Maybe the Pro-Life Movement Doesn’t Need a Monument After All

Uhhh…OK…This just has to be seen to be believed.

Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston

Here’s an interview with the artist.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

13 thoughts on “Maybe the Pro-Life Movement Doesn’t Need a Monument After All

  1. John

    while it’s wonky for a pro-life monument, it’s actually a surprising well done statue for something that in any way shape or formm relates to britney spears

  2. Stuff

    I first looked at the photos last night and was completely horrified and disgusted, but it took me until this morning to be able to put into words why.

    I’m not offended that the artist chose Britney Spears as the subject – I actually agree that because of her social situation and lifestyle she is as good as any other subject; the pro-life movement is all about supporting those who would have a difficult time making the choice to have a baby.

    Everything else about this statue is anything but pro-life. On all fours on a bear skin rug? Can anyone think of a *worse* position to be in during childbirth, when the body is racked with the pain of contractions both in the abdomen and in the back? She would actually have to be pushing against gravity to get the poor child out, not to mention the undue strain on the rest of her body with her back end that far in the air.

    And this is described as an *ideal* depiction of childbirth? Ideal for whom? Certainly not for the mother who has already made the difficult decision to conceive and carry a child for 9 months then endure the worst pain of her life to bring him into the world. No, more likely ideal for Britney’s male fans who are only fans because she is young, sexy eye-candy, not because of any talent she may or may not possess. Ideal for those who flinch at the idea of the willingness of sacrificial suffering a *mother* – a *person,* with a will, who is infinitely more than an object to be desired. This statue serves only to carry the idea that a woman’s goals in life should be no more than to act as sex objects for lustful men into the realm of childbirth.

    Not only that, she is put on display in this awful position all by herself. This seems to be the very stereotype of the pro-life movement that would be most harmful to its cause: that women should be forced to bear children under any circumstances, even if and especially when, they are all alone. Where is the father of the child? Where are her parents, the lucky, and hopefully happy, grandparents? Where is the nurse or midwife or any woman who knows her emotional and physical duress and is going to hold her hand through this? I would think the pro-life community would want to promote the kind of support it claims to give to desperate women making the difficult choice it promotes.

    I don’t know whether the pro-life movement needs a monument or not, I just know it doesn’t need this one.

  3. Elena

    Britney Spears had a Cesarean section. It was an elective C-section because Britney was afraid of childbirth. Apparently her mother had told her it was one of the worst experiences of her life and Britney wanted to avoid that. So actually this whole thing is kind of stupid!

    BTW, when I was attempting to deliver my first daughter at home, her cord prolapsed through. I had to get on my hands and knees with my butt in the air to keep her head from compressing the umbilical cord and depriving her of oxygen. THAT is what this reminds ME of… Britney with a cord prolapse!

  4. Tom Smith

    One of the few interesting tidbits I’ve learned in the cultural anthropology classes I’ve had to take is that the position assumed in childbirth is not the same across cultures — I seem to remember that the most common arrangement is actually a standing position.


    While you may find this a stupid piece of art, as I do, how is it specifically not pro-life? It’s art, not a political manifesto. Also, since when is art inherently realistic and ideal? (By the way, the article never stated that this was an ideal depiction of childbirth. It used the word “idealized,” which is far different.) Images that attempt to reproduce reality exactly are not art. Art is a visual representation of a verity, not a photograph.

  5. Stuff

    I never said it was a “stupid piece of art.” My sister struggles to support herself as an artist, and I never criticized the statue as art. My criticism is pulling the pro-life movement into it; most pro-lfe groups promote respect for the child AND the mother. A male coworker of mine (not Catholic, pro-lfe, nor particularly religious at all) saw the picture and recoiled at its closeness to pornography. If this is a normal reaction, how is this artwork good for the pro-life movement?

    And the article states that the statue is “an idealized depiction of Britney in delivery.” Which means to me that the artist, at least, thinks this should be the ideal situation of childbirth to strive for. Please explain how that is not true, because I don’t see how “ideal” and “idealized” are “far different.”

  6. Tom Smith

    there’s some kinda weird virus-thing going on here. . . all the comments are now appearing edited with a bunch of funny accents. . . I have no idea what the heck anyone is saying. Is anyone else seeing this?

  7. Tom Smith

    “what’s unartistic about a photograph?”

    I never said that photographs were unartistic. I’m simply saying that visual art is lame when it attempts to copy visual reality exactly, as a photograph does.

    “I never said it was a ‘stupid piece of art.'”

    I never said that you did.

    “My criticism is pulling the pro-life movement into it; most pro-lfe groups promote respect for the child AND the mother. A male coworker of mine (not Catholic, pro-lfe, nor particularly religious at all) saw the picture and recoiled at its closeness to pornography. If this is a normal reaction, how is this artwork good for the pro-life movement?”

    Let me see if I’m reading you correctly. You say that, other than the fact that it depicts childbirth, the sculpture is “anything but pro-life” because it fails to promote respect for mothers due to its highly unrealistic birth posture and similarity to pornographic images?

    If that’s indeed what you’re saying, then I have a few points. Firstly, the fact that the image is foremost a depiction of childbirth outweighs any possible details. In looking at Michaelangelo’s Last Judgment, for example, what’s the most important part? Is it where Christ is seated? Is it the depiction of the boatmen of the river Styx? Is it the nudity of the characters in the painting? Or is it the fact that it’s an image of the Last Judgment? I contend that the latter is the most important part. Similarly, in the image of Britney Spears, what is the most important part? Is it the position she’s assumed? Is it the bearskin rug? Or is it the childbirth going on? I maintain that it’s the childbirth that is the primary and dominant feature of the work, and that it outweighs the other features. Hence, the dominant feature is pro-life, giving us a net result of “pro-life.”

    That all assumes, however, that the secondary features of the image, namely Ms. Spears’ supposed pornographic posture, are truly not pro-life because they fail to respect women. I answer that the respect of mothers, though a laudable goal, is not inherent to the pro-life cause. The only essential goal of the pro-life movement is the stoppage of abortion. So, even if it was a piece of art which supported childbirth but argued against mothers, which it isn’t, then it still wouldn’t be against the pro-life cause. With regard to the pornographic nature of the image, I maintain that the sculpture can only be seen as pornographic by those who would see pornography anywhere — when was the last time a pornographer *sculpted* pornography?

    “And the article states that the statue is ‘an idealized depiction of Britney in delivery.’ Which means to me that the artist, at least, thinks this should be the ideal situation of childbirth to strive for. Please explain how that is not true, because I don’t see how ‘ideal’ and ‘idealized’ are ‘far different.'”

    Do you *really* think that the artist believes that women should give birth naked, alone, on a bearskin rug, and in a funny position? That’s an insult to the intelligence of the artist. The meaning of “idealized” that the article uses might more appropriately be “romanticized.”

  8. George Smith

    Tom, I’m going to have to disagree with you. You ask “when was the last time a pornographer sculpted pornography.” The pose, not the medium, is the question here. When was the last time you saw a woman — whether giving childbirgh or not — grasping a bearskin rug by the ears with her pelvis arched in the air and her posterior thrust backwards? I bet that it was either (a) on a pornographic calendar; (b) in a pornographic magazine; (c) in a women’s underwear advertisement; (d) on an album cover. There’s one thing that all of these contexts have in common: sex. Now, the pose is not itself inherently vulgar, but it is, I would argue, in herently sexual and likely to arouse the male viewer, even if only in the sense of reminding him of sex. The focal point of that pose is the woman’s genitalia, and so it is a very particular kind of sex — not the kind where the embrace or the joining is significant, but rather the kind where the entrance is significant. I’m not going to go into more detail, but I think we all “get the picture.”

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