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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Talking with Pro-Abortion Street Canvassers

If you'd told me a year ago that I'd have advanced beyond blogging about pro-life issues to actually talking, face-to-face, to abortion defenders, I'd have called you crazy. Yet that is precisely what has happened.

Today I want to mention specifically the experience of talking with street canvassers. You know, the ones who call out to people walking by on the sidewalk, offering literature and asking for support for their organizations. One of the most visible canvassing organizations in downtown Chicago is Planned Parenthood, and currently, they're trying to drum up public support for President Obama's health care reform bills.

A friend of mine actually became aware of their presence long before I did, and she's talked to them more than I have as well. I suppose that's partly because she is out on the streets during the day more than I am. She's had a few successful conversations, including one in which the guy she was talking to ended up stopping his canvassing for PP and starting with another organization. Praise God for that. And, interestingly enough, as she began to recount another conversation to me while we were on the bus together last weekend, a guy sitting in the seat across from us overheard and introduced himself as a PP canvasser. Naturally, that turned into a conversation as well.

A couple of things have struck me while talking to these people. The first is how indoctrinated they sound. They literally all repeat the same catchphrases: "anti-choice forces are hijacking health care reform"; "97% of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative in nature and only 3% is abortion related"; "women should be in complete control of their bodies"; "women should have access to reproductive health care."

The second striking thing about the canvassers is their complete lack of ability to argue a point. When challenged on any of the above points, not once has any of them actually defended it with anything resembling an argument; all they do is paraphrase the statement and/or try to get out of continuing the conversation further.

For example:

Canvasser: "Abortion is essential reproductive health care for women."
Me or my friend: "How is it health care? It is a completely elective procedure almost 100% of the time. It doesn't cure any illnesses or disease."
Canvasser: "I can see that I'm not going to convince you."
Me or my friend: "Well, maybe if you had a reason for your point of view, you would. Seriously, why should abortion be considered health care?"
Canvasser: "Women should have complete control over their bodies."
Me or my friend: "Uh huh...but is control really an inherently good thing? People can 'control' their bodies in lots of ways that aren't healthy."
Canvasser: "Women can't be free unless they have complete control over their bodies. That includes abortion."
Me or my friend: "We're getting away from the point here. Even if I agreed with you on the control thing, how does that mean abortion is health care?"
Canvasser: "I can see I'm not going to convince you."

These people are in complete, utter denial about what they are doing. Even when confronted, they avoid the key points. Once, after a canvasser told me that abortion wasn't "included in health care reform," I offered her a stack of paper articles from mainstream news sources explaining how and why abortion was, in fact, "included in health care reform." Her response? She gestured for me to take them back and said, "No thanks - I'm pretty set in my beliefs."

Most of us have beliefs in which we are "pretty set." Yet, I can't think of a single intellectually honest person I know who would refuse to look at new information that might challenge her current way of thinking. The surer you are about your beliefs, the more you should welcome challenges, right? - because your beliefs, if true, should withstand them. I have never said to a pro-abortion debate partner, "I can see I'm not going to convince you." I lead with the reasoning and let that stand on its own truth. And if they avoid it, I state it another way, until the point is finally made.

I don't know what to do with conversations like these that always seem to lead to a dead end. Sometimes I wonder if having them is a waste of time. Yet, most people don't change their minds about anything overnight, and some former abortion-industry employees have said that they changed their minds due to the cumulative effect of pro-life rhetoric that they heard or read. It just took one "aha!" moment to bring it all home for them. So, you never know. Maybe we're planting seeds. It's hard not to at least try; each person is a life in need of saving. I pray for each and every one of them. May they know the true peace and joy that comes from living the culture of life. Anything less is a cheap imitation and falls far short of the greatness that we human beings are capable of.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Constant Craving

Tonight I was listening to k.d. lang's famous hit song "Constant Craving" and thinking about how all of us humans really are the same in some basic (natural) ways, such as wanting to be loved and cared for by another person. I really do believe that today's hookup culture, at its root, reflects a people looking for love. We've just gotten our wires crossed.

The happiest couples I know are those who experience sex as a total, ecstatic, mutual self-giving, with no reservations and exclusive for life. And that makes sense, doesn't it? After all, such couples bond more deeply to one another and renew their commitment to one another every time they have sex. They never have to worry about sexually-transmitted infections. They understand their fertility and how their bodies work. They've discerned together whether or not they are seeking a pregnancy and have accepted the awesome creative power that comes with their sexuality. With such a bond comes strong and healthy families, and in turn, a stronger and healthier society.

Yet, when I express to people the above view of sexuality, they're often quick to inform me that this is "only my view" and that I "can't expect others to follow it" or "shouldn't impose my beliefs on others." In fact, I read an article a couple of months ago which condemned abstinence education, admonishing the reader that "Human nature is difficult to overcome in the name of religious beliefs."

Wow. Well, actually, the view that sex should be reserved for someone whom you've promised to love for the rest of your life isn't necessarily based on religion. Many religions do teach that this is the right thing to do, but in reality this teaching is based on the natural law - those self-evident moral truths that are written into the world and into us. Contrary to the author's statement in the paragraph above, human nature is actually consistent with the view of sex that I have described. As noted, individuals and the society they live in function better and are happier when this model is followed - and everyone, in their heart of hearts, ultimately wants love, presumably the most fulfilling love there is.

As for the charge that I can't impose my beliefs on others, I must say that is a given. No beliefs, whether about this or something else, can be imposed - only PROposed. Everyone has a free will and they have the choice to accept ANY idea or not. As for the admonishment that I can't expect others to follow this belief - well, I don't know about that. I've been involved with several groups whose mission is to spread this beautiful message about experiencing sex meaningfully, and I must say that people's responses have moved me to tears. So many have been thrilled to hear the message (and in some cases upset that they never heard it before) and put it into practice in their own lives, with immediate and dramatic changes resulting.

The point is, this is all about happiness, not imposing restrictions on people. I've found that sex treated with the utmost care - and practiced the way it naturally makes sense to do so - is actually pretty freeing and empowering. So why wouldn't I want to share that with others? I hope that no one will object to hearing something that could make their life better, especially on the grounds that "it's just your view." Every idea out there is just someone's view, and at least some ideas are good - so why not just listen and give it a try? It could change your life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Natural Law = Bigotry? Please.

I love George Weigel.

He is quite possibly THE most articulate Catholic apologist in America today, as well as the most learned historian of our Church. Yet, the main reason I love his writing has to do with his adeptness at explaining the Catholic teachings that are rooted in natural-law thinking. He explains them in such a way that anyone, even a non-Catholic, can understand. And what I appreciate the most is the way in which he continually hammers home this point that one needn't be Catholic to accept the arguments that Catholics raise in the public square.

A favorite quote of mine on this point came from a piece he wrote back in April about the Obama-Notre Dame controversy:

"Daley and Biden (and Kathleen Sebelius and John Kerry and Barbara Mikulski and Susan Collins and Clan Kennedy and the rest of the Catholic pro-abortion pols) are not the arbiters of the truth of Catholic faith. More to the public point, they are dead wrong on what is at stake in the life-issues debate. For what is at stake, to repeat, is not some peculiarity of Catholic dogma but a publicly accessible truth about justice that everyone willing to take an argument seriously can grasp."

But what I really wanted to highlight today was his Nov. 27 column on Catholic Exchange, titled: "The Natural Law = Bigotry? Please."

It's full of good stuff, but here are a few highlights:

"...[T]he Post's indictment -- in an editorial titled 'Mr. Cuccinelli's bigotry' -- centered on the fact that candidate Cuccinelli had described homosexual behavior as contrary to 'natural law' and had further suggested that natural law was a useful guide to public policy...the Post's anonymous editorial writer described Mr. Cuccinelli's appeal to natural law as a 'retrofit (of) the old language of racism, bias, and intolerance in a new context'...Baloney. What's being retrofitted here is an old-time anti-Catholic bigotry, tarted up in the guise of tolerance and extended to those who think there are moral truths built into the world and into us -- truths that we can grasp by reason." [emphasis added]

Bravo, Prof. Weigel, on the restatement of the definition of natural law. Moral truths built into the world and into us. I like it. Here's another passage:

"Ken Cuccinelli is a serious, practicing Catholic. He's also a sophisticated politician who knows that you don't argue public policy in the public square on the basis of uniquely Catholic theological premises. Rather, you make your arguments in a public vocabulary, accessible to all. That's the grammar and vocabulary of the natural moral law: the basis on which Thomas Jefferson argued the case for American national independence, Martin Luther King, Jr., promoted the civil rights of African Americans, and John Paul II passionately and effectively defended the religious and political rights of all." [emphasis added]

He goes into further detail about how these leaders argued their cases in the public square and how ridiculous it is to call any of this "bigotry." Go and read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Biology 101 as the Foundation for a Natural Law Approach

Videos like this are always both sad and unsurprising. Sad because it's always heartbreaking to hear someone talk about doing something so gravely evil as murdering a child. And unsurprising because deceived pro-choicers have always found ways to call a grave evil a moral necessity. It's almost as if intellectual dishonesty is par for the course. It has to be; there's no way to maintain a pro-choice position without it.

The most ardent pro-choicers have long acknowledged that abortion is, in fact, killing. Yet your common, everyday, non-activist pro-choice person will spam every abortion-related message board on the internet (and even some non-abortion-related ones) with euphemism, equivocation, and personal insult to the contrary. It almost makes one wonder what would happen if they took apologetics instruction from the doctors they are defending. C'mon, guys, get with the program; the pro-abortion-choice mantra is: "Yes, of course it is killing; it's a sad and tragic thing, but women and their pregnancies are complicated, and so it's a necessary evil sometimes."

The average (reasonable) person does not agree with that statement. In fact, the average person's conscience recoils at the idea of killing any innocent person - for any reason. They are only able to tolerate abortion because they have deceived themselves as to what it truly is. Abortionists and the radical activists who defend them, however, have employed no such basic biological deception. Their deception is of a higher order: one that somehow imagines that we must ever kill one innocent person to protect another. Most people would not accept such a deception, but fortunately for the pro-choice side, there are a variety of self-contradictory deceptions to choose from, and each person receives the one she finds easiest to accept.

What does all of this have to do with the natural law? Well, the concept of natural law states that rules for how humans ought to live can be observed in human nature itself. It is obvious to most people that killing fellow humans does not produce good outcomes. It deprives the victim of a happy future; it tears apart relationships; and it leaves regret and emotional wreckage in its wake. Few would deny these things. But in order to get to the point where we are applying natural law theory to abortion, we must first acknowledge the simple biological reality that abortion equals killing a fellow human being. It is amazing how difficult it can be for some people to make that very simple first step, but if those doing the killing and those who defend them have made it, how hard could it be for the rest of us?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gay Marriage as a Natural Law Question

Advocates of gay marriage have long stated that they do not wish to undermine religious freedom by forcing churches with moral objections to gay marriage to perform ceremonies uniting same-sex couples. In fact, when the Illinois General Assembly introduced civil unions legislation in the spring of 2009, they named the legislation the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act for this very reason: the legislation explicitly protected religious institutions from being compelled to "solemnize or officiate" civil unions.

In the heat of that legislative session, State Rep. Greg Harris, lead sponsor of this controversial bill, even told me that as strongly as he felt about gay marriage, he felt just as strongly about religious freedom - and that's why he made sure that this opt-out clause for churches was included.

Even a couple of self-described orthodox Catholics once told me that even though they accept the Church's teaching on this, they think it's okay to have gay marriage legislation as long as the Church doesn't have to participate in these marriage ceremonies.

What is going on here?

I think it's the same phenomenon that happens with so-called "pro-choice Catholic" politicians. While saying they accept Church teaching - or, failing that, that the Church at least has a right to believe and teach what she does - they show absolutely no understanding of WHY the Church believes and teaches what she does.

WHY does the Church teach against gay marriage?

In short, the Church teaches against gay marriage because it is not what human beings were made for. It goes against our nature and ultimately harms those who practice it, in both body and spirit.

Therefore, how could it ever be enough to simply grant that those who disagree with gay marriage shouldn't have to be involved in the ceremonies? What about down the road, when such couples want to adopt children? Should Church-based adoption agencies be compelled to release children to couples whose unions they believe are intrinsically harmful to those couples, any children in their care, and the wider society? What about when it comes time for Church-affiliated institutions to choose the benefit packages that they will offer to their employees? Should they be compelled to grant marriage-like benefits to employees to protect and strengthen unions they recognize as harmful to all involved? Should Church-affiliated grade schools be compelled to hire employees who openly live a gay lifestyle that they recognize as harmful to that person and to society?

No matter where a person stands on the gay marriage question, these are issues that everyone should consider. The Church does not teach against gay marriage for an arbitrary, obscure "religious" reason. This is about much more than a ceremony. Ultimately it is about two competing worldviews. It is about the relationships between people and how they affect those people and the world they live in. As always, the Church's teaching is rooted in natural law which can reveal to everyone, even the non-believer, the self-evident truth about how human beings are supposed to function in the world.

George Washington on the Natural Law

"The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; ...the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained..."

I'm a Politician Who Just Happens to be Catholic

Jack Kenny at the New American recently wrote an article describing the New Hampshire Institute of Politics' forum "Catholics in the Public Square." Kenny astutely sums up the problem with many Catholic politicians today who don't understand that they still retain their Catholic identity while in public service. In his words: "They seem to think separation of church and state requires a divorce of morality from law." Therefore, they see no problem with voting for laws that protect - and, in some cases, expand - the so-called right to abortion.

This really gets to the heart of it. Does anyone truly believe that laws should have nothing to do with morality? That the Church has no rational reason for what she believes and proclaims as the moral truth other than "God says this is bad"?

The Church, as the voice of Christ on earth, teaches us not only that God says things are bad, but the reason why. Her critics would do well to inform themselves of the actual reasoning behind the teachings. They may be surprised to find that it makes intuitive sense.

Naturally Pro-Life

Like all the rest of creation, man is destined by God to an end, and receives from Him a direction towards this end. This ordination is of a character in harmony with his free intelligent nature. In virtue of his intelligence and free will,man is master of his conduct. Unlike the things of the mere material world he can vary his action, act, or abstainfrom action, as he pleases. Yet he is not a lawless being in an ordered universe. In the very constitution of hisnature, he too has a law laid down for him, reflecting that ordination and direction of all things, which is the eternallaw. The rule, then, which God has prescribed for our conduct, is found in our nature itself. Those actions which conform with its tendencies, lead to our destined end, and are thereby constituted right and morally good; those at variance with our nature are wrong and immoral.
--"Natural Law," New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

One of the most beautiful things about being Catholic is the faith's sacramental mentality - meaning that almost any material thing can be an outward sign of the presence of God. Indeed, the way nature is ordered reveals what God has intended for it. Moral principle tends to be reflected in how nature "works" best; therefore, most teachings that are typically described as "religious" are actually self-evidently true for anyone who takes the time to examine inherent human nature and act in accordance with it.

Nowhere is this more true than with the issue of abortion. While the pro-life position is often described as a "religious" belief and subsequently dismissed or ridiculed as irrelevant, rarely does the critic take the time to actually examine the "why" behind the belief. That "why" is the subject of this blog.