Get Involved

“But I’m too busy…” It’s always about busy-ness, isn’t it? Which means, actually, it’s about my priorities. Am I so caught up in “things of the world” that I haven’t carved out time to serve God? God gave me these hands, these feet, this voice. How am I using them for him?

It’s a balancing act I know I’ll never get 100% right…but I have to keep working at it.

How We Talk About Abortion

I doubt anyone reading this would argue with me when I say abortion is the central, pivotal issue at the heart of the divide in America today. In recent weeks, with different states passing various abortion bans as test strikes against a new Supreme Court, the magma that simmers uneasily beneath all our toxic discourse has erupted.

Current discussions are excruciating for someone like me, who believes we as Christians have too long taken a facile approach to this issue: A child is a child, a life is a life, end of discussion. Any protest issued by the pro-choice movement does not require answer, because it can’t possibly outweigh that central, fundamental tenet.

Well, a life is a life; it’s true. It’s not that the core belief is wrong. But I heard a quote recently. I haven’t been able to verify it, but it resonates as true to what we as Catholics believe about God:

When God sees sin, he sees wounds.

(For what it’s worth, I heard it attributed to Julian of Norwich.)

What I hear, in the hysteria of those who are pro-choice, is pain.

The pain of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. The pain of discrimination. A thousand pinprick wounds (and plenty of traumatic ones, too). The pain of deep wounds not healed. People who encounter a hardline “life is sacred, and there’s no more to talk about” stance—a stance which fails to address their pain—will experience a further ripping of wounds they might not even recognize they have. Wounds they have no idea how to heal, because the God that could heal them has been too often represented by people who don’t acknowledge their pain, and in some cases are the cause of it. Which means they dig down and become even more entrenched and unable to hear.

We are not changing hearts when we focus our efforts in this way. And if we want to create a culture of life, we have to change hearts.

So how do we change hearts? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I’ve realized that not one of the moments of conversion in my life ever happened because I was scolded, hammered with a truth I wasn’t ready to receive, or told my concerns were irrelevant. It always happened slowly, organically, through insights that grew from truths I already recognized.

If we want to change hearts, we have to learn to speak in such a way that the people who need to hear the message are actually able to receive it.

If we who believe in the sanctity of life can only answer the sincere, heartfelt anguish of people who are pro-choice with a “mic drop” argument that means nothing to them (no matter how true it is), then we are tone deaf. We are noisy gongs, clanging. We are without love.

So the next question is: what pain, what concerns, of the pro-choice movement are we ignoring, to the detriment of our goal of creating a culture of life?

My spiritual director once said that the intersection of faith and politics is a mess, because it’s like a bowl of spaghetti. Tug on one thread/issue and you dislodge dozens of others. Abortion simmers beneath everything else because it’s connected to almost everything.

An author in the National Review recently wrote that something she wrote years ago has been quoted both pro-choice and pro-life writers: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

This resonates with both sides because it’s true. Women really don’t go around looking for excuses to kill their children. They seek abortion because they truly feel they have no other choice.

Now why would that be?

It can be because they’re in abusive relationships, and they simply feel they’re not capable of bearing one more burden. Or because they are in poverty, and can’t bear one more burden. And yes, a child is a burden. A joyful burden, we hope, but a burden nonetheless. We all complain about parenthood too much to pretend otherwise.

It can be because health care (before and after ACA) is astronomically expensive and handled by private companies in a callous and punitive manner, in which profit counts more than the good of the customer.

It can be because mothers know the system is stacked against them. If they don’t have a support network, how can they care for a child and also work?

It can be because schools in poor areas are a pale shadow of what more affluent families (i.e., us) demand as a given. Or because discrimination still exists, in ways we can’t fathom, because we won’t accept the word of those who experience it, preferring to think they’re overreacting.

The upshot is that women seeking abortion feel—with reason—that they are simply birthing a child into a desperate life of discrimination and struggle and pain.

And again, we know any life is better than no life. But is that facile response going to cut it when we face God? I can’t help thinking God’s going to say, “Thank you for working so hard to protect the unborn ‘least of these,’ but what did you do for all those OTHER ‘least of these’?”

The upshot is: it’s not that we’re wrong to say the baby’s right to life outweighs all other concerns. Of course it does.

But that doesn’t erase the need to address all those other concerns. And my entire life, the prolife movement has been singlemindedly focused on the legal question of abortion, while actively working against attempts to address these other issues at the level of society.

I have more to say about this, but this post is too long already, so I’ll close for today and pick up again tomorrow.

Note: Part 2 is here, and is significantly shorter!

Racism is a prolife issue

Open Wide - prolife

This quote may seem shocking, but it speaks to the larger prolife issue. To be truly pro-life, we have to be thinking beyond the legality of abortion; we need to think about the larger issues that exert societal pressures. Why is the abortion rate so much higher among black women, do you think?

I have a lot of thoughts on the current state of the debates around abortion, but I will leave this for now and hope that it encourages many to click through and read the whole pastoral letter.

“Consider the dignity of others”

Open Wide - jokes

I think all of us intend to do as the US Bishops urge in this quote. I think, in fact, that all of us think we *are* doing it. This is one of those areas in which I believe it will benefit us all to simply be more intentional–more self-analytical–to pull off the blinders and recognize when we aren’t, in fact, keeping the human dignity of others front and center…when we brush aside their protests because to take them seriously would require us to make uncomfortable changes. It’s certainly not a problem that’s isolated to issues of race, but it’s a place to start.

Encountering others

Open Wide - peripheries

In my upcoming book on living the Beatitudes in this day and age, in this place and time, I talk at one point about the risk of living in a bubble. We worry about perceived “bad influences” and thus cut off exposure to people whose experiences are different than ours. This can be true around religion, around politics, but it’s especially noticeable with race. How many of us actually have friends, by which I mean people we hang out with on a regular basis, of a different color skin?

 

 

A thousand conditions

EG 7 1000 conditions resize

I’ll be happy when…

…I get away from this job.

…I get a literary agent.

…school’s out.

…this stressful life item is over.

…I graduate.

…so-and-so gets his/her life straightened out.

(And so on, and so on.)

They’re all lies, and deep down, we all know that, but we all say them. I’ve been working on this in myself for years.

#joy #evangeliigaudium #intentionalcatholic #humandignity #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #catholic #theologyofthebody

“With Open Hearts”

Open Wide - opportunities to hear

Returning to Open Wide Our Hearts for a day or two, as the subject of immigration comes back up in the national news. This quote really stuck out at me when I first read it, because so much of our national discourse these days involves firing shots over opponents’ shoulders, without ever actually pausing to listen “with open hearts,” as the US Bishops said. The obvious application of this quote is to black-white race relations. How often do we dismiss the experiences of our African American brothers and sisters, thinking, whether we admit it out loud or not, that they’re overreacting, or reading into situations things that aren’t there? Open hearts, indeed.

But black-white relations aren’t the only instance where this quote applies. How much of the immigration debate these days is framed around the belief that people coming from south of the border are out to get us? Whole swaths of the country have bought, hook, line, and sinker, the idea that most of those seeking entry to the U.S. are criminals, even though research shows the opposite to be true.

The other thing we aren’t talking about, nationally, is the fact that the violence that is causing the mass migration that has created a crisis at the border came from the U.S. in the first place. MS-13 originated in Los Angeles. (Given the above paragraph, I take a moment to acknowledge this example of crime within the immigrant community, but also–it has to be seen within the larger context; the gang came into being to protect the immigrant community from gang violence from American-born criminals. So hey, Americans taught immigrants to be criminals.) This 2005 article from the L.A. Times illustrates that the seeds of the current crisis were sown by our own failures decades earlier.

And yet now, we choose to ignore our own role in this crisis, and try to blame others?

Open hearts, indeed.

The problems at the border are real. The questions are real–the ones posed by people on both sides of the debate. But the hysteria and demonizing done on both sides does not reflect the heart of Christ. How are we supposed to bring people to Christ if we’re not even reflecting him?

For further reflection, here’s a homily Archbishop Chaput gave on the topic.

Assuming the best

Ignatius-favorable interpretation

Words that should skewer us all in these polarized times…they certainly made me squirm. This quote reminds me of the adage “assume the best of the other.” I believe this passionately, yet so often, I do the opposite.