Suffering Steals No Dignity From Joey Feek Or Anyone Else

Published today on The Federalist:

Country singer Joey Feek knows what it’s like to suffer. Facing the realities of a relentless terminal illness, she openly admits wanting to die: “I pray that one morning I just don’t wake up,” she says. But instead of spending her last days contemplating her death, the myriad ways her terminal illness is robbing her of her independence and abilities, or how to hasten the end of her suffering, she seems more focused on surrounding herself with the ones she loves. She knows her time is nearly up, but she is secure in the knowledge that when she does pass, it will be into the arms of God. This is suffering, to be sure; but it is suffering suffused with dignity through and through.

Most people who advocate for physician-assisted suicide (PAS) do so from the belief that it maximizes dignity and personal autonomy in the face of immense suffering, typically caused by a debilitating terminal illness. As the recent legalization in California and recently-proposed legislation in states like New York suggest, the PAS movement is currently enjoying a fair amount of popular support in the United States. In our “you do you” and “it’s my body, my choice” culture which values personal autonomy as one of the highest pursuits, the option to go out “on our own terms” is an enticing one – albeit one that comes with many dangerous implications concerning the compatibility of suffering and dignity.

Coupled with our American obsession with autonomy, the growth of the movement has arguably been bolstered by the media attention given to people like Brittany Maynard, whose choice to end her life via PAS was broadcast far and wide. Listening to Brittany’s story, there was no doubt that her illness caused her and her loved ones to suffer greatly, and her pain tugged at national heartstrings, causing many to laude her conviction to end it all “with dignity.” It is clear from the language Brittany and others used to describe her choice – and the widespread support of her decision in the media – that our society at large has come to view the concepts of “suffering” and “dignity” as implicitly incompatible. However, for myself and for many others who advocate against legalizing PAS, a morality informed by Christian tradition – a tradition that values autonomy, but by no means worships it as the greatest good – helps us to see the truth that suffering and dignity are not only deeply compatible, but perpetually intertwined.

How is this possible when suffering can make us feel so vulnerable, so humiliated? Stemming from the belief that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God, Christians believe that every human life has inherent dignity simply by virtue of being human, and likewise also possesses a corresponding right to life. Therefore, the only kinds of actions that may be considered undignified are those which deny the inherent dignity in another human being; for example, murder. As a normal part of the human condition, suffering is neither inherently evil, nor inherently undignified. Therefore, we have no moral imperative to end it at any cost, and certainly not by any means so extreme as causing death. In the Christian moral tradition, while a terminal illness undoubtedly causes great suffering, the sufferer is no less dignified than the next human being, no matter how horrible, painful, or humiliating their suffering and death may be.

For a prime example of this, Christians look to Christ’s particularly gruesome death upon the cross. Would anyone whose moral framework is formed by the Christian concept of dignity refer to His suffering upon the cross as “undignified?” Rather, it is the people who crucified Christ who acted in an undignified manner, precisely because they denied Him the dignity inherent in His humanity. Christ’s death itself was not undignified, and He was no less dignified for crying out in pain when they pierced His side, just as the terminally-ill cancer patient is no less dignified for losing control of bodily functions in the course of their disease.

For a modern example, we may look to examples like Joey Feek, and also to the story of Kara Tippetts, the young Christian wife, mother, and “Mundane Faithfulness” blogger who contemporarily suffered with the same form of cancer as Brittany Maynard and refused to seek out PAS. Anyone who followed Tippetts’s story would be hard-pressed to refer to her suffering and ultimate death as “undignified” or as somehow less dignified than the death Maynard chose. However, when we affirm PAS as the “dignified” option in the face of terminal illness, we implicitly affirm painful, suffering deaths resulting from the natural course of a disease as somehow undignified – an implication with myriad dire ramifications.

For example, if we continue to hold fast to the belief that suffering is inherently evil, and that it is undignified to die in the manner of someone suffering as Joey Feek is, or as Kara Tippetts did, then we must also hold the troubling belief that a physician has an obligation to end his patient’s suffering through any means possible – including through death. Under the circumstances of legalized PAS, a Christian practitioner normally guided by the conviction that all human life has inherent dignity, may be made to feel that he himself is the one condemning his patient to die a painful, suffering death if he refuses the patient’s request for PAS. As a result, he may experience a deep sense of guilt that he is failing in his duty to ease his patient’s suffering, which may in turn coerce him into offering PAS, out of a misguided sense of mercy toward the suffering of his patient. In a cruel paradox, by virtue of PAS becoming a legal, accepted medical practice, it may actually become an autonomy-depriving practice for medical practitioners, creating and preying upon a misguided sense of compassion as they care for terminally ill patients. When we sanction such practices as PAS, the duty to end suffering by any means necessary is de facto fabricated, sanctioned, and imposed on those working within its jurisdiction.

Even more pressingly, should PAS becomes a sanctioned medical practice, patients are also likely to fall under the weight of its potential for coercion. A scenario could reasonably occur where a terminally ill patient who is suffering greatly, and who sees how her situation negatively impacts her loved ones (be it emotionally, financially, etc.), may feel the need to avail herself of PAS, both to end her own suffering, as well as the suffering of those around her. After all, one of the reasons people seek out PAS is so as not to feel that they are a burden to the ones they love – a key feature of PAS that worries the disabled community considerably. Who among us would not feel anxious at the sight of our loved ones suffering at our bedside, knowing our care is costly to them in so many different ways? Knowing that we are to die anyway, and suffering through every manner of pain and humiliation, would we not feel the temptation – even the necessity – of ending it all through PAS, simply because we know it is a legal option? Again, we can see how PAS, purporting to increase autonomy, may by its mere existence actually decrease the patient’s ability to make autonomous decisions.

As human beings, we shy away from suffering. It is in our nature to do so. But unless we wish to hasten the descent of our culture into one of sanctioned suicide, a practice which does nothing but detract from human dignity and meaningful autonomy, we must work to change the way our culture views suffering. This is a tall order in a society where limitless autonomy and unbridled pleasure are seen by many as the greatest pursuits. But there is a better way forward; a way that truly upholds the dignity of every human being suffering a painful, terminal illness:

The first step must be to debunk the idea that suffering is inherently evil. It is this view of suffering that urges us to end it by any means necessary, even to the point of choosing and causing death. Instead, we must advocate for a view of suffering as a challenge. For when someone around us suffers, it is a challenge to everyone around the person to show him compassion and love through his suffering. The young, suffering cancer patient is a challenge to her doctor to treat her with the utmost compassion and respect for her inherent dignity, to manage her pain effectively, and to be there in her greatest hour of need. The mother suffering her final illness is a challenge to her children to take up the mantle of caring for the one who has cared for them so many times during years past. The husband suffering through a painful, terminal illness is likewise the ultimate challenge to his wife of “in sickness and in health, til death do us part.” Just as Christ’s suffering and death calls us to love one another through life’s challenges, the suffering of those around us challenges us to be better providers, better children, better spouses, and better fellow human beings.

And while a reasonable person could claim that this view of suffering is for those who are able to “find meaning” in it, it remains unethical to allow those who cannot find meaning in their suffering to end their lives through PAS. In fact, it is a dangerous precedent to set that those individuals who find their suffering meaningless should be accorded the right to die through PAS. It is conceivable that someone suffering from a well-managed disease (such as diabetes, early stage kidney disease or heart failure) may still suffer as a result of it, and see no meaning in the suffering she endures. Those who support current legislation proposals for PAS for terminally ill patients would say that such a patient does not fall under the eligibility requirements for being able to end her life through PAS — but why not? If she suffers, and clearly finds no meaning in it, why refuse her the right to PAS simply because her condition is not imminently terminal? After all, this would clearly be the precedent set if someone’s right to die through PAS is contingent upon whether or not they find meaning in their suffering. Belgium and the Netherlands are two examples of the easy slide down this slippery slope: they no longer require an individual to be suffering a terminal illness in order to take advantage of PAS or euthanasia. If PAS becomes a more widely legal practice in the United States, it may not take long for individuals to begin openly advocating for the removal of the terminality safeguard here as well.

In the end, legalizing physician-assisted suicide will not make for a society that is more compassionate, more dignified, or more autonomous. In fact, the potential for PAS to become a coercive force in the decision-making of both patients and physicians is entirely antithetical to the autonomy that it claims to maximize. However, perhaps the greatest evil of PAS lies in the fact that it will not only fail to challenge us to better meet the needs of those around us who are suffering the most, but also that it will actively encourage and continue the abdication of our duties towards those individuals. After all, the challenge to serve the suffering is arguably the greatest challenge of them all, and should be approached with true compassion, and not the misguided mercy of PAS’s kiss of death. For those concerned with protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, there should be little doubt that legalizing physician-assisted suicide will continue hastening the descent of a culture that already fails to affirm the dignity of each human person through every stage of life.

The Score’s been Evened, Yet the Scale’s Tipped Further

In case you have better things to do than keep up with the world of pharmaceuticals, on August 18th the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a little pink pill called flibanserin (tradename: Addyi). As it turns out, the third time was the charm for the future of the drug better known as “the female Viagra,” which purports to treat something called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) in pre-menopausal women. Denied FDA approval twice previously, the drug was given a veritable green light back in June, when an FDA Advisory Council meeting for the drug voted to move the drug to market, albeit with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). (For those unfamiliar with FDA procedures, a green light at the AC meeting all but assures a future formal approval of the drug, as we now see with flibanserin.)

The landmark decision to approve the drug came after heavy lobbying by a sleekly subversive marketing campaign called “Even the Score,” which found great success through employing the feminist language of “equality” and “choice” for women’s sexual health. The campaign, which claims no affiliation with the drug’s sponsor (a company called Sprout), cleverly circumvented laws which prohibit pre-FDA approval marketing of a new pharmaceutical by producing commercials that only referred to the disease and directed people to its website. They also organized and funded the travel of patients with HSDD to the October 27th Patient Focused Drug Development meeting at FDA, where the patient’s affiliation with the campaign was evidenced by the teal scarves they wore as they told stories of the devastation that HSDD has wreaked on their relationships, self-image, and overall quality of life. All of this drummed up buzz for the drug, such that it received significant media coverage well before its approval.

The stealthy Even the Score campaign relied most heavily on the red herring of “26 approved drugs for men’s sexual dysfunction + 0 for women = the FDA hates women.” Ignoring the finer points of chemistry and biology, Even the Store arrives at that seemingly staggering difference by bending the truth. As it happens, for men, there are five oral drugs (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, Staxyn, Stendra), all of the same drug class, used to treat erectile dysfunction, which thanks to countless uncomfortable commercials during Sunday football, we all know is caused by decreased penile bloodflow. There are also—brace yourselves, men—two intra-penile injectables, and one intra-urethral suppository; all three of which are actually different formulations of the same medication, alprostadil. Also at men’s disposal are various vacuum pumps and surgical implants (“Metal, or plastic rod inside your penis, sir?”). Finally, there is testosterone, used to treat decreased libido in men with “low-T,” of which there are also numerous formulations (gels, patches, and injections). That’s not to mention the off-label (read: non-FDA approved) use of antidepressants for things like premature ejaculation. So while Even the Score may be correct that there are 26-or so treatments for men with sexual dysfunction, there are really only five general types of treatments available—Viagra and its related drugs, alprostadil’s various formulations, testosterone’s various formulations, vacuum pumps and penile implants. Of those five, three sound terrifying, and I would hazard a guess that the need to inject, pump, or implant something into the penis is something most men wouldn’t wish on their worst enemies.

Most importantly, the majority of these drugs for men are meant to treat a physical problem – something flibanserin certainly does not do. While exaggerating the number of treatments available to men, Even the Score also cleverly ignored the fact that there are actually a couple of FDA-approved drugs used to treat a type of physical female sexual dysfunction, too. The condition, of course, is painful intercourse in menopausal or post-menopausal women. But obviously that doesn’t fit the neat narrative of “26 approved drugs for men’s sexual dysfunction + 0 for women = the FDA hates women,” so the discerning reader can see why the campaign left that particular factor out.

The crux of the issue is this: What makes flibanserin markedly different from any drug treating a physical sexual problem is that it claims to correct something in the realm of the emotional and mental. Approved to treat low or no desire for sex “that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty and is not due to a co-existing medical or psychiatric condition, problems within the relationship, or the effects of a medication or other drug substance,” the intended use of the drug itself proves that defining and quantifying “desire” is a trifle more complicated than diagnosing something like decreased bloodflow. This is precisely why the drug went through three different review cycles before the FDA finally caved with this recent approval. Simply put, there is no good, objective way to measure desire, and as anyone who’s sexually active can attest, there are innumerable factors that contribute to whether or not you can “get in the mood.” Furthermore, if we still lived in a world which openly acknowledged the differences in gender, we would concede that “desire” might be a bit more complicated of a matter for women than for men. Acknowledging this difficulty, even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has chosen to alter its definition of HSDD for men and for women in its latest edition. 

Despite the abstract nature of desire, the outcome measure for flibanserin’s clinical trials that was finally settled upon was an increase in “satisfying sexual events” (SSEs) on a monthly basis, and flibanserin was given approval for a laughable 0.7 additional SSEs per month. That’s no typo, ladies – if it works for you, you might expect less than one additional SSE per month, which by the way, doesn’t necessarily include actual intercourse (“sexual fantasies” being considered an “event”). Perhaps most troubling about flibanserin’s approval with such a paltry success rate is that unlike most of the treatments for ED (which only require intermittent usage when a sexual event is anticipated), flibanserin must be taken every single day to work – that is, if you can call an additional 0.7 SSEs “working.” This is more than a little problematic, given the drug’s side effects of severely low blood pressure and loss of consciousness, which show a significant increase and are more severe when taken with alcohol or certain medications. There’s also the small problem of the exacerbation of side-effects when flibanserin is taken with hormonal contraceptives, and its potential (as with any new drug, but especially for those in flibanserin’s class) for causing birth defects, both of which should be two major concerns when considering the approval of an everyday-use drug amongst sexually-active women of childbearing age. But I guess “evening the score” (because sex is a competition, remember?) and maybe getting that loving feeling back (or at least getting sleepy, light-headed, or unconscious enough to have sex without distress) is just a little bit more important in this case. By the way, many of these side effects were given as reasons for flibanserin’s non-approval during its previous two review cycles – so aren’t we all relieved to find out that the FDA has left its women-hating ways behind? Ah, progress.

I’ll leave you now with a lovely scenario in our post-flibanserin approval world:

You’ve had a long day at work, and your afternoon commute was a nightmare. To top it all off, you come home to find the dirty dishes from last night’s dinner still in the sink. Meanwhile, your husband (who’s been home for an hour and a half now) is sitting in front of the television in his comfy clothes, drinking the last cold beer in the house. “Hi honey! What’s for dinner?” he asks.

Later that evening, after you’ve made dinner and cleaned up two night’s worth of dishes, you settle down on the couch with a bowl of ice cream to watch something mindless on TV. Your husband gives you the look – you know the one – the look that says he’s certainly got something on his mind. Exhausted, and more than a little annoyed at him, you shut down his advances in no uncertain terms. “What’s wrong?” he asks. Suddenly, a look of realization dawns on his face. “You forgot to take your pill today, didn’t you?”

Thank you, flibanserin, for evening the score.

Tragedy in Colorado, and What the “Viability” Argument Gets Wrong

It sounds more like the plot of a two-bit crime show than something that could actually happen in real life.

A few weeks ago, a young, pregnant, Colorado woman named Michelle Wilkins was lured into visiting the home of another woman, Dynel Lane, via a Craig’s list add for baby clothes. After arriving, Michelle was slashed open by Lane, who then removed Michelle’s baby from her body.

What happened next can only be described as sick and demented: with Michelle alone, bloodied, and no longer pregnant in the basement, Lane’s husband arrived home. Lane then allegedly told him that she had had a miscarriage, and directed him upstairs, where she had placed the infant in the bathtub. And she did all of this while covered not in her own blood, but in the blood of Michelle and her infant daughter, who was to be called Aurora.

Reading the comments on the pages of the various news outlets describing the heartbreaking story, I see so many folks saying something along the lines of “That fetus/baby was viable, so this is definitely murder – and I’m pro-choice!”

While I appreciate that these individuals (in a way) recognize the personhood of this baby, the viability argument gets the concept of life wrong, too.

Viability – which we take to mean “ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb,” is limited by the current state of medical science. That much is evidenced by the fact that today’s viability of 25 weeks (and in rare cases even 23 and 24 weeks) would have been unthinkable even 25 or 30 years ago. So the viability argument literally predicates someone’s right to live – their very personhood – on the current state of medical science. And this is highly problematic.

Consider this: If I were to quickly develop some late stage, highly malignant cancer, or some rare disease for which there is no cure, do I then cease to be a person? Does this mean that I no longer have a “right” to live, simply because my own “viability” (“viability” taken at face value as “the ability to live”) has exasperated the limits of modern medical science? No, of course it doesn’t, and no one (well, hopefully very, very few) would argue that — although proponents of so-called “Death with Dignity” acts get dangerously close to this line of logic (but that’s another argument for another day).

Alas, if you take the viability argument to its logical ends, this is where we end up.

This is precisely why Colorado does not charge individuals like Dynel Lane with murder — because they do not even have laws in place which recognize a fetus as a person to be murdered. This, at least, is logically consistent (albeit despicable). This is also precisely why the abortion lobby fights tooth and nail against “personhood amendments” — because unless we consider a person a person from conception to natural death, we can continue pretending that there is some “magic moment” when a person actually becomes a person — thus allowing abortion at any stage of development to be accepted by our society, defined solely by a woman’s desire to consider her child a person.

This is why any argument for a right to life or attribute of personhood based on viability is not logically sound, and why it’s not exactly the olive branch these pro-choice web commenters seem to consider it to be. In fact, the only logically sound defense of human life — whether in defense of the unborn, the sick, or the elderly — is one that regards life as beginning precisely at the moment of conception, and not a single second later.

Pope Francis Is Not a Beatles Song

Trying to search for the “hidden meaning” in everything Pope Francis says makes about as much sense as playing a Beatles song backwards in a silly attempt to look for clues about Paul McCartney’s death or messages to Satan. It yields about the same results as playing a track backwards, too: That is, a garbled mess which obscures the beauty and simplicity of the original words.

via theguardian.com

via theguardian.com

I was unfortunately privy to a maddening Facebook conversation today about Pope Francis’s latest comments aboard a plane. The individual who began the conversation posited that in stating Catholics need not “be like rabbits” when it comes to procreating, Pope Francis appeared to be promoting contraception. Oy. And of course, this newest slew of nonsensical commentary over Francis’ words comes a few days after initial reports from that same flight, claiming that the Pope supported limits to free speech. Sheesh. Maybe the guy would have better luck being understood aboard a boat. Any Catholics out there want to start a fund for the VCS Pontifex?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Pope Francis is not one to shy away from reporters, and that’s exactly how it should be. After all, as Catholics, we are called to evangelize. The call to “be in the world, but not of the world” requires a certain degree of engaging with the outside world, talking about our faith to those who may not necessarily understand the finer points of Catholic theology. Where we run into problems is where good, faithful Catholics refuse to step up and do their duty. Either we don’t know enough about our faith to feel like we can speak knowledgeably on it, or we shy away from evangelization because it sounds like something those pesky Protestants do. In either case, there’s an easy fix: For the first situation, get yourself educated. There are many resources out there, from books, to apps, to once-a-day emails giving you your daily dose of the Catechism for a year. You can also talk to your priest. These guys went through a LOT of schooling to get familiar with this stuff, and if they’re worth their salt, they’d be happy to answer your questions and talk theology with you. If the second scenario is your plight, I have this to say to you: Get over it. Protestants do not have the exclusive rights to evangelization, and if you’re not evangelizing others through your life as a Catholic, you’re doing it wrong.

After all, the Universal Church is a big place, and Pope Francis is only one guy. Granted, he’s the one with the microphone and captive audiences aboard planes, so making himself heard is on a grand scale is no challenge (though being understood is apparently another thing entirely). But I hope you can see that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Faithful Catholics can make a big difference in small ways by dispelling some of the outlandish claims made by media, taking the opportunity to refute and correct the confused conclusions of our non-Catholic (or not-well-Catechized-Catholic) friends. After all, a simple discussion about Natural Family Planning would have quickly dispelled the above-mentioned gentleman’s claims about Francis’s “support” of contraception – and may have even led to him glancing at the Humanae Vitae (which, by the way, gives context to Francis’s quotes about “responsible parenting,” which all Catholic parents are called to do). And trust me, anytime you can get another person’s eyes on HV, the better off we all are. I for one sincerely hope that some people read this little old blog of mine, realize that the hysteria is all for not, and that I may be able to answer some of your questions – or at the very least, send you to some of my infinitely more intelligent, well-educated friends or acquaintances who can. It may not seem like much, but it’s what I can do to play my part.

So frustrated Catholics should take heart. There’s something positive to be said about the crazy media flurry that follows each of the Pope’s “controversial” comments: it gets people talking, allowing Catholics a real opportunity to step into the limelight and explain tenets of our faith that are so often misunderstood. In fact, part of me feels like Francis may be doing this on purpose: trolling the rest of the world with “ambiguous” statements, to give lay Catholics the kick in the pants they need to be apologists for the faith when the hysterical, “narrative-journalism” media invariably gets the finer points of his messaging wrong.

So when it comes to Papa Francisco, the best thing we can all do (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) is to start practicing a little common sense. Maybe it’s because I come from the South, where idioms and folksy sayings are like water to a fish. But apparently the media has a hard time understanding them, bless their hearts. For example, when Pope Francis says he’d punch a guy in the nose for insulting his Mama, and the media takes that to mean he sanctions limits on free-speech, they prove how little they understand his plainspoken way of making a point (or for that matter, how Latin men feel about their mothers. Just ask Cristiano Rinaldo.). But you and I, my common-sense friend, know that he’s simply saying something about respecting others’ deeply-held beliefs, and knowing that there will be consequences (not justified ones, mind you, but ones that might be expected) should you flout them.

So quit trying to play the Pope like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. You’ve got everything you need to know about what he “means” just by listening to him speak — provided you aren’t simply listening for what you want to hear. And if not, well, know that you can get by with a little help from your (well-Catechized) friends.

Beef & Guinness Stew with Irish Brown Bread

Whether you’re a Guinness devotee, a lover of all things Irish, or just enjoy a good ole meat-and-potatoes kind of dish, this recipe is for you! Prepping the veggies and browning the meat takes a little time, but a little TLC goes a long way in this oh-so-worth-the-time dish. Enjoy on a cold winter day for maximum cozy effect!

❤ GE

Stew Ingredients:

(yields 6 – 8 bowls of stew)

1/2 cup flour
3 lbs stew meat (or 3 lbs marbled chuck, cut into chunks)
1/2 cup high-heat oil
2 Tbs butter
2 celery hearts, ends removed and cut into chunks (About 8 stalks)
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-in pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 and 1/2 lbs small potatoes, unpeeled, and quartered
(I used a combo bag from Trader Joe’s that had purple, red, and yellow potatoes to add a bit more color)
1 bag carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (About 6 carrots)
1 and 1/2 pints Guinness Extra Stout
3 and 1/2 cups chicken broth (or broth of choice)
Thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper for seasoning
3 bay leaves

Stew Directions:
(Note that this can be made in a large, oven-safe pot on the stove and then in the oven, or in a crockpot. If using the oven, preheat to 225 degrees)

1. In a large frying pan, heat a few Tbs oil until drops of water splashed into it make it sizzle. (You’ll need an oil that can withstand high heat, here. I used avocado oil.)

2. In a large bowl, add the flour and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the meat in the flour/salt/pepper mixture until finely coated on all sides.

3. Add 1/4 of the meat to the frying pan, and brown on all sides (The meat does not have to be cooked all the way through – just browned!). Once browned, add the meat to a large pot or to a crockpot. Continue browning the meat “in shifts” (adding more oil as needed) until you’ve browned all of it (this is to keep from over-crowding your pan). Once all of the meat is in your pot, season with dried thyme, salt, and pepper.

4. In a new pan, add 2 Tbs of butter. Once melted, add your celery chunks and onion. Heat until onions are translucent, and edges have started to brown. Add tomato paste, brown sugar, and minced garlic. Once sugar is dissolved and veggies are coated, add the contents of the pan to your meat.

5. Now, add your potatoes and carrots to the pot (or crockpot), along with the Guinness and broth. Season with more salt, pepper, thyme, and add the bay leaves.

6. If using a pot on the stove, bring to a simmer, then add to warm oven. Leave stew in oven for 6 hours. If using crockpot, simply set to low for 6-8 hours.

Irish Brown Bread
(adapted from http://www.acommunaltable.com/irish-brown-bread/)

Bread Ingredients:

1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups whole milk

Bread Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place butter in freezer.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, dark brown sugar, baking soda and salt.

3. Using a cheese grater, grate butter into the flour mixture. Rub butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

4. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the milk. Stir with a heavy wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft, shaggy dough.

5. Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead gently or just until the the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

6. Place dough in a rounded mound into a parchment paper-lined 9 in. round cake pan.

7. Place pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

8. Serve warm with good butter (like salted Kerrygold) and your Guinness stew!

So Delicious and Cozy!

So Delicious and Cozy!

How Kim Kardashian’s Bum Can Break More than the Internet

All speculations aside of whether the latest image of Kim Kardashian’s famed backside is, *ahem * “enhanced,” I’m of the opinion that it’s tasteless for anyone to flash their naughty bits on the cover of a magazine. If for some reason you disagree, please don’t stop reading just yet, because lack of taste is not the most problematic issue with this image – it’s something much worse.

You see, images like Kim’s “bum pic” invite the objectification of the woman in them. This is an unfortunate fact which has dire ramifications even beyond Kim herself – or anyone who takes photos like this. Why? Because the objectification of a woman – any woman – can lead to exploitation and violence against women in our culture at-large. (Still reading? Awesome.)

Let’s start by looking at this image objectively, without considering what we know of Kim and her infamous rise to fame. Here, we have a young woman who has reduced herself to nothing more than a body part. That much is certain, given that her bum is front and center, oiled and ready for its close-up. The danger that lies here, in fact, the danger that lies in reducing anyone into a single body part, should be obvious. For doing so effectively transforms a person into an object, rather than a whole person – someone with hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions, intelligence, and dignity.

And what do we do with objects? We use them. We do not love them. We value them only insofar as they serve their physical purpose, and nothing more.

“Settle down,” someone might say. It’s nothing new – it’s just advertising! And sex sells, right? After all, the photos certainly got people talking about Kim. And I’m sure that because of this, there are people who would call the photos “empowering,” rather than objectifying. But exactly how are these images empowering? Is it now considered powerful to captivate the internet with your backside? Is it empowering to purposefully inspire the sins of lust and envy in people, rather than virtues like kindness and courage?

Because make no mistake about it: images such as these are expressly intended to inspire lust and envy. In fact, I believe that it’s this devious intention that makes them pornographic in nature. This is especially problematic when these images are so pervasive, and so readily available, that all I need to do is go to Yahoo to check my email to see them (yes, I still use Yahoo Mail).

And porn, like sexy advertising, is also nothing new, right? But just because something is “nothing new” doesn’t mean we can’t educate ourselves about it, and maybe – just maybe – break the status quo and form some new thoughts about it.

Here’s a thought: porn and pornographic images like Kim’s are dangerous. But even though porn is dangerous in so many ways that I won’t list them all here, I will tell you that porn (violent or not) has been shown to encourage violence against women. And that shouldn’t really surprise anyone, precisely because porn encourages and causes the objectification of women. If you need proof of that (or other dangerous knowledge on porn), click here to check out Fight the New Drug, which compiles a whole heap of evidence on the perils of pornography.

So is this what “empowerment” means? Is this what “great marketing” is meant to do? The slippery slope from objectification to exploitation and violence is real, and it must be stopped. Women are objectified enough by movies, advertisements, and a culture that defines worth by the tininess of waists and symmetry of features. It’s high time we stop doing it to ourselves, too. We need to encourage the view of women and men as whole people (yes, this also means no more drooling over Channing Tatum’s abs), both capable and deserving of love and dignity.

So don’t click on those pictures, no matter how tempting it might be. Don’t allow Kim to invite the objectification of her body (or any woman’s body) any more that she already has.

Here’s a picture of a potato instead.

Pumpkin and Porter Pancakes

Pumpkin, fall spices, and rich, dark porter make these pancakes a perfectly cozy breakfast for a chilly autumn morning.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup Porter beer (any kind)
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup pumpkin
½ cup walnut pieces (optional)
Butter (for frying, and for topping)
Maple syrup

Method:

  1. Sift together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.
  2. Mix in the beer, milk, vanilla, and pumpkin until combined. Stir in walnuts if using.
  3. Heat a pan over medium-low heat, and add butter.
  4. Once the butter melts, ladle batter into the pan, and fry on each side until golden brown.
  5. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup or both!