Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Honesty Alert: 'So what if abortion ends life?' 2.0

[This post was written on January 15, 2014, but will be also published on IgnitumToday, where I also write, later in the month, hence any seeming discrepancies between the date and words like 'today']

In a similar vein to my post about Duck Dynasty and A&E's clear message to Christians, I wanted to recall attention to this article posted on Salon, "So What if Abortion Ends Life?" and examine the 2014 attitude towards abortion from those who defend it.

The piece is just about a year old now, but I think it's still pertinent because it still represents a kind of new, chilling honesty lurking in the pro-abortion movement. For comparison, I'd like to present an article posted today on New Statesman: "The biggest lie of the anti-choice movement is that it is they who deal in harsh realities"

 Perhaps not every advocate of abortion would agree with Mary Williams, the author of the 2013 Salon article, when she says that she thinks the movement should admit and embrace the fact that abortion is murder.
"Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always." (emphasis mine)
In a nutshell, Williams' article condones oppression of the weak. 'It's OK to kill someone as long as they aren't the ones with the autonomy', she is saying, which was the same logic used by Hitler, slave owners, etc. Honestly, one of my favorite and most prophetic quotes from Orwell's Animal Farm is here re-appropriated by Williams, and touted as a positive reality: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (What if the woman who in this scenario is 'the boss' is at the mercy of a man who is raping her? In this moment, since he is now 'the boss', do her rights and her life no longer matter? I was not aware that human rights were predicated on spheres of power.)

Anyway, Williams' article contained so much contradictory logic and coldness that I'm sure even some pro-abortion supporters felt the need to disassociate from such a view point as "I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing."

Yet I think she's revealing a trend that is evidenced by the more recent article by blogger "Glosswitch" on the New Statesman, published just today.
"The alternative to abortion is not a new life in the abstract, but the experience of pregnancy and labour, and a lifetime of consequences that will be experienced in hugely variant social and economic settings. If we valued pregnancy and birth as greatly as we claim to, we would recognise the importance of allowing those faced with unwanted pregnancies to make their own decisions. However, there is a point at which anti-choice rhetoric cuts loose from any engagement with women's lives at all." 
This is a seductive argument, at least on the surface, in that it seems to be a well-reasoned critique of the pro-life movement as so focused on the unborn babies as to ignore the very human needs of the mothers. Having worked in pro-life ministry for my Diocese, I know that the need for a holistic approach to the issue--to care for the mothers, the babies, before birth, after birth, and until natural death--is getting a great deal of attention and is gradually phasing out those last bastions of over-aggressive one-track-mind ministry.  So, wouldn't a piece like this be a pill better swallowed, since it should renew our desire to encompass all participants in a crisis pregnancy with love and support?

Aye, but here's the rub.  The Glosswitch article continues,
"I am pro-choice and I am willing to live with blood on my hands if it means all women have the choices I expect for myself. I don't want perfection, I want humanity. Life is more than a flickering heartbeat on a black and white screen...We cannot have a sustainable, humane society without at the very least respecting each person’s right to own themselves."
And there it is. We're back to the "life worth sacrificing" mentality of the salon article--just slightly more sugar-coated.  Some in the pro-life movement can be accused of focusing too heavily on the babies at the expense of the mother (in some cases--because let's not be unfair to that minority of pro-lifers either: they would never turn away from a mother in crisis, it just isn't their main focus sometimes). But is the appropriate response to that accusation to reverse the tables completely, and focus on the mother at the deliberate expenditure of the baby's life? Of course not! Either you value and protect human life, or you do not. The moment you start to qualify whose life is 'worth it' and whose is not, you put your own life, and the life of anyone and everyone else, at the mercy of an arbitrary judge who may or may not think you're worth saving.
Here's the takeaway: While in the depths of the human heart, it has never been a question whether or not abortion is murder, I think we have come now to a turning point in the discussion. For 4 decades now, advocates of consequence-free abortion on demand have tried to convince women (and the public) that a fetus is just a blob of cells; that a baby isn't a baby until it's born; that a baby in-utero is just part of the mother's body, over which she should have unquestioned dominion. The case for abortion was made in distraction from or denial of what was really going on.

Now, they begin to realize that 'the centre cannot hold' in such an argument. The bald facts of what kind of crime abortion perpetrates on an innocent human life become more readily acknowledged. 'This is murder', 'the unborn are indeed live, human persons, and we are ok with killing them', abortion-proponents now admit.

In some ways, this is horrifying. The extent to which we have devalued human life is shocking and heartbreaking.  The say that any particular life just isn't worth saving (especially when we are talking about a child) belies a deeply-seated cultural disease--a cynicism that expresses itself in a blind, almost catatonic, pursuit of pleasure without consequence. To prioritize the selfish desires of the mother over any right at all of the unborn child is definitively backwards.

Yet, as I felt after the Duck Dynasty debacle, this attitude gives me an odd kind of relief and hope. Finally--finally--we are speaking clearly to one another. Call abortion murder, and include an acceptance of that murder as a non-negotiable part of supporting this so-called 'reproductive right'.  If you are insisting on the 'right' to take another's life, then be fully aware of what that means.

Fr. Pavone has said that America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion. This is, perhaps, what is beginning to happen. When even those who support abortion cease to pretend away its violent and murderous reality, perhaps 'the truth will free' at least some women who choose it as a result of the carefully constructed facade of harmlessness that the past 40 years have put in place.  It is depressing to think we have gotten to a point where someone--anyone--could not only defend but embrace and attempt to justify the taking of an innocent human life; but at the same time, it is a hopeful sign that we are finally starting to look abortion in the face, and in so doing, we can only pray that the Holy Spirit will open more than just eyes.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Don't Text and Live: Loneliness and Technology

Last night in one of my classes, my teacher brought up the pseudo-indeliblity of self that has been ushered in by the age of social networking and internet culture. There is a fear present in modern society of being forgotten that our constant need to 'share' our most personal and most mundane moments betrays.

Indeed, I think this phenomenon is predicated by social networking and the like, but I think our class discussion of it fell short of addressing a far more important component: the cause. Why now, in an age when we already have more ability to share our personal lives with strangers at every waking moment of every day than ever before, are we urged, as if by something subconscious, to share more and more? It is as though we fear that if every moment is not carefully and mechanically computed, stored, and transmitted out, it is lost. If we do not share our inner self with others--if something or someone outside of ourselves does not see our true heart and soul--we will be unknown.
This modern characteristic--the fear of being unknown and the reactionary insistence on making others know us--I would suggest might come from the dire straits we are in spiritually, as a culture.

Every human heart longs to be known completely, which is part of the reason why God is so irresistibly appealing to those who have discovered Him as the great Knower.  He is also the only one that can ever truly know us, for "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." (Jeremiah 1:5). Yet today, with the loss of Faith in God, the abandonment of the search for Him, and the rampant selfishness and immorality that degrades the human person, there seems to be a widespread feeling of being lost in a vacuum, alone and unknown despite the frantic regurgitation of feelings and facts to any captive audience that technology allows us to access.  More accurately, perhaps: it's like screaming into a vaccuum--the louder we yell (the more 'connected' we are), we still can't be heard (and we still aren't connected with anyone in any real way).

During our class discussion, someone brought up those people (you know them or you are one) who go to events or catalog huge personal moments by filming or taking pictures.  They seem to get so lost in the mechanical process of recording that they miss the moment.  It becomes all-important to artificially capture an experience, so that it can be put aside and processed later; yet we never seem to get to it, and so our lives become a pathetic train of moments we weren't present for and conversations we didn't have because we were too busy self-branding the version of it we want to post to Facebook to listen to the words of the  person on the other side of the table.

In a secular class, and one with a very left-leaning bent, it is easy to become similarly bogged down in discussing times we've seen others act this way, or times we've caught ourselves acting the same.  But this ignores the root of the problem.  What kind of self-loathing, or emptiness, or loss of purpose, could cause us to lie so pathetically to ourselves? Because it is indeed a lie; although we clamor that our experiences--all of them--are of paramount importance to us and to everyone else, even as we notate and store them meticulously, we push them aside and refuse to face them, much less live them.

It's quite simple: we live in a hedonistic, navel-gazing, morally ambiguous culture, which has exiled the only One with the capacity to know and love each of us personally.  As a result, we search frantically for love, affirmation, and intimacy with anyone and everyone, but because everyone else is searching with equal urgency for their own slice of acknowledgement and love, nobody has time, or even the peripheral vision, to see or hear me, or you, except perhaps selfishly, as a discard-able means to their own end.

Technology, then is perpetuating, exacerbating, and more deeply ingraining a disease of the soul that has its roots elsewhere, in the orientation away from God and neighbor, towards the self. By this turning away and in, we have lost all real human connection, and all connection with the God who can actually satiate the desires that eviscerate people who chase their fulfillment in worldly arenas. We are lonely, but like Coleridge's mariner, dying of thirst amidst 'water, water everywhere--but not a drop to drink, we find ourselves in an ocean of 'personal' stimulus and connectivity that is, ultimately, sterile and selfish, and therefore universally unsatisfying.

The solution is Christ, of course, but while a large scale spiritual reorientation of culture may seem impossible, it can start much more simply, with our neighbor. Pope Francis explains it thus:
"Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life. Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives." (EG 269)
This doesn't mean 'liking' a friend's status on Facebook. It means pulling your head up from beneath the overwhelming tide of commodified personal details that form the ocean of social networking, and listening to one person, face to face, say one real thing, where it matters--outside of the vaccuum. By turning back to our neighbor, we will gradually find ourselves turning back to Christ, and in so doing, will discover (or rediscover) that if we are finding the face of Christ in others, and talking to, caring for, and seeing Him there in them--then He is looking back at us.  His eyes, and His eyes alone, will truly see us and know us.

It means another thing, too, though. It means disconnecting from the frantic, stressful environment in which we find ourselves searching for something that we can't find in the artificially constructed reality of the desperately lonely. It means that we must "Be still, and know that I am God".  It is not coincidence that the words of Consecration, the act by which Christ gave Himself to us tangibly, until the end of time--the most real companionship and act of sacrificial love we could imagine--includes the word 'remembrance'.

We are never forgotten--it is we that forget.  So the next time your culturally-embedded loneliness is giving you the twitch to tweet mindlessly about your breakfast--try to make a practice of stopping and remembering that God knows and loves you.