“The Future Is Already Here…”

So says William Gibson, the American author who followed his wife to her native Vancouver and from there has spun out his tales of the near future—from Neuromancer (1984) to Agency (to be released next week). Gibson decades ago coined the term “cyberspace,” and his cyberpunk tales inspired, among many other artistic offspring, “The Matrix” films.

Gibson is certainly not a futurist—that dubious profession, so exciting just a few decades ago, that proffered prognostications that already have turned out no more likely to be true than those of a carnival fortune-teller. But he isn’t, for a science-fiction writer, all that oriented toward the future…or, at least, not one far, far away. No, Gibson says, “the future is already here. It’s just that it isn’t very evenly distributed.”

Gibson is the Tom Wolfe of the future among us. He sees that the future doesn’t arrive all at once in packages shipped all from the same store—as it seemed to do in “The Jetsons,” or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or “Star Trek.” It comes piece by piece: the huge flat screen TV hung above the bookcase, the microwave sitting on the counter beside the toaster.

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The Whole Truth about Abortion

Discussing abortion seems to make it difficult for people to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In last month’s number of The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan tries to tell the truth about abortion in an article titled, “The Things We Can’t Face: What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Abortion.”

In fact, the on-line version of that piece is titled, “The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate.” But even she can’t quite pull off a fully balanced discussion.

As a rule, I like Caitlin Flanagan’s writing. It is lucid, linear, sensible, incisive, and often witty. In this piece, she evokes both the horror of illegal “Lysol” abortions, which often ended in gruesome deaths of both mother and baby, and the delicate wonder of fetal humanity, so evident in the new 3-D ultrasounds. So far, so good.

Flanagan also summarizes the polemical situation with characteristic concision: “The argument for abortion, if made honestly, requires many words…. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word. The argument against it is a picture.”

She also warns, however, that “no matter what the law says, women will continue to get abortions…. Women have been willing to risk death to get an abortion.”

Here, alas, the discussion falters. For having been remarkably even-handed almost to the end, she concludes with an anecdote that decisively tilts the table. It’s the story of a husband who brought to a hospital his wife who had undergone an illegal abortion and was now dying from the procedure. He risked arrest in hopes of saving her life, but then, a widower, had to return to “tell his children that their mother was never coming home again.”

That’s heart-wrenching. But it’s also only one possible story. Another is that the abortion was successful, the mother survived, and husband and wife instead go home together…to tell their remaining children that their baby brother or sister is now gone. Why doesn’t Flanagan balance the anecdotes?

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Best Year Ever? Yes! And also…No

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has gotten a lot of attention recently for declaring that “This Has Been the Best Year Ever.” And there is much to celebrate.

Extreme poverty has declined since 1981 from 42% to 10%. “As recently as 1950,” Kristof writes, “27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent.”

Kristof also marvels at the increase of literacy around the world and concludes: “When I was born in 1959, a majority of the world’s population had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. By the time I die, illiteracy and extreme poverty may be almost eliminated — and it’s difficult to imagine a greater triumph for humanity on our watch.”

Well, one wonders about other not-so-triumphant trends. Freedom House’s most recent report says that “a total of 68 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties during 2018, with only 50 registering gains.” And when some of those countries are China, India, and the United States, the whole world has cause to worry.

Christians have additional reasons for concern.

According to OpenDoors, a service organization focused on persecuted Christians worldwide, “Five years ago, only North Korea was in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. In the 2019 World Watch List, as in 2018, 11 countries score enough to fit that category”—with most of those being in the Muslim-majority world, but with North Korea and India also scoring among them.

Even here at home, religious health-care professionals, lawyers, public servants, and organizations are under provincial and federal pressure to compromise their consciences. Significant shadows loom over the spread and practice of the Gospel.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center states that “there are about 2.3 billion Christians in the world and 1.8 billion Muslims. That gap is expected to narrow by 2060, when Pew Research Center projects there will be 3 billion Christians and nearly 3 billion Muslims. That’s because Muslims, on average, are younger and have more children than do Christians.” Only these two religions, Pew says, are likely to increase faster than the roughly 32% rate of growth in the global population, with all other world religions declining in proportion (such as Hinduism) or in real numbers (such as Buddhism).

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