend to be extremely volatile. That's science at its best! (Apparently the Nobel Prize search committee agreed in 2006, when the prize was given to the Japanese scientist who unveiled the research.)

Looks like the committee may have a new name to throw in the pot.

As the article reveals, (another) Japanese researcher Dr. Haruko Obokata has successfully  "shocked" blood cells with a mild acid bath into acting like stem cells.

These new cells are called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells. Obokata's research was successful using mouse blood cells, and is now taking place to see if human blood acts the same way.

To quote Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London:  "If this works in people as well as it does in mice, it looks faster, cheaper, and possibly safer than other cell reprogramming technologies — personalized reprogrammed cell therapies may now be viable."

For example, age-related macular degeneration (a condition which causes loss of vision) currently requires about 10 months to begin treatment using IPS cells. If successful, STAP cell treatment could knock weeks off of that time frame and would cost a great deal less.

That's exciting news for humankind!

It also provides an accurate and helpful response for pro-life advocates who want to defend their views in conversations about ESCR.

I'm interested to see what will happen with STAP cell research. Research like Dr. Obokata's fits squarely within the pro-life view, not in opposition to it.

Of Elephants and the Unborn [Jay Watts]

I love elephants. I hope to finish writing a short novel this year using elephants to explore certain spiritual and philosophical truths that I find fascinating. As a result, HBO's short documentary An Apology to Elephants piqued my interest. Last week, when I had a little time, I pulled it up On Demand and watched it.

This isn't a review for that film. It has an obvious point of view and excludes any opportunity for those they are accusing of an evil abuse of our stewardship responsibilities toward animals to respond on screen. It is also difficult to imagine anyone who appreciates these emotionally complex and obviously intelligent animals not being outraged at the images of abuse and violence. This magnificent family of animals once roamed the world in vast numbers, and we live in the age of their last moments as a wild animal if something doesn't radically change.

The film makers show us images of circus trainers abusing them, of elephant carcasses littering the savannahs of Africa where they are killed by the thousands to feed people's desire for ivory trinkets, and even the infamous film of Thomas Edison electrocuting Topsy the elephant to try to scare people away from Nikola Tesla's alternating current. It is awful.

When I checked for critical reaction, several people suggested that as awful as these images are they are appropriate to be shown to children on Earth Day. They argue that children need to be radicalized into protecting elephants and standing up to zoos and circuses that abuse these majestic creatures even if it means upsetting them with graphic images of elephant abuse.

An Apology to Elephants is admittedly politically motivated and one sided. It centers on graphic images of abuse and the destruction of innocent life and is recommended viewing for children by many cultural commenters. And yet, when it comes to graphic images that accurately represent the physical act of abortion we are told they are too upsetting. Showing them is divisive and unnecessary to making our point and the worst possible thing imaginable is for kids to see them.

For the record, anyone at LTI will tell you that I am the least animated person on the team when it comes to the graphic images. There are several reasons for this. The biggest reason is that, unlike many of my friends, the images had nothing to do with my becoming radicalized in the pro-life movement.

What gets my hackles up is to see a culture that bathes itself in brutality and violent imagery for any number of reasons (entertainment, education, emotionally activating people toward causes, etc.) through every conceivable medium (TV, movies, video games, books, etc.) suddenly pretend to be so prim and easily damaged when the images center on abortion. The stink of this hypocrisy is unbearable. When prime-time and cable television are filled with shows about serial killers in an apparent race to demostrate who is the most shameless in portraying the rape and murder of innocent victims, when the vile murder porn TV show The Following comes up on Netflix as "Popular Right Now", when I have to mute all commercial breaks for fear of what may be thrown up on the screen at any moment for my young children to see and hear, the pretense at sensitivity to violence as it pertains to abortion ought to embarrass us all.

The images that LTI uses comprise less than a minute of our entire presentation. We offer the opportunity for every person in the room to look away. We discuss the forgiveness of sin and the equal guilt before God of all human beings. We explain that every social justice movement celebrated today for helping humanity to morally advance made use of upsetting images, and we make it clear that this issue must be engaged in a manner that honors Christ. None of this is enough for some people. Some people insist that abortion should not be talked about and certainly must not be seen.

A young man at a major American university approached me after a talk, identified himself as pro-choice, and raised objections to the use of images and descriptive language. His argument was that I do not think abortion is wrong because it is ugly. If we could develop a clean and bloodless manner of killing the unborn that had none of the visually upsetting aspects of the current practice I would still object. So the only reason to show the images or talk about them is to upset people.

I agreed with him about the nature of my objections, but I asked him the following questions, “Are the images an accurate depiction of the aftermath of abortion? Do they truly represent an aspect of the practice of abortion?”


“Is what I said about how they must account for all the body parts of aborted human beings true?”


“So you are asking me, and all of the people arguing that abortion is wrong, to withhold information from our presentations that accurately reflects an aspect of the issue at hand because the audience may have an emotional response to that information that, while I argue is in line with our moral intuitions, might undermine your position.”

“I guess that is right.”

“Do you think that all presentations regarding moral issues ought to refrain from images and language that might provoke emotional responses? Do you think a presenter talking about female genital mutilation or sex slavery ought to be careful not to illicit an emotional response from the audience?”

“No, of course not.” And he immediately saw the problem with his position. He fully supported the use of graphic images that awakened emotional outrage when he was against the practice. What he objected to was others using images to make his position look bad.

As I told him that day, we have a responsibility to be certain that what we are saying is true. If any image used is in some way dishonest then critics need to make that case. I know how the images we use were acquired and have full confidence in their validity and the means by which they were attained.

If your argument is simply that those images must not be seen because they upset people, well that is precisely the point. It was a point that was celebrated with An Apology to Elephants, Blackfish, The Cove, and every other documentary that rightly condemns injustice and abuse. Images seem to only be wrong to be seen when the victims are unborn human beings and the subject is abortion.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who are You to "Who are You" Me? [Jay Watts]

“Who are you to judge?”

This veiled accusation comes up a lot whenever anyone dares to question a particular behavior. No matter whether the subject is abortion, gay marriage, polyamory, pornography, or any of a host of actions that people argue are morally wrong and ultimately destructive to society, once anyone makes a claim about the moral nature of someone else's behavior we can start a count down to how long before the “Who are you?” bomb goes off. 3... 2... 1... Boom!

The problem with this response is that it is as meaningless and content free as claiming you are offended. (see here) It is lazy thinking, if it can be categorized as thinking at all. How so? Here is how. When someone says that, we could just respond, “Who are you to judge me?”

Did you see how easy that was? The original question assumes that it is perfectly legitimate for one person to judge the behavior of another person as wrong or else why are they bothering to challenge your behavior to begin with. As offered, this objection cannot mean that judging in total is wrong without being self referentially incoherent. In order to make sense, the question is actually centered on determining who has the best reasons or position by which to judge a behavior. If by “Who are you to judge?” they mean to imply judgment is wrong then they are wrong to judge you. If they mean that you are wrong to judge others based on your criteria of judgement, then they need to focus on the reasons offered to support your criteria and not you.

I hope you also see that this response gets us no closer to anything resembling a cogent point. No matter how dumbfounded they may be to find someone who disagrees with their worldview standing before them and articulating reasons for a divergence from the present cultural currents, sooner or later they have a responsibility to offer reasons for their position. That is the hard work.

Dr. Robert George gave me permission to reprint a portion of a comment he left on Facebook that succinctly addresses the “Who are you to judge?” ploy within the context of a conversation about polyamory. It is a model of graciousness but on point interaction:

"The "who are you?" rhetoric can easily be turned right back against you. Then you'd have to defend your position by making a substantive case that could not rely on the "who are you?" business. That doesn't mean your view is wrong (though I think it is), it only means that the "who are you?" is not doing any real dialectical work. It's just a rhetorical trope. I'd suggest just dropping it and going straight to the substantive argument."

Dr. George demonstrates what I have learned to model from people like him: How to educate your audience while interacting with people that passionately disagree with you. When young audience members offer this kind of response, I use it as an opportunity to teach them about discourse. How do we figure out who is right and who is wrong? I want them to be able to offer the best forms of the arguments supporting their view available. It is the only way to clearly demonstrate for others the weaknesses of their ideas.

In order to get there, we need to stop others from infecting the conversation with what Dr. George referenced as rhetorical tropes. They don't help either side. They just drag the discourse down and keep us from getting to the real arguments.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Christ is Better [Jay Watts]

Last year I was blessed to participate in an apologetics conference and panel discussion with Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason and Bob Stewart of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Monroe, LA. After we all responded to the woman who asked the last question of the night, Greg told me that he loved the answer that I offered and wanted to share the audio on his radio show. The audio recording was not great and as a result it cannot be shared, but, given Greg's enthusiasm for the answer and my great admiration for his judgment, I decided to post it. My wife transcribed it for me, and I edited it to make it a little easier to read and a little clearer given the lack of context. Both Bob and Greg answered before me, and the conversation included references to people losing their livelihood or having it threatened in order to be true to their commitments to their faith. It was meaningful to many people that night including Greg, so I decided it might be worth preserving.

Question by a woman in the audience: It's a burning question on my heart tonight when you say we need to brace ourselves. What can we do to teach our children, other than bring them to things like this, teach them in our homes how to speak truth? How to love people for Christ? What can we do to make a difference to see America be a shining light for Christ again? I know that's a really general question, but that's a burning question on my heart. I don't want to just brace myself. I want to be a part of this generation. I want my children to be a part of this generation to see our nation be a truthful and a Godly nation again. ... What can we do on an individual basis to turn our nation around?

My answer after both Greg and Bob responded: I want to be clear that I am answering this as Jay, not LTI. This is a personal question; I'll answer it personally. As a brother in Christ raising kids, my son and my two daughters, as a husband, as a member of a church and all those duties normal to our lives.

I was recently asked at a talk, what is your quick witness, your quick testimony. Well, when I was a hostile young atheist, a particular Christian finally loved me and ministered to me in such a way as to make Jesus a live option. Prior to that I wouldn't even consider him because I hated Christians and they hated me, I was prejudiced against Jesus. This one young woman lived a life of faith that I didn't hate, and that I didn't want to destroy. Her impact placed Jesus on the table for consideration as I sorted through my understanding of the world.

I looked at Christ and I liked Christ better. I like Christ better than the world. I'm not afraid of the world; I reject it. I reject it for Him. That is what my wife and I teach our children. Jesus is better than the world that attacks us for our faith in him.

And it doesn't matter how badly things go; I continue to reject the world for him because he's better. His grace, his mercy, his love, his strength, his power; he is better than them all in every way. He refuses to let the world make him into what the world wants to make him into. He stands before it with the power and authority of God. And he gives to us; empowers us with the ability to be what we ought to be in this world.

So I take heart not in the idea that everything is going to go well, or that this world is going to change, or that America's going to reform, or anything of that nature. When I look at my children, I make sure that my son knows, my daughter knows, and even our youngest, as we start to educate her, knows: We're not afraid of the world. We reject the way they live; we don't hide from it. We don't sit in our house and fear it's going to get to us. We stand before it and we represent Christ in front of it, to it, because He's better.

And no matter how many of them come at you and tell you that you have to get your beliefs in line with theirs, and if you disagree with them they're going to take your job and make your life terrible, and that you're a horrible person; He's still better than all of them. And so I will stand with Him until this is all over.

A Word About Reaching Pastors [Jay Watts]

In recent Q&A sessions at apologetics conferences, the question of pastors and apologetics has come up multiple times. Unfortunately, it usually comes up in the context of an adversarial relationship. A gentleman commented to me at one talk that pastors are afraid of apologetics. One seminary student even asked me if I thought pastors were lazy and that is why they don't like apologetics; either general apologetics or specifically pro-life apologetics.

I hate how everyone always paints in such broad negative strokes when talking about pastors. Do you see what is wrong with that last sentence? Most people reading this do not fall into the single category I offered as representative of everyone. It may have irked you a bit to be lumped into such a broad generalization. It is unfair.

I offered that to illustrate that we need to be careful about how we generalize in discussing any particular problem as it pertains to other people. Pastors are people, and people vary. There are dishonest pastors, lazy pastors, and craven pastors that refuse to confront the issue of abortion for fear of negative feedback.

There are also honest pastors doing the best they can to impact a congregation that resists the leadings that are most important to their pastor's heart. There are pastors tired, disappointed, and spiritually defeated by years of investing in the lives of a flock that seemingly never changes. There are pastors less afraid of making people angry than they are of inadvertently hurting the women within their congregations that are suffering from the pain of a past abortion. They know those women are there.

In light of all of this, I offer these items of advice to help us all process how we can approach pastors to work together in using apologetics to serve the body of Christ.

Remember that ministers and pastors are constantly approached by people looking to use the pastor's influence within their congregation to further personal causes. You are one of hundreds of people that petition them; both from within their church and from the outside. All of these petitioners believe that their issue is the most important issue.

Instead of using the pastor to further your goals, find a way to demonstrate to the pastor that the proper use of apologetics serves his congregation and helps him accomplish his goals. Help him to see how apologetics reach men often disenchanted with church. Help church leaders to see that apologetics answer questions our young people raise while struggling to reconcile the faith of their family with the secular world that dominates their lives. Apologetics help me to temporarily root my faith in rational arguments while I wrestle with doubts birthed through emotional difficulties. These are uplifting outcomes that good pastors want to see in their churches.

Encourage pastors that are afraid to confront abortion, out of fear of hurting people, that doing so offers the opportunity to further the gospel within their flock. We know that people are hurting as a result of abortion already. Properly addressing the issue opens the altar of God to men and women struggling with the pain of a past abortion. Some have heard clearly that abortion is wrong but have not heard as clearly that the grace and mercy of Christ is sufficient for forgiveness. They carry a burden that God never intended them to carry and that he desires to lift from their weary shoulders.

Other women have been so encouraged by a “tolerant” society to believe that they have done nothing wrong that they struggle to reconcile this assertion with the depression and loss that they feel. A fellow speaker at a conference recently shared that when a counselor finally simply stated her abortion was wrong and explained why she didn't feel judged; she felt released. Her pain made sense in that context. She stopped worrying that her inability to “just get over it” indicated a personal weakness or psychological failing on her part.

We have done wrong, all of us. Our intuition that things are not as they should be is correct. We have all sinned before God. And yet, he offers unmerited grace and forgiveness through the death burial and resurrection of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ so that whosever confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their hearts that he was raised shall be saved. There is no finite sin so terrible that it cannot be forgiven through Christ. It is surprising how often those who regularly attend church and even serve in ministry need to be reminded of that truth. Many men and women working in ministry approach me after presentations to thank me for helping them to finally accept God's forgiveness. They only needed someone to open the altar of God for them with the dual message; abortion is wrong and God forgives our sin through his unmatched love.

Finally, it may be wise to both (1) develop a preliminary plan or vision for accomplishing goals so that they can see how their involvement will produce kingdom focused results and (2) be willing to adapt your plans in light of incorporating them into a larger vision provided by the church leadership. Failure to do these things represent to two shortcomings I commonly see.

I know many congregants with fantastic abstract ideas like “apologetics are great and you should use them or let me teach them”, but they offer no insight at all into how that translates into genuine impact. Ideas and passions are great, but sooner or later we must turn our attention to the serious and difficult job of motivating people toward a vision. That is hard work so give some thought to how you intend to do it.

Even worse than that is the church member or para-church ministry that shows up at the pastor's door with an idea, all the time making it clear that the only way the pastor or leadership can avoid falling into the category of coward, failure, or slothful impediment is by doing things exactly how the group or individual deems it needs to be done. This is not how we work together to further the kingdom. This is how we further discourage men and women who already live a life of spiritual assault the likes of which most of us can't imagine.

We can't offer apologetics and pro-life advocacy as the solution to everything the church is doing wrong and expect the church to embrace it. We must offer our service to the church to advance the work of the body of Christ in a lost and dark world and within our own congregations by the full and wise use of all the tools God has provided us to better serve Him.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Be Careful Out There (When Discussing Emergency Contraception) [Serge]

It is very important when discussing important and controversial issues to do everything in our power to find the truth and not overstate the evidence that we have supporting our conclusions.  This can be challenging when dealing with an issue such as emergency contraception, where the data and evidence is frequently either missing, confusing, or difficult to understand.  To this point, I believe that the evidence shows that Ella and IUDs have some sort of mechanism of action post-fertilization.  I believe that the evidence does not support a post-fertilization mechanism for Plan B, but its efficacy has been greatly overstated.  Overstating our case is a frequent problem in the pro-life community, and one that we should be careful to avoid.  So lets look at the headline of this post at LifeNews:

I need a second here...

When you can't get through the headline without overstated conclusions it is not a good start.  First, the "New studies" that the post speaks of are actually not studies at all, but reviews.  The authors of these reviews looked at research done by others in the past and come to different conclusions.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but to state that "new studies" have concluded something certainly implies that there is new data and evidence that has settled this question.  As it turns out, the "new studies" are simply an alternate conclusion to what the original authors wrote.

The main review that is mentioned is this one from Peck and Velez from the National Catholic Bioethics Center.  It is not an easy read, but they posit that Plan B may have an effect when given prior to ovulation on the future developing embryo.  This conclusion is based on these two papers that have the exact opposite conclusion.  They are from Noe et al and the abstracts can be found here and here.  The abstract of that last paper states:

The efficacy of LNG-EC has been overestimated in studies using presumptive menstrual cycle data. Our results confirm previous similar studies and demonstrate that LNG-EC does not prevent embryo implantation and therefore cannot be labeled as abortifacient.

So how does Peck and Velez come to a completely different conclusion by looking at the same evidence?   They posit an interesting theory.  They believe that although Plan B is not effective if given after ovulation, its lingering effects on the pituitary axis and the corpus luteum hormones may still have an effect on the developing embryo.  This may be from an effect on the endometrium or another deleterious effect on the embryo (like being unable to transport an embryo to the uterus in time for implantation.)

Although this is an interesting theory, I do not believe there is adequate evidence to support it at this time.  I do believe however that we may be able to investigate this further, although it may be a moot point now that Ella and the copper IUDs are being pushed as the most effective emergency contraceptives.

So do new studies show that all forms of EC can cause early abortions?  In a word, NO.  There has been an interesting look at data published 3-4 years ago that contradicts the original author's conclusions.  If the future evidence supports this theory, then it may be possible that Plan B effects a developing embryo even though it is not effective when given after ovulation.  I plan on being very careful to look at this data before overstating possible conclusions.  I hope others will do the same.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Pro-Life Movement's Wish List for Pastors and Church Leaders [SK]

1. No hedging on the ugly reality of abortion--show it!
2. No hedging on the beauty of the gospel to restore sinners--proclaim it!
3. No hedging on equipping believers to graciously engage--do it!
4. No hedging on loving women who face crisis pregnancies--give it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Post-Fertlization Effects of the IUD Mirena [Serge]

There has been a recent emphasis among reproductive health professionals to strongly encourage women away from traditional oral contraceptives to long acting reversible contraception (LARC).  This fact, in conjunction with the changes to contraceptive coverage implemented in Obamacare, will result in an increase in the use of both IUDs and implantable contraceptives.  As a result, many speakers here at LTI have been asked about the most commonly used IUD in the USA, an IUD with the hormone progestin marketed here by the trade name Mirena.  Mirena has the same hormonal component as Plan B emergency contraception.  I have argued that Plan B most likely does not involve via a post-fertilization mechanism.  Does that indicate that Mirena also works exclusively before fertilization?  Well, in a word, no.

IUDs have actually been around for quite a long time.  Their effectiveness has never really been questioned - they were always found to be highly effective contraceptives.  Originally, it was thought that IUDs work almost exclusively by a local inflammatory response in a woman's endometrium.  In other words, we used to believe that IUDs work almost exclusively post-fertilization.

About 20 years ago, data began to emerge that questioned that theory.  It was found that IUDs also had effects on the local environment of the uterus that could result in some of its contraceptive efficacy.  An increase in the thickness of the cervical mucous may result in inhibition of sperm motility.  Likewise, the copper released form certain IUDs (not Mirena) may have a toxic effect on sperm.  There is also some research that shows a possible effect of the IUD on ovulation.  Remember, Mirena uses the same progestin analogue as Plan B (LNG).  If these mechanisms are totally responsible for the contraceptive effect of Mirena, then we could confidently state that Mirena does not act after fertilization and would not have an effect on a developing human embryo.

Unfortunately, the evidence does not support this.  The LNG that was added to the Mirena only has a local effect within the endometrium, and its blood levels never rise enough to have an effect on ovulation.  In fact, this LNG was added primarily to decrease the amount of bleeding sometimes seen amongst copper IUD users.  Furthermore, this study shows deleterious effects of this LNG dose on the endometrium, resulting in the conclusion that these changes may have "a pivotal role in the contraceptive effect of the LNG-IUS".  This is clear evidence that the changes in the uterine lining not only can cause an embryo not to implant, but may also be a primary mechanism for the contraceptive effect of Mirena.

This is supported in many other places.  Here is an article about various forms of IUDs.  Its conclusions are clear:

In women with the LNG-IUS, the endometrium is abnormally thin and contains areas of superficial fragile vessels (Guttinger and Critchley, 2007). These features suggest that the uterus would be hostile to implantation. 
In conclusion, IUDs may exert their contraceptive action at different levels. Potentially, they interfere with sperm function and transport within the uterus and tubes. It is difficult to determine whether fertilization of the oocyte is impaired by these compromised sperm. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that IUDs can prevent and disrupt implantation. The extent to which this interference contributes to its contraceptive action is unknown. The data are scanty and the political consequences of resolving this issue interfere with comprehensive research.
As usual, this data come from peer-reviewed sources that are otherwise very hostile to the pro-life view.  There is very little evidence that Mirena acts exclusively before fertilization and significant evidence that it effects the endometrium to an extent that implantation impairment may be an important mechanism to explain its efficacy.  If one believes in the inherent value of human beings from the moment they become human beings, the use of Mirena is very much ethically problematic.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Few thoughts on Leadership...[SK]

We just concluded a fun two-day summit with our LTI leadership team. This is the team that reached 30,000 new students in high school presentations last year. They did it, not me. I marvel at some consistent characteristics about each team member:

1) Intellect: They read, a ton. And they read the right stuff.
2) Passion: They have an intense desire to equip others, but they do it winsomely. You should see the reviews from the field!
3) Commitment: They love public speaking and strive to be excellent at it.
4) Reputation: They’re known for equipping pro-lifers not dividing them.
5) Wisdom: They’re masters at adapting to diverse theological audiences, but they do so without sacrificing our core content or needlessly offending their hosts.
6) Grounding: They’re secure enough to invite analysis of their efforts.
7) Vision: They do not require micro-management because, in the words of Warren Bennis, “they have a compelling sense of what might be” if they work hard.
8) Leadership: They serve. They abhor the “green room” and make no high-maintenance demands on their event hosts. In short, they shake lots of hands and aren’t afraid to set up chairs.
9) Focus: To quote Dirty Harry, they know their limitations. They don’t pretend to have an ultimate answer for ending abortion. They don’t get bogged down in alleged root causes. Rather, they focus on the one thing they strive to do better than anyone else: train pro-life advocates to persuasively defend their views in the marketplace of ideas.
10) Humility: They don’t worry about being original thinkers, though often they are. Instead, they see themselves as translators—leaders who master the intellectual arguments of the smart guys (and gals) and then translate those ideas, with attribution, into language lay people can understand.

I also noticed how at key points in the conversation, they were smarter or more skilled than me. For example, one team member suggested a simple word change that completely transformed our parental notification letter, a change that has alluded me for years. Two others are better at negotiating the use of visual aids. Another excels at handling the emotional critic. Another is masterful at graciously communicating gospel truth to post-abortion teens.

Also, don’t think for a moment that I was smart enough to proactively recruit this team. I wasn’t. Nor did I invest the above skill set in any of them. They already had those traits. Indeed, they bugged me until I was finally smart enough to recognize the blue chip players in front of me. After that, my role was to get them in the game and watch them flourish. More “recruits” are on the way in 2014. LTI is blessed.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"Some Things Aren't Funny & They Never Will Be" posted V of G [Jay Watts]

I posted a short piece at my personal blog on the need to teach our kids about reverence and holidays. Just a personal rant as result of a bad joke one of my kids heard on a kid's TV show. It has little to do with the mission of LTI, but if you are interested the link is here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christian Leaders Then and Now [SK]

In the late 1800s, the Congo was subjected to some of the worst human rights violations imaginable under the direction of King Leopold II of Belgium. It was Christian missionaries led by Alice Harris who exposed this evil by photographing the victims, like that of Nsala of Wala looking at the severed remains of his 5-year old daughter--who was butchered by Leopold's insurgents. 

Gregg Cunningham makes an excellent point: "How ironic that the person responsible for the first use of horrifying photos in a campaign of social reform would be a Christian missionary depicting the severed hand and foot of a child who had been tortured to death."

Yet, when CBR and other pro-life groups display a horrifying photo depicting the severed hand and foot of a child who has been tortured to death through elective abortion, many Christian leaders emulate King Leopold and work to suppress the same life-saving image Alice Harris struggled to display."