Where Logic Meets Love

Blog Comment Carnival: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

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Blog Comment Carnival: November 2012 | Faith Permeating Life

At the end of every month, I share my favorite comments from that month's posts, and you're invited to do the same and link up below!

Wow, y'all wrote some looooong comments this month. Obviously, this makes me very happy, but it also can make for a giant Blog Comment Carnival post. So some of the comments listed below are excerpts from longer comments. As always, I highly recommend that you click through the original posts and read the full discussions there, and join in if you feel so moved!

First off, I gave some advice to college students (and anyone) trying to make decisions about how to spend their time, asking the key question: Procrastination... or Carpe Diem?

Emily still remembers the fun things she did in college:
I'm probably a bad influence on college students - because I LOVED doing those random things. Granted, I probably should have studied more. I got decent grades, but if I had worked harder I probably would have done MUCH better. But honestly, I don't think I would change anything if I could go back. There might be a few instances where I would go back to my room and get work done, but there aren't many. Granted, my friends and I weren't partiers. When we all turned 21 we would go to the bar and have a few drinks, but we never got into the "lets get wasted" parties. So there's that. But the random 3am IHOP trips, all nighters in the computer lab, stupid crap we would do on campus. Nope - I wouldn't change it. That's how my friends and I got to be so close, and a lot of them I still consider to be some of the greatest friends and memories I'll ever have. I would never want to tell someone to miss out on that. Yes, get your work done, pass, get your degree. But have fun too! This is the time to try new things and meet new people.

Queen of Carrots shared how this applies past college:
I think what you said about most procrastination not being "carpe diem" is so true, and not just for college. Or as I think it was put in *Screwtape Letters*: "I have spent most of my life doing neither what I want, nor what I ought." It helps me sometimes to stop and think: Is this really what I want to do? If it's not, then usually it's because there's something I ought to do that I'm putting off--sometimes just noticing gives me the focus I need to do it and move on to what I want to do, or sometimes I realize I'm just not in a state to do it and would be better off doing something else anyway. Either way, I'm not just stalling my life away.

I responded to a reader's question in Pregnancy, Fear, and NFP: Response to a Reader.

Becca left a fantastic three-part comment, saying in part:
Regina, I think it's important to remember that all methods of avoiding conception can fail. NFP practiced carefully is about as effective as birth control pills (about 4 couples per 100 will conceive within a year using these methods) and more effective than condoms (about 14 per 100). As Jessica explained, most NFP "failures" are caused by deciding not to abstain after all at a time when you know there might be some chance of conception.

So, the risk is not in choosing NFP over another method but in choosing to have sex at all. Risk is built into it--and I think it's odd that so many people seem not to understand that, both non-Catholics who assume their contraception is foolproof (without ever bothering to read the facts) and freak out when it wasn't, and Catholics who snarl about how those contraceptors have it so easy with their constant carefree sex.

Queen of Carrots also left a great long comment, saying in part:
Very good thoughts and I also liked Becca's thoughts. When we used NFP, we had far more confidence in it than we would have in artificial methods; it felt more like something under my, not control exactly, but purview. If it failed, it would be most likely my own carelessness; therefore I could counterbalance it by being more careful. I had a place to go with anxiety; something I could actually DO. (I have far less confidence in the vasectomy, ironically--we know at least two couples who conceived post-vasectomy. But the combination of NFP with my husband's irregular health was getting too hard.)

Something I realized over time is that everyone who is having sex (except those permanently, irrevocably sterile through age or removal of all relevant body parts) either has some of this anxiety or is being naive. People are either trying to get pregnant and worrying about that or trying not to get pregnant and worrying about that. It's like being a farmer--there is much that modern technology has helped us with, but there is still that part that is outside our control. I think that is a good thing. We were not wired to be masters of the universe.

On my 27th birthday, I addressed my 17-year-old self in A Birthday Letter to Myself (or Thoughts on the Past 10 Years).

Becca was inspired:
Happy birthday! Thanks for posting this. You motivated me to Google my high school journalism teacher and e-mail her to tell her how deeply glad I am that I took two classes with her senior year instead of taking calculus--it was the first thing that leaped to mind as I thought about what I would tell my teenaged self. (I took calc in college, no big deal. I could not take journalism at my college--it wasn't offered--but even if I could have, it wouldn't have been the same as Mz. T's challenging and inspiring classes.)

It turns out that the things that make you weird can work to your advantage.
That is a great message for teenagers! It's very true, in my experience.

And Greg Calhoun added:
A letter along these lines would have been a great comfort to me a teenager. Congrats on this milestone in your excellent blogging adventure

Finally, the post that seemed to hit home for the most people was How Privilege Sees Thanksgiving.

perfectnumber628 wants to overcome that kind of privileged view:
Well-said. I'm going to link to this post from my blog. :) It's so easy to think everyone else's life is the same as mine, and to not even realize that I'm thinking that, and how completely incorrect it is. And that's basically why I'm going to move to China- otherwise I'll think I know everything.

Alice heard a very different Thanksgiving Day message:
It's funny how my pastor seemed to take the opposite route. He talked about how there are so many basic "first article" gifts that we are given no matter our position or situation in life. We all have air, we all have lungs, our breaths are given to us. And while I suppose that isn't universally true, it resonated with me, and several of my friends, who are all feeling a loss or a sense of loneliness this year. That even when we don't have family or friends or a home or enough to eat, there are little reminders of God's love for us, and something to be thankful for.
Thanks for taking the time to share such great thoughts on this month's posts!


Jessica's Adventures in Exercising: Update

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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Jessica's Adventures in Exercising: Update | Faith Permeating Life

Given that we're in the time of the year when people tend to gain a pound or two, it seems like a good time to give you an update on my exercise plan so you know I didn't fall off the wagon in the past few months.

When we last left off I was still unemployed and so had jumped in with both feet to find an exercise regimen that worked for me, doing a combination of Couch to 5K, Wii Fit, and fitness classes.

What I'm Doing Now

Now that I'm working, and I basically leave in the dark and come home in the dark, I moved my running days to Saturday and Sunday, which has worked well. (Unlike the lovely stock photo here, there is no track on campus, so I run in the nearby neighborhood.) I just finished Couch to 5K this past weekend (yay!). The rec center on campus added two evening Zumba classes, on Tuesday and Thursday, so I go to those and drag various friends along with me when I can. I'm still trying to do Wii Fit occasionally, particularly when I need to stretch out sore muscles, but our Wii is on its last legs and keeps giving us error messages, so I'll have to take a break from that until we get a new one. I've also started doing a few of these ab exercises each night before bed.


What Has Changed

The biggest change has to be in my cardiovascular endurance. Couch to 5K starts you out with intervals of 60 seconds jogging, 90 seconds walking, which were doable but tough. The fact that I can now jog for half an hour without stopping is still amazing to me. I haven't quite jogged a full 5K (about 3.1 miles) as I'm still a slow jogger; in half an hour I've been able to jog about 2.4 miles. But that's more than fine with me! After how excruciating it used to be to run the mile in gym class, this is something to be proud of.

My calves have become rock solid muscle, which still catches me by surprise when I feel them. At the same time I seem to have developed cellulite in my thighs, which is confusing and frustrating. Also, my weight has started to creep back up, I think because I'm gaining muscle, but it seems a little strange when I'm basically doing hard aerobic exercise four times a week. I'm more concerned with my health and fitness than with my body image or weight, though, so I'm not going to worry too much about this for the moment.

Also, I've been doing the ab exercises for a few weeks now and they seem to be getting easier, so it seems like my abs must be getting stronger.


Where I Go From Here

I downloaded the 5K to 10K app because I liked using the Couch to 5K one for my jogs, and I'm happy to see that rather than just adding longer and longer times like the other one did, this app helps you move from jogging speed to running speed. That's really what I need at this point, so I can run a longer distance without giving up too much more of my time on the weekends.

The semester is winding down here, so unfortunately I only have a few more weeks of Zumba classes and then winter break, and I don't know what the fitness class schedule will be next semester. Classes help keep me on track in a way I can't do on my own, and I wish there were more evening fitness classes, but the only other one is a 9pm yoga class, and that's just too late for me. Depending on what next semester's class schedule is I may have to pony up for a real gym membership off campus to keep myself going. (At least the gyms all have sales in January, right?)

I'm going to try to keep up my ab exercises but add more repetitions each month. I've been using Illuum (recommended by Nikkiana on this post!) to keep myself accountable for doing them every night.

How do you keep yourself healthy and fit? Are you planning any New Year's resolutions around exercise?

How Privilege Sees Thanksgiving

Friday, November 23, 2012

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How Privilege Sees Thanksgiving | Faith Permeating Life

This year for Thanksgiving we did something neither of us had ever done, which was to go to Mass. Living on a Catholic campus as we do now, we didn't have much excuse for not walking the five minutes to church yesterday morning and joining the assortment of priests, other hall directors, and students still on campus. Celebrating Mass with that small community was a very cool feeling.

What was less cool was the homily. When Mike and I discussed it later, he said that this particular priest tends to be social justice-minded, so the things he said -- or rather, didn't say -- in his homily were somewhat surprising. But I think it also goes to show how easy it is to slip back into a privileged mindset if you're not paying attention.

The homily started out well, talking about how since the time of Abraham Lincoln, Americans have set aside this day to be thankful for the blessings in our life. That in many ways, Catholics get to celebrate "thanksgiving" every week, coming together to give thanks to God and share a "feast" together.

It gave me a new perspective on the holiday, that even if the origins of the holiday hearken back to a rather ugly time in our nation's history, the remaking of the holiday into a day of gratitude is a nice end result. Other holidays, like Christmas and Easter, have religious (and pagan) origins that have been transformed to be more commercialized, while Thanksgiving has actually managed to continue to represent mainly good things -- gratitude, family, and (maybe a little too much) good food. If you don't see it as a continuation of "the feast of the pilgrims and Indians" and instead see it simply as a national day of gratitude, it's a pretty cool thing for a nation to have.

Unfortunately, this is where things started to go south.

First was the claim that "all 300 million-plus Americans take the time off today to celebrate this day of gratitude." This started my statistical mind immediately thinking about exceptions. Do all Americans celebrate Thanksgiving? What about Native Americans? What about people who have to work, who aren't given the option to take the day off or can't afford to? Sure, it's a nice image to think that the entire country stops what they're doing to celebrate a holiday as one people, but it's completely unrealistic and untrue.

Then he went on to talk about how everyone would be gathering around big tables to have a feast with their loved ones. I thought this rather brazenly glossed over the fact that not everyone has enough to eat on a daily basis, let alone enough to have a huge feast on Thanksgiving. Not everyone has a home to sleep in, let alone a big table at which to eat a feast. And even among people who can get enough to eat, not everyone has a group of loved ones to eat with.

I thought he was going to acknowledge this when he said in a solemn tone, "Some people..." but then he finished it with, "will take time today to serve at a soup kitchen." Yeah, and some people will take time today to eat at a soup kitchen, I thought. Why no mention of them?

Instead he went on to talk about how not only will we "all" have a feeling of internal gratitude for Thanksgiving, but some people would be moved to have an outpouring of gratitude toward others, taking time out of their holiday to serve "...the poor." That's the only mention they get, a mumbled couple of words at the end of a sentence.

As the priest talked more about this wonderful feeling of gratitude and blessedness that every single American apparently feels during Thanksgiving, I thought about all the stories I'd read recently of people facing horrible life situations this Thanksgiving, feeling anything but grateful for the state of their lives. Where was the reassurance for those who were struggling to feeling blessed this holiday season?

It made me think about the way that many people talk about the 1950s, about when everybody felt safe, everybody knew their neighbors by name, and women all stayed home and tended to the house and children. Of course, this glosses over things like, oh, families who were too poor to have either parent stay home or even for their oldest children to go to school, single mothers who didn't have a male breadwinner they could stay home and cook for, and the millions of people who had to worry about being the victim of a hate crime or being carted off to jail for no reason other than their skin color. Sure, the 1950s sound pretty good... if your little corner of the world was great, and you just assume everyone else's was too.

The kicker of this homily was the part about family harmony. According to this priest, this is the one day of the year when kids give their parents a break by behaving perfectly, and everyone in the family puts aside their differences and arguments to be perfect and loving to each other all day. Because that's what happened in his family when he was a kid, so obviously that's how everyone's Thanksgivings are.

At this point I nearly started crying because one of the worst family experiences we ever had happened on Thanksgiving and will forever be linked to that holiday for me and Mike now. And I know so many people who dread any holiday they have to spend with their family because they have to face a barrage of criticism about their weight or their job or who they're dating or that they're not dating anyone or that they're gay or liberal or Christian or whatever. Humans are imperfect beings, and we need someone to help us find love and forgiveness and gratitude despite the fact that our loved ones may hurt us -- not lies about how everyone's families behave perfectly because it's Thanksgiving.

The homily really bothered me for two reasons: 1) it betrayed a massively privileged view of the world, and 2) it had no point. There was no point in getting up and saying, "Isn't it awesome how every single person in our entire country celebrates this holiday in exactly the same way and eats delicious food and feel loved and grateful and spends a perfectly loving and civil time with their family?" Perhaps if that were actually true, it would be something to be in awe of. But it's the equivalent of getting up and saying, "Isn't it great how there's no unemployment and no poverty and no hunger and no pain and no fighting in our country?" Not only is it patently false, but it also just magnifies the isolation felt by those who are struggling because you've just told them that every single other person has no problems.

If there's one message I try to hammer home on this blog, it's this: Everyone else is not just like you. Whether we're talking about sex or marriage or abilities or faith, we are a diverse people in this world and there is no one-size-fits-all lifestyle for us. If we want to truly see others and understand them and love them as they need to be loved, we must start by acknowledging that our own story is not the only story.

To my American readers, I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving holiday this year. I hope you didn't have to work if you didn't want to, that you were able to spend the day with someone(s) you love, that you got to eat delicious food, and that you got to spend time doing things you enjoy doing.

But if you didn't -- if you had a lonely Thanksgiving, or you ended up in a big family argument, or you were somewhere you felt awkward or unwelcome, or the day just wasn't what you hoped it would be for one reason or another -- I hope you know that it's OK. There is no rule that says you have to feel flooded with gratitude and love and peace on Thanksgiving. Nothing guarantees that a holiday is going to be any different or better than any other day. And there are plenty of other people out there who had crappy Thanksgivings. The sun still rose today, and God is still there for you, and you can keep on being your awesome self even if you can't control how anyone else feels or acts. (You might also appreciate this beautiful prayer for thanksgiving from John Shore.)

We are all different, but we can still learn from each other. Rather than glossing over the difficulties of the holidays, let's encourage each other through them. What are some ways you get through the holidays when you're not feeling particularly grateful or peaceful?

What Should We Learn from Tamara and Savita?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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I am always hesitant to talk about abortion because it is a topic about which few people can talk calmly and reasonably, and it is calm, reasonable discussion on big topics that we celebrate here on this blog. It seems to be a topic on which it is difficult to get any information without some kind of spin, any story without having it put into place as part of a larger, politicized narrative. It tends to make people ignore whatever the particular message about it is and instead begin immediately screaming at each other, fighting the same battles over language, rights, politics, and beliefs that have been fought over and over and over again.

Yet I couldn't help but be struck by the similarities, and the stark contrast, between two stories I read recently.

First, there is Tamara Mann, a Jewish woman in the United States. She was told that her baby was forming in such a way that it would not live much longer. Originally she was holding out for a miracle, but then her doctor told her that the fetus was "not compatible with life," would not survive, and would cause greater risks to her health the longer she waited for the fetus to be taken out of her body. Because it still had a heartbeat, however, the state considered her to be having a voluntary abortion, though, as it turned out, the baby's heartbeat had stopped before the procedure began.

Second, there is Savita Halappanavar, a Hindu woman in Ireland. She was admitted to the hospital in pain at 17 weeks pregnant and found to be having a miscarriage. Savita asked if, since the baby was dying, labor could be induced so she would stop being in pain. She was told that because the fetus still had a heartbeat, it could not be removed. Irish law and legal precedent only allows termination of a pregnancy if there is a "real and substantial risk" to the life of the mother, and evidently the doctors did not consider there to be enough risk to her life. Savita began developing shakes, shivering, and vomiting, but was still told that the fetus could not be removed. Three days after she was admitted, after the baby's heartbeat had finally stopped, it could be surgically removed. Savita died shortly thereafter from a form of blood poisoning and an E.coli infection. Her death has sparked protests against Ireland's abortion laws. Whether she would have lived, had the pregnancy been terminated upon her arrival to the hospital, is being hotly debated between pro-life and pro-choice groups.

There are a lot of similarities between the two stories.

Both woman were married and wanted children; they were requesting to end their pregnancies not because their pregnancies were unwanted, but because they had been told that their babies were not going to survive, at which point they feared for their own health.

In both cases they were told that the fetus, even if it would not survive much longer, was considered alive so long as it had a heartbeat; both babies were eventually removed from their mother's wombs after their heartbeats had stopped.

Both women ran up against a system that wanted to stop them from getting an abortion: Tamara had to fight for her insurance company to cover the procedure, even though her doctor had told her it was the best option for her own personal health and safety, and then the state required her to sign a consent form because her abortion was considered an elective or voluntary one. Savita was denied the abortion until the baby's heartbeat stopped because an act passed in 1861 in Ireland meant that a doctor could potentially fact life imprisonment for performing an abortion that he or she could not prove was absolutely necessary to save Savita's life.

In both cases the laws that hindered or stopped them from getting an abortion were based on religious tenets to which the woman did not personally ascribe.

The stark contrast, of course, comes in the eventual fate of each woman: Tamara, who lived to tell her own story, and Savita, who died and whose story is now being fought over by other people.

I've shared my thoughts before on why I don't think laws are the best course of action for reducing the number of abortions. These stories are, for me, another reason why debates about abortion should not be reduced to legal language or statistics. People's lives, and their decisions, are never simple, are never black-and-white. When we base our arguments on stereotypes or technicalities or even what we consider fundamental truths about life, we risk losing sight of the living, breathing people whose pregnancies, whose children, we are arguing about.

At their cores, I believe that the pro-life movement is not about dismissing women's health but about deeply loving the unborn, and I believe that the pro-choice movement is not about hating children but about caring deeply about women. And I think it's important for everyone who wants to talk about this issue to stay grounded in that love and compassion from which their own position stems.

In particular, I think there's something wrong if you hear Savita's story and your first thought is either "This is why we need to change abortion laws" or "There is no medical evidence that an abortion would have saved her life." Would not a person grounded in love and compassion think first about Savita, lying in a hospital bed, in pain, grieving that her first child will not live, fearful of what will happen to her body, and feeling trapped by laws made by someone else's religion? What good can come out of forgetting her humanness and immediately reducing her to an argument or a statistic?

The reason why the abortion debate matters is because it's about real people. Let's not forget those real people in our rush to be right.

A Birthday Letter to Myself (or Thoughts on the Past 10 Years)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

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A Letter to Myself (or, Reflections on the Past 10 Years) | Faith Permeating Life

It blows my mind a little bit that it's only been a year since I launched my new blog design, which was just two months after getting a real URL and a Facebook fan page and introducing Three Books on Thursday. Even though I've been blogging for over three years now, it seems like it's only been a year that this site has been a "real blog."

So happy birthday to me, and happy birthday to my blog!

Stranger still is the realization of how long I've been out of high school now. Ten years ago I was in my junior year of high school. My sister is now a sophomore in high school. That is crazy.

Given how very much has changed in those past ten years, it seems like this would be an appropriate time to write one of those "letters to my past self" that I've seen people doing here and here and here and here and here and... you get the idea. Yes, I am a little slow to this bandwagon.

But seeing as I don't have a time machine and, even if I did, couldn't change the past (yes, I have been watching Doctor Who and reading The Time-Traveler's Wife, why do you ask?), it seems pointless to try to give myself advice like, "Cut your hair short" or "Stop asking guys out" since none of that actually happened. And if it had, perhaps I would not be the person I am today.

Instead, I'd just like to give my past self a little hope that I wish I'd had, and some life lessons that I've learned since then.

----

Dear 17-year-old Jessica,

Before you ask, yes, junior year is going to continue to be the best and worst year of high school. Spoiler alert: You get through it.

You can't control how other people act. Or feel. You can't stop other people from making mistakes. Those things you think are going to be horribly life-altering will be a big deal for a month -- maybe a year at most -- but not a lifetime. Life is long and contains pain here and there. That's OK.

Also, you're going to like your friends a lot better when you don't have to see them all day every day.

Despite what you think, you don't have any breathing problems and you're just horribly out of shape. Once you get to college, you'll actually have a doctor who listens to you and get some tests to prove that you're fine, and then later a doctor that figures out you need a pill for allergies. In ten years, you're going to be able to run for several miles without stopping. Yeah, I know, it shocked me too.

I know you think that you are never going to get married, but that's because your selection of guys right now is super-limited. Seriously. Just hold tight, because two years from now you're going to be on a great date with your future husband, during which you spill chicken pad thai all over your lap. Trust me, it's worth seeing past the fro, because he'll cut it at the end of the year anyway. He's amazing. Just you wait.

It doesn't prove anything to anyone for you to swear up and down that you're not going to change your college major. All it's going to do is make you agonize that much more when you can't get through your art classes and have to drop your photo major. Guess what? No one cares. No one even remembers that you swore you wouldn't change your major. You're not going to end up working in what you major in anyway, so it's somewhat irrelevant.

Yes, there's something to be said for determination, but flexibility is good too. You're not going to end up in the career you thought you wanted or living in the place where you thought you wanted to live. The options you end up with will make you far happier.

It turns out that the things that make you weird can work to your advantage. Like the fact that you don't want to drink in college is going to lead to you helping launch a new student organization, get an excellent on-campus job in alcohol abuse prevention education, and write an awesome master's thesis on messages about alcohol use at universities.

Oh yeah, did I mention you're going to get a master's degree? Don't worry, it will only take an extra year and won't cost anything. Actually, they're going to pay you to teach, which, I know, is hilarious and terrifying. You will feel completely incompetent for the entire first semester, but you will also love it to pieces. Surprises abound, right?

Also, you don't actually suck at talking to strangers or making friends, as much as that sends you into a panic now. You just need structure. Once you figure out a set of steps that works for you, you'll find yourself hooked on meeting new people -- really! But you won't stop being a homebody or an introvert who needs her quiet time. That's OK too.

Oh, did I mention that your future husband loves to cook? And do the dishes? And wants to be a stay-at-home dad? I'm telling you -- he's incredible.

By the way, you were right about the makeup. You don't need it. And your future husband hates it anyway. So go ahead and wear it when you want to, but know that you never need to.

Seriously, kid, just hang in there. It's completely OK to cry and feel miserable when life sucks. But just know that there is so much amazing stuff in store for you in the next ten years. And presumably beyond that as well... but I haven't gotten there yet.

Much love,

27-year-old Jessica

Synchroblog for Sanity: Why I Am a Christian Ally

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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Today I'm participating in the Synchroblog for Sanity hosted on Justin Lee's blog. Justin's book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate comes out today (see my review here).

The point of this synchroblog (which, in case you're not familiar, is a day where a bunch of bloggers all share posts on the same topic) is to bring the conversation on Christianity and homosexuality away from the polarizing rhetoric in which it's usually discussed and instead have some discussions about it that are, like, sane.

If you've been around for any length of time you know this is an important issue for me. I have a whole resource guide on Christianity and homosexuality devoted to relevant articles, videos, books, films, and more. I've posted tips for Christians wanting to talk about LGBTQ people without sounding like an idiot. I've written about how Christians wanting to condemn same-sex couples first having to define "sex," which is not as easy as it sounds.

But one thing I've never really discussed is Why.

Why do I, a straight cisgender woman, care so much about the LGBTQ community? And why do I care so much about changing other Christians' minds about them?

Pretty much everything can be traced back to the end of my sophomore year of high school, when I came across the blog of a 13-year-old boy who had just admitted to himself that he was bisexual. (Which, much like Justin Lee, was a stepping stone to admitting he was gay.)

This was really before "blog" was even a word; when I told friends that I liked reading about other people's lives online, they thought I was a weirdo. But for me, I knew that I could understand the world and other people better by hearing firsthand accounts of what it was like to be someone very different from me.

So this guy, who in the span of a couple years would become my best friend (and senior prom date!), was writing not only about coming to terms with his sexuality but about how this necessitated breaking away from the Christianity in which he'd grown up. It's the logic I've seen applied far too many times: God hates gay people, so accepting myself as gay means I must reject God.

For whatever reason, because of where I was in my faith at that point, I felt the need to argue with him and bring him back to Jesus. I'm not really sure that I had given much thought to gay people before, but I was certain of one thing, and that was that God loved everyone. So I left him comments on his posts, and we discussed things. This necessitated me doing a lot of research and finding out why, exactly, some Christians thought being gay was a sin, and how other Christians countered those arguments.

During the next year, I discovered that not only did he live somewhat near me, but he was on his high school's speech team, which meant that we'd be able to meet in person during the Regionals tournament -- about the safest option for meeting a random guy you met on the Internet, right? Anyway, the details of our awkward first meeting and how we became best friends over the next year or so are mostly irrelevant to the rest of the story, but this whole experience planted the seed for me to care about gay rights.

After that, I thought many times about joining my high school's gay-straight alliance, but I just couldn't get up the courage to do it. I knew that I cared a great deal about my friend, but I wasn't ready to be "out and proud" as an ally yet. I did participate in the Day of Silence my junior and senior year and didn't face any flak for it -- I didn't go to the most accepting high school, but it certainly wasn't a super-conservative, homophobic school either.

Also, at this point in time and in the location where I lived, "gay issues" were not really a topic of conversation at my Catholic church. I didn't face true Christian "love the sinner, hate the sin" rhetoric until one day at the Bible study I attended with some friends at a nearby non-denomnational Protestant-ish church. I have no idea how the topic came up, but I got in a big argument with the Bible study leader about gay people. Keep in mind that I knew exactly ONE gay person at this point in my life, but even then I knew that the things she was saying were false. Like she'd heard some speaker say that 90+% of gay people are gay because they were abused, and the rest just chose to "try that lifestyle." I knew only that nothing she was saying applied to my BFF, and so without any statistics to back me up, I simply continued to tell her she was wrong. And it hurt me that someone would say such terrible things about a person I cared about and think they were being a good Christian.

Shortly after I started college, one of my good friends from high school came out of the closet. So that brought the grand total of gay people I knew up to two. I still wasn't an out-and-proud advocate, but I now had two people I cared about to protect from lies and hatred.

I was now on a Catholic campus, albeit a fairly liberal one; about the only time I heard a mention of homosexuality was a passing mention when someone was listing off examples of sexual sins. However, the summer after my freshman year I went to work for Group Workcamps, a Christian organization, and the college students who made up summer staff were divided up into teams of four. (I found out later through talking with other teams that they'd grouped people by denomination -- except the Catholics, who were each put with three Protestants. I was with the Lutherans.)

One day I was in the supply truck with one of my teammates when the topic of homosexuality came up. I remember that she believed the typical lies about gay people -- that being gay was a choice, or was caused by abuse or bad parenting -- but that she was willing to listen as I told her about the gay people I knew and how they didn't fit the stereotypes. She ended up drawing a parallel to alcoholism because her father was an alcoholic, and while it wasn't the greatest analogy, it helped her understand how something that other people thought was a choice could actually not be a choice at all.

So that's basically how I started on the path to becoming a vocal ally: Some other Christians tried to tell me some lies about people I cared about, and I went all Mama Bear on them and told them they were wrong.

My junior year I joined the gay-straight alliance at my college, which you can read more about here. Through this group I met a lot more gay guys, some lesbians, a handful of bisexual people, and the first transgender person I ever met. Through seeing the struggles this trans guy went through trying to transition while at school, I became more passionate about trans rights. I got TransGeneration on DVD and watched the 20/20 episode on trans children. For one of my journalism classes I wrote an article on the lack of resources for transgender individuals in our city, which was almost run by the local paper until it turned out they were already planning to run a story that was like, "Hey, transgender people exist!" and apparently that was the same thing. (/sarcasm)

It saddened me a great deal that many of my friends in the alliance had left Christianity behind when they came out. Not all of them, of course -- given that we were at a Catholic university, there were still way more Catholics in the group than you'd likely find at an average gay rights group meeting. But I found myself speaking up again and again on behalf of straight Catholics. I corrected misperceptions: No, the Catholic church's position isn't perfect, but they do say being gay isn't a choice. And most of all, I tried to be a face of straight, Christian support: I love Jesus, and I love you, and to me these are not at odds with each other.

Second semester of junior year, Mike and I took a class about LGBTQ issues, and I joined a committee of students from the class to plan the second year of a pro-gay T-shirt campaign on campus. As the only person in both the class and the gay-straight alliance, I served as a liaison between the two groups and eventually helped transition the management of the annual campaign over to the alliance once the professors decided the class couldn't do it anymore. By the time I was helping run the campaign for the third year, I didn't even try to correct the person from the school paper who clearly assumed I was a lesbian. It didn't matter what people thought about me -- it mattered only that our LGBTQ community on this Catholic campus, especially the new first-year students, saw that there were people willing to voice their unequivocal support.

That's the story of how I became an ally, but it's not the whole answer to those questions I asked at the beginning.

My friends in the LGBTQ community are not the only ones who face discrimination because of something inherent in themselves. But they are the ones most likely to face blatant, unapologetic discrimination. They are the ones who still lack many basic legal protections in most parts of the United States. It's not to say that racism and sexism and ableism and the like don't still exist, because they most certainly do, but discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is where I personally see the biggest gaping hole in our society's claim to treat all people equally. Except perhaps for our society's poor treatment of people with mental illness, it's the discrimination that I see most consistently leading to people becoming homeless, or drug-addicted, or suicidal.

And similarly, these issues are where I see the biggest problems in Christianity in America. It is Christian's treatment of and rhetoric about LGBTQ people that most makes me feel distant from my Christian brothers and sisters, that most makes me ashamed for the hurtful things said and done in the name of Jesus. It is within Christian churches that I see flat-out lies and misinformation most often spread about sexual orientation and gender identity. And because of this, I see people -- both gay and straight, cis and trans -- continuing to turn away from Christianity. Because of something that isn't even remotely central to the Bible, and completely unmentioned by Jesus!

I've tied myself to this cause because it affects people I care about, because it's an area where equality lags far behind, and because I can't stand to see Christianity tied to lies and judgment.

I want to see more patience, more compassion, and more understanding in the conversation around Christianity and homosexuality because I don't want any more people to feel they have to choose between lying about themselves, hating themselves, or turning away from God.

If you care about this issue, or just want to know more about it, I can't recommend highly enough the book that came out today, Torn by Justin Lee. I don't get any benefits from saying that except for the knowledge that this book has the power to change minds and bring sanity back into this conversation.

I also invite you to check out the other contributions to today's Synchroblog for Sanity. It's time to bring some peace and sanity back to discussing the issues that are tearing so many people's lives apart.

Pregnancy, Fear, and NFP: Response to a Reader

Friday, November 9, 2012

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Pregnancy, Fear, and NFP: Response to a Reader | Faith Permeating Life

On the post Being Pro-NFP Doesn't Require Being Anti-Everything Else, I received a comment that I thought deserved its own post as a response.

I should probably mention upfront that this post deals with both my and the commenter's dislike of the idea of being pregnant, so it might be a painful or offensive post for anyone currently struggling with infertility and a desire to be pregnant. Also, if you think it's a Christian woman's God-given duty to bear children, you probably won't get anything out of this post and might want to just leave now.

Regina wrote:
Hi Jessica,
I was just curious if you ever feel afraid that using NFP could fail for you? I absolutely never ever want to have children and have a huge fear of getting pregnant. This is partly because I have two special needs brothers and a lot of anxiety issues. But I was also raised to be very Catholic and part of that anxiety includes the fear and threat of hell. I'm not sure I could ever use contraception because I just picture the endless hell stretched out before me when I die. But on the other hand, I have too much fear that if I rely solely on NFP I would get pregnant and don't know if I could handle that at all. So I basically feel my only option is to remain single and hope that I reach my later years and can find a mate. It's just always been a dream of mine to get married and have love so it's hard to be so alone now. (I'm 26 right now.)

There's a lot to unpack here, and I'm going to do my best, but I hope many of you thoughtful, brilliant readers will take some time and share your thoughts as well.

The first and primary question is Am I ever afraid that NFP will fail?

Natural Family Planning, as I've said before, is a method of tracking one's fertility, though it usually comes lumped with a whole package of theology about contraception, sex, marriage, and so on. It can be used to achieve pregnancy, but given the context of Regina's question and the way Mike and I use it, a "failure" here would be a pregnancy. Whether being pregnant would actually be a bad thing is something I'll get to in a moment.

In order for Natural Family Planning the method to fail, it would mean that a woman would get and record signs from her body indicating (according to the rules of the specific method she was using) that she had ovulated, would wait the few days for the egg to leave her body, and then would have intercourse and become pregnant.

But as Toni Weschler explains well in Taking Charge of Your Fertility, the line between method failure and user error in NFP is so fuzzy as to be practically non-existent. For example, I use the sympto-thermal method of NFP, a combination of basal body temperature and cervical fluid observations. I don't check and record my cervix position because I feel confident based on the two signs I do use that I know exactly when I've ovulated. I would feel less confident if I were to use only cervical fluid observations because I don't see those as pinpointing ovulation clearly, though I know many women feel confident using only cervical fluid. And it's certainly possible that were I to become pregnant using this method, someone might say it was because I didn't use the third sign of cervix position to verify my fertility signs.

I'm sure there must be some women out there who felt they had a clear handle on tracking their fertility signs, abstained what should have been the appropriate number of days after ovulation, and still became pregnant, but I haven't heard one of those stories. And if that were the case, it would not be immediate obvious what the cause was: Did the woman interpret her chart incorrectly? Did she not chart accurately in the first place? Or did she do everything perfectly and her body somehow indicated, according to the rules of NFP, that it had ovulated when it actually had not? Only this last could really be called a failure of the method, and then only of the particular method she was using (sympto-thermal, Billings, Creighton, etc.).

When I've heard stories of NFP "not working," they've always fallen into one of these categories:
  • The woman's body indicated that she was potentially fertile, but the couple decided to have intercourse anyway.
  • The woman or couple was confused about how to interpret her fertility signs, but decided to have intercourse anyway.
  • The woman or couple was misinformed about how to practice NFP, or conflated NFP with an unreliable method such as the Rhythm Method (which assumes ovulation happens on the same day every cycle).

So all of this to say that, no, I don't really worry about becoming pregnant while practicing NFP. We use a pretty conservative set of rules about when we have intercourse and I have a lot of practice charting by now, so something pretty crazy would have to happen with my body for me to somehow think I had ovulated when I actually hadn't.

I would actually be a lot more afraid of using another form of birth control, personally. When hormonal birth control fails, it's not always (or even usually) because of user error; in other words, you could take the Pill exactly as you're supposed to every day and still get pregnant because it didn't work the way it was supposed to. I actually trust NFP more than I even trust tubal ligation, knowing at least one person who got pregnant after supposedly being rendered sterile. But that's where my own personal comfort level is, because I trust my own reliability of charting, accuracy of interpretation, and self-control not to have intercourse when I'm fertile. I don't try to push NFP on everyone because I know not everyone feels comfortable with the demands of NFP.

Then there's the issue of what would happen should I become pregnant.

I've written previously about how much I don't want to be pregnant and how I've mostly made peace with this. Besides my visceral recoiling at the idea of being pregnant, there are genetic conditions on both my and Mike's sides that raise ethical issues about knowingly passing these things on to biological children.

There's a great book called Stumbling on Happiness, which I've mentioned before, that talks in part about how bad humans generally are at anticipating how they will feel at some point in the future. In the simplest terms possible, when we think about ourselves in the future we assume we will be pretty much exactly like we are currently, except if something drastic were to happen to us, in which case we overestimate the impact it would have on us.

So you may have heard about the phenomenon that people think winning the lottery will make them infinitely happier than they currently are, whereas in reality most lottery winners have an initial spike of happiness and then return basically to where they were before. The interesting thing is that the reverse is also true; that is, people believe that some terrible event, such as getting cancer, would absolutely devastate them and ruin their life, whereas the reality is that people adjust surprisingly well to terrible events. I mean, it sucks, but it doesn't suck as bad as they thought it would because it quickly becomes their new normal.

I've heard from both my own readers and those on other sites' posts like this one at Offbeat Mama and this one at From Two to One who hated the experience of being pregnant... but they lived. It doesn't change my mind about not wanting to be pregnant, but it also reassures me that even if it happened and was as bad as I imagined, I would get through it.

It sounds like you're also concerned, like I am, that getting pregnant would mean passing on undesirable genetic conditions to your biological child(ren). The way I think about it is this: By choosing not to get pregnant, I am making what I consider an ethically positive decision not to knowingly create a human being who has a good likelihood of having lifelong health problems. However, we plan to adopt children, and even if we adopted an infant who was not genetically predisposed to health problems, they might still develop health problems. That's part of the nature of being human -- people get in accidents, they develop cancer, they have terrible things happen to them. Everyone wants to give their children the best possible chance in life, but it's unrealistic to think you can predict and prevent any bad thing from happening to them. If I were to unintentionally become pregnant and pass on genetic conditions to our child, I would have to accept that I had done what I could to prevent that from happening and that I can't protect my child from everything.

I also think it's important to address this issue of whether using contraception will send you to hell.

I'm not going to attempt to argue the finer points of Catholic theology with you on this because, frankly, different theologians and different priests would tell you different things anyway. But it brings to mind a great homily that our priest back in Chicago gave about Jesus telling His followers to be perfect like God is perfect, and other such impossibly high standards. The point, the priest said, is not that you must meet a standard of perfection in order to make it to heaven. The point is that the standard is so high that no one can earn their way into heaven. Even Catholic theology, though it emphasizes the importance of faith and works in salvation, doesn't say that you are saved by your works but rather that your works are necessary evidence of your faith, in accordance with James 2:14-26. By making the standard impossibly high, Jesus is making us aware of just how short we fall... and how much, therefore, we need Him.

Using NFP is not a ticket to heaven. You don't earn heaven points for not using contraception. Using NFP can be a sign of someone's faith in God, but that doesn't mean that using artificial contraception is a sign that they've turned their back on God.

For some much blunter discussion about whether there's actually a hell or whether it even matters (actually, for blunt discussions on just about everything), I suggest checking out johnshore.com.

Finally, let's talk about this notion of the importance of finding a mate.

First, I think it's necessary to ask yourself why it's important to you to get married. There are a lot of great reflections from different people here on the meaning of marriage. In particular, I think you might find Karen's post on why she wants to get married helpful in thinking through this. (I'm not going to get into the whole issue of whether a long-term commitment needs to be a married one, given your clear concerns about Catholic teaching and also the fact that your first concern is finding someone to be in that relationship with in the first place.)

Karen lists some reasons that I think are pretty good ones for wanting to get married, and I say that because ultimately none of them require her to find a husband in order to having a fulfilling and happy life. And that's really key for me. If your reasons for wanting to get married hinge on an idea that you can't be happy in your life without marriage, then you'll probably have difficulty being happy with your life even if you do get married.

Do you want to get married because you feel you're supposed to get married? Work on separating out what things make you happy from what things other people tell you will or should make you happy. Do you think that marriage is the only way to guarantee you'll be continually loved? There are no guarantees when it comes to other human beings, only God. Start by nurturing the relationships you do have. Do you feel incomplete without a life partner? Then even in a relationship you won't be fully yourself; you'll just be fearful of doing something wrong to end your partner's affections. Pursue those things that make you feel most alive and most yourself, and don't worry about whether those things make you attractive to potential mates.

I think you might appreciate this post on marriage from the blog of a friend who is planning to become a Sister. It's a good reminder that God calls everyone in different ways, even if it's not what they envisioned for their lives. And that goes for everything from whether you'll be married to what kind of birth control you'll use to whether you'll end up having children. I think it's important to prayerfully ask God to guide our lives, to pull us toward the path meant for us, while always remembering that God's plan is bigger and wiser than we can ever be. And that's not something to be afraid of.

One final thought is that if you don't already have a counselor helping you dealing with your anxiety issues, please make that a priority! I think basically everyone could benefit from a good counselor at one point or another, and it's especially needed if you are having fears or issues that are seriously impacting your outlook on life.

Readers, what do you think?

A Perspective on Politics after a Lifetime

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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A Perspective on Politics after a Lifetime | Faith Permeating Life

I'm writing this Tuesday night before the presidential election has been called, and I'm sure that most of the blogosphere will be consumed with dissecting the election before the political rhetoric finally, mercifully, dies down for a while.

I have lots of thoughts about the American electoral system, but it's probably not anything you haven't heard before. Instead, I just want to briefly share with you something I came across while transcribing my great-grandfather's writings. It was written in 1976, the bicentennial anniversary of the United States of America, at which point my great-grandfather was 80 years old.
We have just about reached the end of another year, the Bi-Centennial year of the U.S. There was a lot of celebrating over the 200th birthday of our country, but to a great many people it did not mean any more than other years which had slipped by. I have lived 2/5 of those 200 years and have seen some changes made in the administrations which held office in those years, but there was little difference to the average citizen. Politicians make a lot of promises during their campaigns, but when in office find that they can do little to regulate the trends of business highs and lows with the resultant unemployment or peak employment going along with that trend.
Certainly it's not accurate to say that the president or any other elected official has no effect on individual American citizens. But I think it's a good reminder that so much of what happens in our day-to-day lives isn't so much affected by decisions made at the very top but by what happens face-to-face between people. We impact many, many more people with how we treat them on a daily basis than with how we cast our ballots once or twice a year.

For Christians, how we vote and who wins will always be less important than whether we strive each day to follow the greatest commandments:
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)

Procrastination... or Carpe Diem?

Friday, November 2, 2012

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Procrastination... or Carpe Diem? | Faith Permeating Life

One of the fun and interesting things about being back on a college campus is getting re-immersed in the entirely different culture in which (many) college students live. Those living on campus spend the vast majority of their time around people their own age -- learning, eating, working out, hanging out, walking around campus, etc. And all those people have the same limited set of priorities and concerns: classes, schoolwork, extracurriculars, roommates, friendships, dating... I remember when my biggest problems were an incompetent professor or a lazy group project member. What were once all-consuming worries of my own have passed, and are now the all-consuming worries of the students I see every day.

At the beginning of the school year, all the student athletes in our building had to interview their hall director (Mike) and, among other things, ask for a piece of advice. Mike told them: Don't procrastinate. Start projects early. Do a little at a time. And so on. The things he wished he'd done better in college.

It made me think back to my own college days and just how crazy busy I was between homework and student organizations. How after the first day of class I'd make a big calendar of all my major assignments that semester to see where they were going to overlap. How my junior year I took the two hardest courses of my college career in the same semester and seemed to spend every moment of free time in our building's study room, researching and typing.

And yet...

The other night we had a fire alarm go off at 3am and everyone evacuated out onto the quad in their pajamas. I found out the next day that a bunch of girls in our building decided to go out for pancakes at a 24-hour diner since they were already awake anyway, and the waitress felt sorry for them and gave them free pie. And I found myself thinking about all of the spur-of-the-moment fun things I did in college, too. Especially when Mike and I were first getting to know each other, like when he pulled me away from my homework on a Saturday night to go make wax hand molds in the student union. Or when some girls on my floor threw a spontaneous dance party and packed a dozen or more of us into their tiny dorm room. Or the various excursions to go sledding down the big campus hill before the school put up signs prohibiting it.

In my experience, college provides more of these "carpe diem" type moments than most other times in one's life. Just about any fun or crazy thing you can come up with, you've got a bunch of people you know in your immediate vicinity to potentially jump on the bandwagon. And thus there are more of these either-or, "good" vs. "bad" decisions: Do I work on this paper, or go sledding? Go out for pancakes, or go back to bed?

I thought about what advice I would give students about how to make those kinds of decisions. And the more I think about it, the more I think that these reflections on time and priorities in college can shed light on how to craft our time and priorities in life outside of college.

Here are some thoughts I have:

Determining your priorities helps you make decisions
There's a great video from Ramit Sethi in which he interviews one of his friends about her priorities while in college. They each figured out what exactly they wanted to get out of college (rather than assuming their top goal was "get the best grades humanly possible"), and then could decide how to spend their time based on those priorities. It's the same kind of thought process I used when making my recent decision about which job to take, figuring out that it was most important to my overall happiness to 1) spend my time doing interesting and meaningful work and 2) learn a lot, rather than simply trying to make as much money as I could. I also try to remind myself that having great experiences and making memories with the people I love is more important in the grand scheme of things than getting 8 hours of sleep every single night of my life.

Most procrastination is not "carpe diem"
I think sometimes people talk as if someone who succeeds in school or work is by default missing out on the wonderful adventures and memories of life because they must have their "nose to the grindstone." But from my own experience and observations, the student who consistently fails to spend enough time on their homework probably isn't spending all that time having late-night snowball fights or going to salsa dancing events. Most of that time is probably getting sucked away by the usual suspects: Facebook. Twitter. Cat videos. Video games. What I found for myself was that when I started committing to saying "yes" to social events, I wasn't actually sacrificing that much time for important things like sleep or work; the time I was giving up was time that otherwise would have been wasted away on the Internet.

What's fun for you may not be fun for me
This is one of Gretchen Rubin's "Secrets of Adulthood." I know some people thought I was a boring stick-in-the-mud sometimes in college because I chose staying in on a weekend night to do homework over going out to a party, but it's not necessarily because homework was always my top priority. For one thing, I don't drink alcohol and don't even really like the smell of it, so even when I was of age I didn't really want to go to parties where everyone would be drinking. And even though I helped start a student organization that hosted alcohol-free weekend parties, I didn't always want to go to those either; I'm an introvert, and being around lots of people for a long period of time utterly exhausts me. Nowadays I try to balance "saying yes" and spending time with people with being honest about what things are truly not enjoyable for me. There's often no point in being dragged away from a project to do something "fun" that's not going to be fun for me.

What would you tell a college freshman about balancing schoolwork and fun? How does that translate to life outside college?

3BoT Vol. 13: Three Novels You'll Think About for Days

Thursday, November 1, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 13: Three Novels You'll Think About for Days | Faith Permeating Life

The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more info about Three Books on Thursday.

It's been a while since I shared some fiction recommendations with you. I actually read quite a bit of fiction, but I'm picky about liking a book enough to recommend it. A book has to have a real impact on me; I'm unlikely to recommend it if I've forgotten about it by the next day.

Thus, these recommendations are books that turned me upside-down. They all involve people in radically different life situations than my own -- deep in the jungles of Africa, amidst a worldwide pandemic, or in a dystopian future. They're all novels that eventually lead you to ask of yourself: "What would I do in this situation?"

Check out these three books and ask yourself the same challenging question:


#1: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
What happens when a Southern minister goes to live in the Congo with his wife and four daughters? That's the question this book lays out, and then answers in the alternating voices of each of those women. They each handle it differently: Mother, by pretending everything is exactly the same as it was, until she utterly cracks and gives up completely; Rachel, by moaning at how unfair life is and wishing to leave by any means necessary; Leah, by idolizing her father and trying to learn from him; Adah, by silently observing and taking refuge in language; and Ruth May, by teaching the other children games, all while Father shows condescension to the "natives" and tries to civilize them with his American Christian ways. Each learns as much as they've opened themselves to learning, and what eventually happens to each of them in many ways results from their own viewpoint and decisions.





#2: Blindness by José Saramago
A man is suddenly struck blind, then the doctor who examines him is as well, and soon it is spreading across the city. At first the blind are quarantined in a hospital, but the blindness is so contagious that it eventually spreads to the rest of the world. Humans are reduced to their animal instincts, scavenging, bargaining, and even killing for food, with no way to organize themselves or guide one another. We see everything that happens through the perspective of the one woman who appears to be immune to the disease, the doctor's wife, who pretends to be blind so as to accompany her husband into the quarantine hospital. It's a horrifying and captivating book that forces you to ask questions about who humans are at their core, and in turn, who you are at your core and what you would do in the same situation.





#3: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This book, which many of you have probably read by now, was one I couldn't put down and then never wanted to pick up again. It seriously messed me up in the way that only a well-written book can. It's set in a post-apocalyptic time in which the United States, now called Panem, is divided into "districts," and the government requires each distinct to send two children as "tributes," male and female, to fight to the death in a televised match as a way of reminding the people that the government -- the Capitol -- is in charge. The first-person narration is from the point of view of Katniss, who is sent to the Hunger Games as her district's tribute after volunteering to take the place of her little sister. It's impossible to read this book and not come away with all sorts of moral questions: Would I kill someone else to keep from being killed? Would I risk my life for someone I love? Could I ever become numb enough to watch something like this on TV?



What book have you read that stayed with you for days afterward?

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