Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Can we be Pro-Life? - CSFF Blog Tour

Julie one more time with the CSFF Blog tour.

In my review of Marissa Shrock's The First Principle, I complained about the lead character Vivica's one-time-boyfriend Ben because I didn't feel that he offered any tangible support for her pregnancy, even as he insisted she keep the baby. When she tells him the news at the start of Chapter 7, he says, "And if you are (pregnant), you're not going to kill my baby" and "I'm so sorry I did this to you, but please don't punish my baby." That really got under my skin, given that the boy who had recently broken up with Vivica is now laying claim to the child inside her. He's asking--ordering!--Vivica to basically trade her current life, all her comforts, her education, and everything she knows to give birth to "his" baby, while he makes no sacrifice whatsoever. I agree that the little life growing inside her is a baby, but what claim does Ben really have to it?

But that actually helps me see why a lot of people get so upset over the pro-life movement. Many "pro-life" supporters speak out loudly against abortion, while at the same time demanding cuts to welfare benefits, insisting that the poor are not entitled to health care, and rallying against the idea of the government increasing the minimum wage at all or dictating any sort of paid parental leave. If these people have plausible alternative ideas to supporting the poor, I haven't heard them, and I'm not even liberal...  It just seems that some of the same people who loudly proclaim that abortion is murder seem to show little interest in supporting the baby inside the womb, let alone the mother carrying the baby.

I understand that Christians believe that intercourse should only take place within marriage, which would substantially reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. And I recognize that there's a danger that if we make pregnancy look desirable, teen girls will take that as encouragement to get pregnant.

But today, many women who do have unwanted pregnancies are faced with a choice rather like Vivica's. They can risk or give up their comfort, some of their security, and at least a portion of their income or schooling, maybe their figure, and possibly lose the respect of many people they care about, Christian and non-Christian both, and have their baby. Or they can quietly get an abortion and go on as though nothing happened.

If you take God out of the equation, then it's pretty easy to disregard a fetus and tip the scales to the "keep it secret" side. And even if you do believe in God and do believe abortion is wrong...well, God seems to forgive more easily than the earthly judges some people face every day.

I know what the right choice is, and it's a brave choice, but I won't say that it is ever an easy choice.

I think it's tragic that women would ever be proud of getting abortions, and I rankle at the idea of abortion being used as "birth control." But I'm not sure that Christians are really fighting enough to support the women responsible for bringing the unborn into the world. I know there are Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the like, but is that enough support? Out here it appears the hours are limited, and the services might be too. Why aren't we making adoption an easy and viable option? Working to offer counseling and prenatal care outside of Monday-Friday? Truly cheering on and loving those women who make the brave choice not to hide, but to carry their life to term? Supporting parents as best we can?

If needed, are we willing to sacrifice a portion of own comfort and income to help those women we admonish to bring their babies to term?

Or are we basically saying, "You made a mistake, and getting rid of it is murder. You can't get an abortion. I can send you somewhere to give you some help, and that's the end of my involvement. Good luck."
James 2:14-17 (ESV)  What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Yes, Ben's demands still irritate me...but am I any better than he is...?

(Similar thoughts on the issue of "pro-life" just popped up on my Facebook feed today with Traci Schmidley's story on Medium.com.)


Click below to see what other tour members think!


Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Shane Werlinger

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review - The First Principle by Marissa Shrock - CSFF Blog Tour

This is Julie with the CSFF Blog tour!

Book: The First Principle by Marissa Shrock

Ridiculously simplified summary: 
The United States has collapsed into a totalitarian empire where minors receive mandatory birth control and, should that fail, abortions. When the district governor's daughter finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she must choose between submitting to the termination of the pregnancy, or going underground with the people who would fight to remake the government...

Content: Very Evangelical, with several "conversion talks." Several violent deaths, not described in extreme detail. The lead character is a 15-year-old or 16-year-old (depending on if you believe Amazon's description or Rebecca LuElla Miller's correction below) who had sex outside of marriage and who gets pregnant. There's talk of abortion, a procedure which all "respectable" people in the society consider appropriate.

Rating:

Characters - 6 out of 10. Vivica, the main character, was interesting enough--shockingly capable of getting herself out of messy situations and gifted at computer hacking.  It's first-person but her emotions aren't made manifest in the writing, and I still don't understand her motivations. I found Ben, the object of her affections, to be rather boring and not particularly likable, while Drake (the final player in a semi-love-triangle) was infuriatingly charming and compelling. Most of the villains were painted with broad strokes, but Vivica's mother, the governor, was somewhat more nuanced. I think the portrayals were appropriate for the genre, but I was hoping for something that might work better for older readers, too.

(It was another novel where all the women of consequence are mothers and/or pregnant; those who aren't, are not portrayed in a positive light. I don't think that's terribly uncommon for Christian novels at this point.)

Suspense/stakes - 5 out of 5. I read this over a weekend, rather unusual for me. Finding out about the underground was interesting and seeing how Vivica will get out of her next jam kept the pages turning for me.

World building - 4 out of 5. The world felt fairly detailed to me, with explanations of how the totalitarian government had developed, slang terms for their equivalent of cell phones, and so forth. Some of the details in the government seem scarily plausible. That said, I would have liked to "see" the physical places more clearly.

Writing/editing - 4 out of 5.  I thought the writing was fine and didn't notice any typographical errors. My main issue was that I felt incredibly distanced from Vivica's feelings and pain. There's some emotional angst, but even when she gets slapped at one point, she (tells us she) literally doesn't feel it when it happens. I tend to write less emotionally myself, but when the subject matter is a character deciding to turn her back on her entire world because there's a baby growing inside her, I expected her to have more emotions. I'd expected her, for instance, to have some kind of turning point when she felt the baby inside her, perhaps, but I saw nothing of the sort.  Maybe that's an intentional technique, though.

Clarity - 4 out of 5. Overall I had no trouble following the action. There were a couple chase scenes where I got a bit lost because the scenery wasn't described in detail so I couldn't follow where they were going.

Plausibility/believability - 3 out of 5.  This is kind of tricky for me. The explanations for how Christianity became illegal struck me as scary-plausible, to the point that I'm wondering if I should start learning more about hacking (although I feel like making the fake identities needed in dystopian worlds might be more fantasy than anything else). But I didn't personally "believe" Vivica's transformation or her progression towards Christianity. In today's political climate, I really wanted to read a compelling account of why a girl decided against abortion when the government mandated it, but she only rarely showed compassion for her unborn child, never seemed to really think of it as a human (referring to it as a "baby" but not anything about its potential). Her decision seemed to me to be initiated mostly from the fact that the boy she has a crush on begs her not to kill "his" baby, despite the fact that he has no ability (and to me, no interest) in actually supporting the baby once it's born. Arguing that a baby has a right to life because the father wants the baby to live, isn't exactly going to appeal to people who consider it a woman's decision. Frankly, I think the baby has an inherent right to life, but when a deadbeat father is making the argument, that really rankles me.

(I could be wrong, but it also seems to me like ALL of the rebels are Christians, which is good for Christians but I'm not sure if it's realistic...I feel like if freedoms were stripped away like this, it might not be just Christians fighting. Even the very secular The Handmaid's Tale acknowledged that in a world where freedoms are stripped in the name of some twisted version of Christianity, people who want to read the actual Bible will be persecuted, but it seems like some Christian books don't acknowledge the strange bedfellows we just might end up with in bad times...)

Positive - 4 out of 5. The ending is positive enough, though there's a lot of darkness to get there. While the main character turns to Christianity, she doesn't seem to focus on the hope it gives for the people she lost along the way...it was just kind of disconnected to me.

Gut reaction - 3 out of 5. Exciting story that I personally think could have benefited from a dose of emotion, particularly given the subject matter.

Free points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Teen girls who are fans of dystopian fiction.

Total Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars


Click below to see what other tour members think!


Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Shane Werlinger

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Preparing for Dystopia - The First Principle by Marissa Shrock - CSFF Blog Tour

Julie for the CSFF Blog Tour!

This month, we're talking about The First Principle by Marissa Shrock. The promotional description speaks of government control, mandatory abortions, and so forth.  One facet I haven't seen addressed in so many Christian books (in my limited reading), is the government creating an edited, "approved" version of the Bible.

The way things are right now, it seems almost hard to imagine the government "approving" of Christianity in any way, but certainly various Christian groups change interpretations of the Bible (and sometimes even words) through the years. And as humans, making little tweaks is just something we do.  Our Bible Study just got to the fall of man. When the serpent tempted Eve, he twisted God's words...but then, whatever the reason, Eve also quoted God incorrectly!

I think people are prone to corrupting and adjusting the Bible already, sometimes inadvertently...how much scarier if the government were to get involved.

Of course, all the dystopian fiction makes me wonder what kind of dystopian world should I be preparing for? The Christian fiction we've been reading for the blog tour lately, such as The Last Principle and Jill Williamson's Safe Lands series, hint that impressive computer hacking skills are probably the most useful skill. The Hunger Games suggests hunting will come in handy. Out in Arizona in the real world, there have been some preparedness conferences teaching how to farm and such.

My problem is that hacking and farming are not exactly overlapping skills. So where should I focus?! (Of course, I'm not sure the fun hacking skills we see in various forms of media are terribly realistic, but they sure look like fun, don't they?)

A sermon series at my church recently emphasized that the best way to prepare not to fall in persecution is to work at having a good relationship with God now. I agree, but The Last Principle reminded me of one of the places where I fall particularly short.

I'm a leader at AWANA at my church, which teaches kids to memorize Bible verses. I was never good at memorizing verbatim, so I didn't like AWANA as a kid (I love it as a leader, since I don't have to recite anything!). I need to remember that memorizing Bible verses--not just the basic gist of them, but the actual words--is a good practice for every Christian, so long as we remember the context.

My phone has multiple Bible translations on it and I can do a web search for any verse I like right now, so it seems kind of unnecessary. But someday we might not be so blessed to have the Bible so widely available, even in America...

Check out the other participants on the blog tour!


Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Shane Werlinger

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.