Truth, Beauty, and Light for a Hardened World

We are created in the image and likeness of God, and as such our nature refers us to Him. The battle begins, therefore, against human nature. Ideologies, naturalisms, materialisms, sexual revolutions… Everything is one assault after another on the very concept of the human, to deny the obvious: our transcendence, the immortality of our souls, our need for God, our masculine-female complementarity.” (Qtd. by Rod Dreher)

It was a moment etched in memory for me when I was in graduate school. We had class that day in a local restaurant–a change of pace from our regular classroom. The topic of discussion was an article we had read about colonialism by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak.”

Spivak is an Indian woman who took issue with the British prohibition of sati during Britain’s colonization of India. The British had outlawed the practice of a woman placing herself (or being placed) on her husband’s funeral pyre and dying in the flames.

Spivak argued that the colonialist power was depriving women of their right to self-determination. A classmate of mine agreed with Spivak representing all the voiced opinions except my own.

“But what if she wants to?” she asked me when I lamented Spivak’s view.

But what if she does not? What if her culture/his family/her family have expectations that she will die–as tradition demands? Cultural demands ooze from the word sati–the name for women who die in the flames. Satis means “a good woman.”

What horrified me most was the nonchalant attitude of the instructor and the other students. How easy it is to claim “choice” when the person with the most at stake may not actually have a choice and may not even have a voice.

My instructor and fellow students saw nothing wrong with a custom that would label a woman “good” for wanting to die. And what would the label be for a woman who might prefer not to die? Or for one who might enter the flames in less than a fully conscious state so the family would not face the shame of her resistance?

That encounter reminds me of another one I observed years earlier. I was a volunteer in training at a pregnancy resource center. A young woman came in with an older guy. She was a teen–perhaps fifteen or sixteen. He was clearly older–perhaps in his twenties.

He wanted to know her pregnancy test results–a test the center offered for free–a test whose results we would provide only to her–alone.

When the veteran volunteer told him that we would not give him the results; we would only speak with her alone, he made clear his choice in the matter. “I’ll just drive her to Pittsburgh then,” he said–the city a couple hours away, where they could obtain an abortion. During the entire encounter, she did not say one word.

They left not knowing what we knew. She was pregnant.

Despite all the shouting about female autonomy and choice, she had no voice in the matter. He had already made the decision for her. And he didn’t make it with her best interest–or that of the child–in mind.

Graduate students sitting in a restaurant speaking theoretically about satis were far removed from the reality of such a situation. At the pregnancy resource center, I witnessed someone co-opting a woman’s “right to choose.” There was no theoretical life of a child, no theoretical wound for a mother. Those were real.

Dreher: “There is an “anthropological attack” on the meaning of the human person. What C.S. Lewis called “the abolition of man” is upon us.”

When choice trumps meaning, we lose freedom rather than gain it. And in the process, we lose ourselves.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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36 Replies to “Truth, Beauty, and Light for a Hardened World”

  1. Wow. How troubling is it that those in your class couldn’t see the immoral act of allowing a woman to burn herself alive due to “traditional cultural values.” That’s extremely disconcerting. When I read these kinds of things happening in our society, my heart hurts. I often find myself these days crying out to God… “When will you return?” God help us.

    1. I would find it less disconcerting if I hadn’t been the only one taking a respect for life view in class once as an undergraduate. From my anecdotal experiences, it seems that the liberal arts in secular academia are teeming with people who hold a morally relative perspective. Of course, that should be no shock to us. It is, however, when we see it closely as in this situation. Thanks, Lisa, and God bless!

  2. Truly sad when anyone is that nonchalant about what lies beneath a so-called “choice.”

    This is so powerful, How easy it is to claim “choice” when the person with the most at stake may not actually have a choice and may not even have a voice.

  3. This is so good! You make your points so well. Both women had their right to choose taken away from them, one through societal and family expectations of what comprises a “good woman” and one through the co-opting of the woman’s right to hear the news about her pregnancy and to act according to her own choice, which may have been pro-life. I don’t think many pro-abortion advocates are aware of the horror of this conundrum. These events occur right before the staff, and they do nothing to intervene, acting as if it’s none of their business, though a crime against the woman is happening right in front of them. Their job hardens them to the woman completely. They are not helping her in any way by what they do, though our society tells them that they are. The only choice they will consider as a valid choice is the choice to abort. The horror is multiplied by their disrespect for both the life of the baby and the life of the mother. What these actions and the cold unawareness of the implications are doing to the moral fabric of our nation is terrifying to consider.

  4. Very powerful story. Having traveled through India and Nepal, we have witnessed the funeral fires (but not Sati). To see them helps me understand how those women really would not have a choice. It is easy to say they do when we don’t fully understand the situation. We must step into situations before we decide circumstances.

  5. I love this article! Thank you for sharing your insights, I would love to read more about cultural norms (or ab-norms). It seems that every culture opposes life and honors death except Christianity. Jesus died for us so we could live for Him. I love Jesus!

  6. Such a powerful comparison between these two ways of sacrificing life. And you make some important points, does the woman in either case really have a choice or a voice? An prime example of Satan’s deception. Lord, have mercy.

  7. Great post. Very informative.

    I haven’t heard of Suttee before, but it is clearly an evil cultural practice–resulting in the death of an innocent person. The British were right to ban it.

    Political correctness demands that non-white cultures never be criticized, even when logic dictates that they should be. Political correctness can sometimes turn intellectuals into morons.

    minor typo–“espite” should be Despite

  8. Excellent post. Shared it with “Christian” acquaintance that says people should just mind their own business, live and let live.” My response was not as eloquent as yours, but I too pointed out the unborn are too often the victims of someone’s choice.

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