Dark Is The Stain: Impassioned
The controversy surrounding the Planned Parenthood/Susan B. Komen connection brought this subject to mind. I knew a couple years ago about it, because my mom participated in the Race for the Cure 3-day event and afterward learned about said connection. She afterward wrote a heartfelt email expressing that this saddened her as it’d prevent her from participating again. She later learned that the race money didn’t go to the abortion funding, but still. Abortion is a touchy subject at our house. It always has been. My parents couldn’t have kids. My sister and I are both adopted. The troubling part of of the subject is that there is no pro-abortion argument you can make that doesn’t say my sister and I should be dead.
Before you think I’m overreacting, understand that our placement for adoption can mean one of many things. The birth mothers could have been abused and/or assaulted. They could have been teenagers or in some other situation that prevented them from being able to take care of a baby. They could have simply not wanted a baby at that point in time. As a matter of fact, the only arguments that can’t apply in our cases are the mother’s life being in jeopardy or the possibility of some disease or birth defect (and, who knows, maybe it was, but it’s a harder one to make). The point is I have no idea (nor desire to know) which scenario it was, and every possibility is considered a viable option for infanticide.
I find it disturbing that the only time we get confused on biology so basic a child can understand it is when it comes to human procreation. Dogs have puppies. Cats have kittens. Deer have fawns. Humans have…what?
So, all you adopted kids, sorry. We really should be dead. All hail women’s rights.
Now, “women’s rights,” there’s another subject… I digress.
This sounds like rambling–it’s definitely ranting–but I let it play out to make the point: Passion cannot be hidden. I cannot hide my tone of voice when I write about this subject. I can’t. And I won’t. I don’t know how. There’s a vindictive streak in me a mile wide that simply will not allow for the degradation of one life in favor of another. Old, young, sickly, healthy, male, female, brown, black, or white – human life is precious, and it is purely evil to manipulate, oppress, or destroy someone for our own devices. I believe that as passionately as I do that my God is in the Heavens and that he makes his home with men. The glory of man is infinitely surpassed by the glory of the Holy One, the God of gods, the I Am — eternal, magnificent, our life, our hope, and the source of our very identity.
And by now you’re likely asking what in the name of all that’s holy and profane has gotten into this girl, and what in the name of The Two Hearts does this have to do with speculative faith?
It was already inside me, though. I’m just letting it come out. The downside of the written word is we’re bound to something that, at first glance, is void of human emotion. But I think what makes the great writers amazing is that they funneled their own passions into something that worked itself naturally onto the page, so much so that when we read or hear commentaries and interviews later, we’re not that surprised when the writer actually says “I was working out this particular theme.”
Yes, I said theme.
It’s not that I don’t think stories have themes. It’s that I think that once you try to force what’s going to come out naturally, people notice. I still marvel that the one story in which I was going to have absolutely no spiritual/supernatural influence or reference has turned out to be the most supernatural/spiritual I’ve ever written and likely ever will write. And remember, I was working actively against that.
But passions can’t be buried. And, truthfully, they shouldn’t be. That story void of those elements is lifeless. To force passion into a story is to burn it alive. To remove it is to starve it to death.
Great piece Ma’am, on both the political/moral AND the literary parts. Two thoughts.
THANK YOU for your personal testimony, it was touching and shined the light of Truth on this issue. Thank you also for referencing how respect for life does not stop at the unborn, but encompasses ALL human life. Including the categories so often looked down on as “inconvenient”, i.e., the elderly, disabled, terminally ill, so forth. I had a brother who was severely r- (I will never say that word) and severely physically handicapped. I loved him and cared for him until his death in 2001. I know I’ll see him someday again, restored to life.
The point is that he was looked down on and that enraged me so much. It seems so many “pro-life” people forget that the plight of the folks like my brother and others society, in it’s evil, views as “undesirable”, is just as important as that of the unborn.
On your literary point, Ma’am, your story reminds me of how C. S. Lewis said that he started off with an image (he often started off with random images, he said, that popped into his mind) of a faun in a snowy wood, and as he wrote, Aslan came “bounding in”. It’s strange how stories can be almost organic, living things.
I completely agree with you, Kaci.
The issue of abortion is something God has really laid on my heart lately. I’ve always hated it, certainly, but lately I blogged about all the pro-life themed stories I’ve wanted to write, and how disappointed I am that none of them have worked out for me. They didn’t work out, I think, precisely because they were “themed”. They didn’t spring to my mind through characters or ideas; I was trying to feature a concept by building a story around it, and that’s contrary to how I usually work.
I don’t want to write a book just to prove a point, because I feel it kills the story as story – but at the same time I really want to use fiction to discuss this crucial issue, because fiction has such a unique power to touch hearts
For this example, a passion for life, and the sanctity of life, will outrun and political speech or threat of Hell. Storytelling gets to the root of our desires and passions through the back door. It makes previously unacceptable or unthinkable positions friendly and familiar. In order for the truth to be accepted, it must first be made accessible and acceptable.
Great entry, and thanks for sharing from your heart!
I’ve been admittedly nervous about this one, first because I don’t normally get into political things with people; second because I don’t normally come on this strong; and third because I had to read it twice to convince myself it was still about fiction in the end.
This subject is more of a human rights thing than a political one, and, to your point, I think people grossly underestimate what they don’t understand.
Well said. 0=)
I can think of two that handled the subject, offhand: Francine Rivers’ “The Atonement Child” – which is about a rape victim – and Randy Alcorn’s “Deadline,” which has a subplot with the daughter. What I remember most about Atonement Child was that I was twelve and getting increasingly more angry at the bulk of the characters in the book. And that the opening scene freaked me out. Hey, I was twelve. I’d be quite curious how yours plays out. The art’s in the telling, so to speak.
I think the key, really, is what you’ve already said: it has to spring from the characters themselves.
Kaci – In the past, I’ve never wanted to write a book dealing directly with abortion itself…i.e. a rape victim or a character faced with the choice to keep a child. That always felt too “obvious” for me, I guess, and I was moved to combat the deeper ideas and lies behind abortion. “It’s just tissue” (until you decide it’s a baby and you want to keep it). “The child will be severely disabled and have a miserable life…killing it is the merciful thing to do.” Etc. I wanted to address the lies people tell themselves to rationalize abortion. So I tended to think of science-fiction books about societies where these ideas were taken to the extreme.
But what do you know! Maybe God’s plan for me is different. The other day after I had been pondering all this for awhile, an idea popped into my head for another book in a science-fiction series I’m already planning to write. If I were to write this installment to the series, it would deal directly with abortion and other related topics, and it would spring directly from already-created characters I love and the story I have planned for them. Oddly enough, it centers around a rape victim! But she’s not just some random woman I created for the purpose of talking about abortion…she’s a character I know, love, and would have used in several books already. And that makes all the difference.
Yes. My two adopted children were allegedly conceived through rape. I am glad their mothers still chose to give birth to them. Why should they have paid for the crimes of their fathers?
Bravo, Kaci, for this whole thing. Thanks for your, and for several commentator’s, fierce yet winsome defense of God’s image in human life. It’s a great encouragement.
From your above comment:
Yet this is not a political issue. It is fundamentally and irrevocably the providence of Truth and God’s morality, for even this fallen world is its Creator’s an obeys His rules, not the unwritten, money-and-power-driven, often-self-contradictory rules of a god called Politics. Others defining abortion as an issue that way — all the while treating it as a holy and un-tamperable sacrament, though — should be utterly rejected.
Consider this quote from Abraham Lincoln. (Disclaimer: yes, he wasn’t as great on the dignity-of-all-men position as we’d like him to be, etc., etc., but still, this is good.) He of course applies this to slavery, but as you pointed out, Kaci, the parallel is undeniable.
This, of course, is what occurs when any Christian cedes the power of definition, both of the issue and of its underlying morality, to one side, as he is trying to take the “high ground” — also defined by the agenda-driven and not “neutral” opposite side! — that has no foundation. … Anyway, on to Kaci‘s, and commentators’, other points.
And this yet again gives the laughable lie to the idea that the best fiction is “neutral” or does not argue a particular point of view. The only difference is fiction that argues, as fiction, either poorly or successfully, according to the standards of a great story.
Yet some of this can be “read into” by readers, or entirely missed. I contend that even authors may miss their own themes, even Christian ones who know their craft. For example, in a 1997 (if I recall rightly) interview with World Magazine, Frank Peretti said he was disappointed with his 1991 novel Prophet. Though the novel’s theme was centrally how people, and news media, re-package and skew Truth, the issue of abortion seemed to take over that story on the way, Peretti said. But that’s not how I saw the novel. Abortion, as vital as it was in the story, was indeed a theme “on the way” to a greater and more-foundational theme, which I thought the novel showed strongly.
Perhaps this difficulty is incidentally addressed in Timothy‘s comment, right above:
What I mean is this: people often argue that Lewis “only” wanted to tell great stories, and began with images, and so on. This is a half-truth. Lewis did begin with images, “icons” if you will, that grew into fleshed-out stories with characters, plots, and settings. Yet to say that “Aslan came bounding in” is also to say that the stories’ themes, including theology and Lewis’s internalized Christian beliefs, simply had to enter the story and in a sense “take over.” Perhaps, though, it would be wrong to say this is how every story should begin. One can take the seed of a Theme — I would like to write about this Issue — and subvert that into an excellent story. The central Issue, though, must be timeless and God-centered; e.g., I doubt “better border security” would cut it.
I was in the library the other day when I found a nonfiction book analyzing Christian homeschoolers. It was fairly even-handed, but it made me think of other books I’ve read about homeschoolers and how few fiction books feature homeschooling in an objective way. Now, I could set out to write a story with that as an element, but it would be from an issue standpoint, not a story. And it would not turn out well.
I’ve been pondering writing a story where the kids are homeschooled, because I was homeschooled and I don’t understand the culture of public school. But man, I could have FUN with the (sometimes weird) culture of the homeschoolers.
Especially if their dad was a werewolf and they all had to keep it hush-hush. 😀
Great post, Kaci! Thank you for sharing this passion and how it relates to story writing.
Great post, Kaci, and I loved the closer:
Even in science fiction, that most rational of genres, a story without passion or emotion doesn’t succeed. The reader has to care about what happens, and if the author doesn’t feel strongly about his characters and their problems, that will come through in the story.
Bethany hits on the dilemma we encounter when writing about issues we care strongly about:
It’s finding the line between tale and tract, prose and propaganda. People can be moved, persuaded, and even convinced about something by a story, but they are repelled, even if they’re sympathetic, if they sense they’re being manipulated.
Spec-fic is known for parables about current issues dressed up in futuristic or fantastic clothing. Life issues come up pretty often: euthanasia, eugenics, genetic engineering, capital punishment, cloning, and so on. Infanticide appears frequently, and I can’t think of an example that doesn’t protray it as horrifying and/or tragic. However, there seem to be hardly any stories, short or otherwise, that grapple with the implications of abortion, which doesn’t surprise me–it’s a third-rail issue for anyone in the public eye. I did a cursory internet search and only found references to three stories by well-known and influential authors. All portray abortion in a negative light:
The Pre-Persons, by Phillip K. Dick
The Abortionist’s Horse, by Tanith Lee
The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire, by Poppy Z. Brite
Abortion’s a particularly difficult issue, I think, because it’s impossible to sit on the fence. You can’t be “sort of” anti-abortion, or “kind of” pro-abortion. As we saw with the Komen case, to reject one is to embrace the other, and you can’t expect any sympathy from the other side, whatever you do.
I’d never heard of the Phillip K. Dick story before. Perhaps if you’re acclaimed as a crazy visionary genius, you can be forgiven an indiscretion or two.
Well-summed, Fred. 0=) And thanks!
I think the kicker for me is that infanticide, like any other atrocity, is nothing new. The Romans would leave their babies exposed to the elements if the father didn’t acknowledge it. I’m not sure if drowning unwanted infants in China is still around or not, but they still have their one-child policy that encourages such types of behavior.
As far as abortion goes, my views are now glaringly clear, but my lack of sympathy is toward those who would exploit the trauma and/or fear of others to justify their own selfishness, not toward legitimately scared teenagers and traumatized women. I don’t have to condone the action to empathize. Fear and pain are motives. They don’t make something right. But I’ve no quarter for anyone who would hold those women up for display and use them as shields for self-justification.
Me: I think most of that argument is based off an overreaction to outright propaganda masquerading as fiction.
Me: Oh, of course. I have no delusions I’ve read into things that, more than likely, the writers didn’t intend. That doesn’t negate their intention, but rather means they hit on both.
Me: That’s funny. I’ve read The Prophet and don’t remember abortion in it.
Me: *snicker* There you go.
Me: I’ve had similar thoughts on writing church brats in stories. I think the trick, really, is writing things true to those characters. Church kids think and behave, generally, in a certain way. Same with homeschoolers or anyone else.
Kaci, I have a different take on theme, as you probably know, but I love the heart of your post. I’d never thought before about how the subject of abortion would affect an adopted person. I’d say you have every right to be passionate about the subject (and thank God the woman who gave you birth chose to do so!)
OK, I’m kind of riled up about this abortion issue, and only in part because of the Planned Parenthood/Susan B. Komen stuff. On Sunday, as I wrote on my site, we had, as part of our mission’s month, a speaker involved in ministry to the urban poor. He said more to me about the plight of the urban poor by one stat than he did in everything else he said: in the Los Angeles urban center, there are 42 Planned Parenthood clinics and only 1 mobile crisis pregnancy center — the one they run.
I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong — the government, according to a certain Republican Presidential candidate, is “taking care” of the poor, and part of their “care” steers needy, vulnerable people away from moral responsibility while devaluing life.
In addition, I had a conversation this weekend with a writer group, and the topic of abortion came up, particularly the negative effects on the women having these abortions. That’s another part of the story that isn’t dealt with much.
So me, personally, I’d live to see stories dealing with these issues — stories that aren’t issue driven. 😉 I believe themes can be where writers start, but in the same way that characters must be well-crafted, themes must be well-crafted. When they are, the character lives out events that bring the issue to light and the author isn’t the one telling the reader how to think. In fact, the characters don’t tell each other how to think either. But as the character grows and changes, the reader can come to his own conclusions. And they might be wrong. That’s the hard part for the author, but I think it’s the only kind of story that will have a positive impact on anyone.
I applaud your stance on this touchy, touchy issue. I’ve always been pro life, but when I started having babies, my pro-life stance skyrocketed into hysteria. I can’t bear to argue it with people because I’ll end up in tears. I can’t imagine writing about it because there’s no way I’d have a hope of remaining objective.
I mean, have you ever read Peretti’s book Tilly? More to the point, have you ever read it without crying? This is one issue I simply can’t touch on my own, but I wholeheartedly support people who can.
I’m with you all the way on this issue! I can get really passionate about it, myself.
I also really loved the quote by Abraham Lincoln in Stephen Burnett’s comment. That could be applied to so many situations we’re facing now!
I think it is interesting, though; that I’d always had a fairly positive mental image of Susan G. Komen and Race for the Cure. Out of this whole debacle I learned two things:
1) SGK gives money to Planned Parenthood
2) SGK supports stem cell research (but I haven’t really learned which kind; the good kind with adult stem cells, or the bad kind, with stem cells from aborted fetal tissue)
Given the support of Planned Parenthood, I’m inclined to lean toward believing it’s the bad kind of stem cells, which makes me doubt the SGK’s vision, because we’ve got overwhelming proof now that using infant stem cells for treating anyone else is a very bad idea.
I believe a lot more people are more aware of these facts than they were before.
And I’m left feeling surprised by this, and regretting my surprise I mean, shouldn’t I have known?) but not nearly as shocked as when I started researching the ingredients in childhood immunizations and discovered just exactly how many of those are grown using aborted duplo (sp?) fetal tissue.
Yeah, I knew I was kicking a hornet nest with this one. But this is a subject that’s so annoyingly simple in my head I don’t even see much left to argue about.
I know you said we disagree on the idea of themes, but I’m unclear as to where. While I know several respected authors who start with a theme, I never have. For me, it’s an organic thing to be teased out as I begin to realize it. That’s just how it works for me. The second I force it, I’m toast. And most of my characters disagree with me.
I read Tilly in middle or early high school. I really can’t remember much, other than it was really sad and the graveyard scene kinda weirded me out. But I couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 I think. I didn’t cry, but I don’t cry much.
And I’ve never used abortion in a story, so I can’t say. Most of my stories, it just wasn’t going to come up. The closest is probably some genocidal maniacs. Um….I apparently like to write psycho- or sociopaths.
I’d be interested in reviewing the history behind how it all started. Misinformation goes a long way. My real reservation is that I’ve always been very…ah…well, I tend to be apprehensive, at best, of any one who puts a particular gender, ethnicity, or whatever above all others. In other words, giving only a passing nod to male breast cancer doesn’t win my affections. Focusing on “women’s rights” instead of “human rights” bothers me. God is no respecter of persons, and it’s immoral for us to show that kind of partiality.
I’m glad my post made it clear that my anti-abortion stance is an extension of my desire to preserve *human* life and *human* dignity rather than the root. The root really is a strong sense of justice and strong belief in the sanctity of all human life. Like I said, I have a vindictive streak a mile wide. Justice demands that all human life is precious, and justice demands the blood of him who sheds blood.
But that’s yet another tangent….
Kaci, were you by any chance thinking of this passage when you wrote that?
It’s far easier to say this about a collective Everyone Else than to apply this behavior to oneself, in little ways that add up. But still: if God’s people could take the lead in showing this kind of impartiality — based not on Everyone’s Equally Special, but Everyone is Equally Sinful — and not let non-Christians define morality, perhaps the state of things would improve. Still, we’ll never have that until the New Earth.
Um, yes, I was, but you kinda lost me, I think.
My typo, saying partiality when I meant the exact opposite, might have done that.
I think I’m still confused, honestly.
In a sequel to a child’s fantasy, I have a garden of ‘beybe winged statues’ that are brought to life by their sculpture (the good King) using ‘shining orbs from the tree, Reviver. The living beybes are sent to their new parents, yes by storks. One day the entire garden is destroyed (abortion/infanticide) by ‘evil ones’, invoking a wrath not seen before in the King.
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:2