I’m in Salt Lake City, Utah attending the World Congress of Families annual conference. This is the first time the conference has been held in the United States, and I’m grateful to be here thanks to a generous scholarship. The conference commenced yesterday and today I’ve got just a few minutes to jot down some notes here.
I applied for the scholarship not knowing what to expect. I’m interested in how individuals, religions, and pop culture talk about and present families and family issues, so I hoped to learn something at the conference. I ‘ll admit I also wanted to get back to Salt Lake simply because I like Utah and I’ve got family and friends around here. I didn’t know anything about the World Congress of Families but I hoped for the best.
I’m already pleasantly surprised. Quick highlights from yesterday:
1. John-Henry Westen, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, and Dr. Alveda King (Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece) spoke about abortion. I was happy to hear the simple fact that abortions have significantly decreased since the 1970s (I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about that–for some reason I always assumed abortions are on the rise). Currently there are about 1 million abortions per year in the United States. Also, Yoest mentioned the new abortion video released that very morning. She talked about the importance of providing pregnant women with loving support systems. We need to support women who have unplanned pregnancies. We also need to stop talking about abortion as a power statement: “Abortion for women is not power–it is poverty…” said Yoest, “Pro-life is pro-woman.” In one study, 27% of women reported to have suicidal thoughts after abortion. The percentage jumped to 50% among minors who had abortions.
King, in an address entitled “The Racial Undertones of Abortion,” talked about abortion as a civil rights crisis. She also told us about the multiple abortions she went through in earlier years when her doctors and Planned Parenthood encouraged her to have an abortion. She changed her mind on abortion years later after a moment of coming to Christ. My favorite quote of hers: “A woman has the choice to do what she wants with her body–but not the baby’s body. Where’s the lawyer for the baby?”
Westen reminded us that change begins with love. We must come from a place of love in these discussions.
2. Stan Swim from the Sutherland Institute challenged us to prayerfully ask why we exist and why we’re here now (wherever we are) in this moment in history: “What has your Creator called and equipped you to do?”
3. Nick Vujicic gave an empowering speech about loving God, Family, and the World. We learn to love in our families. Our work shouldn’t take priority over our families because who cares what we accomplish in the “world” if we aren’t good mothers and fathers, if our children don’t even know we love them? Nick has dedicated his life to motiving people all over the globe, but he says he always puts his family first.
4. In a panel, college students came together to talk about specific issues we face as millennials. Pornography’s a big one. Pornography changes the brain. In a study in Japan, 1 in 3 male millennials reported having completely lost their sex drive. Because of addiction to hard core pornography, these young men lost desire to have sexual experiences with real women in real life. I’d like to look into this study and learn more because that statistic seems unbelievable (and really, really sad).