Tag Archives: abortion

Americans for Life

voteThey marched in freezing temperatures with a blizzard fast approaching. Washington D.C. was closed down – transportation systems crippled. There were fewer valiant witnesses to the Pro-Life plea than in previous years, yet their hearts burned with the love of life and of God. 

And it was perhaps the fire within them that I saw in the photos of the tens of thousands gathered in our nation’s capitol, to march to the steps of the Supreme Court. In the dark of winter they carried their flaming hearts, lighting the way, reminding the world to see what we have done and are doing to our nation. 

It is difficult to see in a storm, and a blizzard is blinding. But these valiant marchers represented the majority of Americans who do not believe abortion on demand should be the law of the land. They represented the forty-three million unborn children murdered, a massive genocide. Their crime, these little ones? Wanting to live. 

I am thankful these protesters gave witness. Abortion is like the elephant in the room, only it is an elephant in our nation, avoided, not spoken of in polite society. Those of us who can see the elephant can no longer turn away and pretend it’s not there. We cannot say that taking innocent human life is a choice, a right, in a civilized world. Recently it seems that our laws protect those who break them, yet do not protect the innocent, the least of us, the most vulnerable, the unborn. 

There will be a judgment one day, a day when each of us will stand before God in His brilliant all-seeing light. We shall answer for our lives. We will be judged, essentially, on how well we have loved one another, on whether we loved life more than death, loved others more than ourselves. God does win in the end, and he is a loving God, desiring us to love, commanding us to love. 

The annual March for Life is held on or near January 22, the day of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade. It is a wintry time, when light is less. But the days are lengthening, and soon we will enter the Lenten Season to prepare our hearts for Easter. Lent means lengthening, a stretching of the light to shrink the dark. And so our nation, in the cold of winter, tries to see a way forward in today’s blizzard of choice. Our nation needs to lengthen the light and shrink the dark.

January 22 borders deep winter and early spring. In the Church we have been celebrating Epiphany, a starry season of light and seeing, of manifestations of God become man, when Eternity intersected Time. Epiphanytide is short this year, two Sundays, so that today we suddenly find ourselves in Pre-Lent, three Sundays before Ash Wednesday. We prepare our hearts for Easter, and in the discipline of fast, prayer, and sacrifice, we shed light on our own lives so that we can repent and move toward the light of God’s love once again, so that we can truly see the resurrected Christ and partake of his resurrection. During Lent we confess our unlove, the selfishness that hardens our own hearts, and that hardens the heart of America. 

Our nation, in this election year, is also called to choose light over darkness, life over death. Our country is called to repent, to change. As we cast our votes we become part of our culture, be it one of life or death, and we become responsible for its law. Each of us will one day account for the vote we cast, the part we played in creating those laws. As a conservative in California, my vote doesn’t seem to make a difference in the electoral system. But I know it does. God counts my vote, and it lessens my culpability in the ongoing genocide of our next generation, a genocide that averages a million babies a year, forty-three million lives in the last forty-three years. 

We hear that women want to “own” their bodies. They want to fulfill their dreams. Such ownership of another person is slavery. Dreams are not fulfilled through such ownership. Such dreams, built on such a lie, are nightmares. President Lincoln and Dr. King knew this. Such nightmares lead to suicide; such lies will kill America.

We must pray for our country, for this lie lives in our law. It is said the tide is turning, that eighty percent of Americans now favor restrictions on abortion; two-thirds of those are “pro-choice.” As we enter this time of choosing our leaders let us choose those who will work to redeem our culture, so that America can once again be a beacon of light to a darkening world. 

As we step into Lent, we must pray for light and life. We must fan the flames of love in order to see our way to Easter.

The Human Search for Meaning

IMG_0044One of the many reasons I like going to church each Sunday is that I am reminded regularly of what it means to be fully human and to live life to the fullest, within a human community, a society.

For I do not live alone. What I do affects others. What others do affects me. With the creed of self, of rampant individualism birthed in the sixties and nurtured by the sexual revolution, one needs reminding regularly what it means to be human, that we are a human community.

And the community is not only a horizontal one in present time, but one which extends back in time and forward in the future. What I do today affects future generations. What my ancestors did, my parents, my grandparents did, has affected me.

So in church I come face to face with the fact that not only do I bear some degree of responsibility for others, that it’s “not all about me,” but that my life has real meaning.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in the Wall Street Journal writes of the vital role of religion in society:

“No society has survived for long without either a religion or a substitute for religion… Homo sapiens is the meaning-seeking animal. If there is one thing the great institutions of the modern world do not do, it is to provide meaning. Science tells us how but not why. Technology gives us power but cannot guide us as to how to use that power. The market gives us choices but leaves us uninstructed as to how to make those choices. The liberal democratic state gives us freedom to live as we choose but refuses, on principle, to guide us as to how to choose… the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.”

We are creatures who  seek meaning. We are recognizing today that generations have been raised in a largely secular society that has sought to strip serious meaning from the public square, substituting causes, grievances and movements that gather around likes or dislikes. These politically correct “isms” do not tell me who I am, why I am here, how I should live, where I have been and where I am going. There may be meaning on some level in decrying global warming or GMO’s or political candidates but not meaningful enough to ward off depression and it’s offspring, despair.

And there is plenty of depression and despair that has filled the void. Pharmaceuticals and other feel-good drugs have followed suit, re-enforcing the divine monarchy of self and isolating us more and more from one another. The vicious spiral continues downward into darkness.

And so I go to Church where I am told that, as a matter of fact, it is not all about me. Mary Wakefield writes in The British Spectator, “In my twenties… full of self-pity…. I dropped in to see a priest… and poured out my woes. (He) listened quietly, then said: ‘The point of being a Christian is not to feel better, it is so God can use you to serve others.’ Others? It wasn’t all about me! I actually laughed with the relief of it.”

Yes, the relief. And we end up feeling better by serving others. Instead of contemplating my own needs, worship and service pulls me out of myself, towards God and my fellows, and life becomes deeply and beautifully meaningful. Depression and despair will ever be nearby, waiting to fill the void, so I make sure there is no void to fill. I make sure I am full to the brim with meaning, with God, by going to church regularly.

Our preacher today spoke of his heartrending experience as a social counselor to prisoners being released in California. He has come to see that their broken lives do not exist in a vacuum, but were influenced by earlier generations – their parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents. And so the “sins of the father” were indeed visited upon the children. He works to stop the cycle.

Our preacher said how science has given us proof of that legacy in the way drug use is biologically passed on to offspring, so that newborns must undergo a detoxing, shattering the air with their screams.

We are not alone in our actions. No man is an island, as the priest-poet John Donne said.  We are affected by those who have gone before us and we will in turn affect those who come after. We affect one another today.

Douglas Murray writes of the slippery slope of euthanasia, assisted suicide, a topic debated in Britain, passed into law in Holland and Oregon, and recently signed into law by the governor of  California. Mr. Murray traces the acceptance of this shift in our culture to the baby-boomer generation desiring the “full panoply of rights”:

“The right to education and welfare were followed by sexual liberation, which… came with the idea of having total rights over one’s own body, including the right to abort unwanted fetuses… the baby-boomers (are) awarding themselves one last right – the ‘right to die.’ “

The ownership of one’s body is a powerful idea. The fallacy lies in the fact that we are communal beings, with responsibilities to one another today and to the future. In terms of abortion, the fallacy also lies in the right to own another human being by virtue of that person residing within one’s body.

We fought slavery and won, but society will always know the anguish that we allowed it to happen at all. So too, as we kill our children because we own our bodies and claim ownership of the life growing within, we will grieve far into the future. We shall wake up and see the greatest genocide of all, generations of Americans lost, our own children, our own grandchildren, and now our own great-grandchildren, all fellow human beings on this good earth. We know already the grief of Rachel weeping for her children that were no more, the slaughter of the innocents. We are linked together in our humanity.

It has been observed that where euthanasia has become legal, palliative care has lessened. Those in favor of assisted suicide using the euphemism “death with dignity,” point out that I don’t have to choose death by injection. But others choosing assisted suicide may mean that my end-of-life care, my palliative care, will diminish in quality, availability, and affordability. A slippery slope. We are linked together.

There are ways to care for one another that reflect our Creator’s love for us. When we choose death instead of life, at either end of our numbered days, we withdraw from our common bonds, our humanity. Christianity and Judaism has taught for centuries to choose life over death. Doctors have sworn an oath to do so; what do they swear to uphold today? Can I trust my doctor?

I recently watched a good friend meet a good death. I pray, when my time comes, that I die as well as he did. He knew who he was, why he was here, and where he was going. He knew he was passing through a gateway into eternal life, eternal love, eternal joy. Shedding the corrupted body is not easy, but we have many means to palliate and soften the journey.

When I go to church I am reminded of these things, these “higher” things, the difference between truly living life to the fullest, as our Creator intends for each one of us to do (he should know) and slowly dying by degree, inch by inch, slipping into myself, into depression, despair, and eternal death, even while living.

And when I come home from church I come home full of meaning, full of God, nourished and ready to brave the six days until the next Sunday.

Family Deficit

marriage and family

The future of humanity passes through marriage and the family. So proclaimed Pope John Paul II. When traditional marriage and family is threatened, damaged, and destroyed, so is humanity’s future. Many have written recently about the severe decline in birth rates that will soon cause a global crisis.

Today the Baby Boomer generation is moving into their senior years. Born in the post WWII boom, they comprise a significant percentage of the U.S. population. They will require massive care as they age. Where will that care come from? And with increased longevity, they will require such care farther into the future.

Since the second world war, we have lauded individual autonomy. In our pursuit of happiness we find we may have taken a wrong turn, have embraced self and mocked the authority of tradition, faith, and family to our peril. We have redefined and weakened traditional marriage through no-fault divorce, as we no longer recognize producing and nurturing the next generation as the primary goal of marriage. Birth control began the winnowing, and abortion killed the others who were unwanted. Children, as well as the elderly, have become inconvenient in their demand sacrifice of time and money. As we have sought our own way and individual happiness, we have been inevitably destroying the family and thus the future of humanity.

The world is soon to face a critical shortage of workers. It is ironic or perhaps an obvious result, that my generation of Boomers who failed to provide a substantial next generation, will now have fewer to care for them as they age. In addition, we have not produced the next work force that will manufacture goods, the next police force that will ensure the peace, the next military force that will defend our borders. For a sneak preview, read P. D. James’ dystopian novel, The Children of Men.

I’ve counted at least five trends that will probably coalesce in the next few decades: a worldwide (and massive) graying population, the destruction of the extended family that cares for the aged, the absence of a younger generation that will care for the aged (due to population decline), the increased longevity of the aged, and the culture of self over a culture of  self-sacrifice.

As Nicholas Eberstadt writes in the Wall Street Journal,

“Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes have unintended consequences… by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing to provide… care and support than ever before… (which) promises to frame an overarching social problem…throughout the world. It is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with increasing independence for those traditionally most dependent on others – i.e. the young and old.”

We’ve been warned about the population deficit, that we will not have the numbers to support our economy or defend our borders. But it may come home sooner than that, as we age and become abandoned by our own society.

Some of us have family. Some do not. Digging into the deeper and better part of our human nature, we want to care for both groups.

It is no surprise that with a national health care system that is economically unviable, assisted suicide is encouraged. What committee will decide who lives and who dies? What pressures will be felt by seniors to end their lives for the convenience of their loved ones? What happens to the mind (and heart and soul) of the physician who has journeyed down that path… one that no longer supports life. And should those in the medical industry who support life be forced to defend themselves?

In the end, I suppose, we do reap (as a world, a nation, a family, an individual) what we sow.

If John Paul II is right, and the future of humanity is indeed passed on through the family, we are in trouble. As marriage and the family dies, so does humanity.

And as the family weakens, the wisdom and culture of the past is not passed on. We are left bankrupt not only in terms of matters of defense at home and abroad, matters of health care. We are left without the moral compass of over two thousand years of Judeo-Christian ethos.

Let us renew life. Let us fight for every unborn child. Let us revere and care for our aged as long as we can. Ancient societies understood this and so should we if it is not too late.

Let us support marriage and family life whenever and wherever we can.

Damascus Light

The Conversion of St. Paul by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767

The Conversion of St. Paul by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767

January, although the days are short and, at least in California, winter chills the air, is a month of light and promise, a curious turn around time.

There is the promise of spring, of course. We are past the winter solstice and we know the days are lengthening and growing warmer.

January also brings us the New Year, and whether we make resolutions or not, there is a sense that we could if we chose to, we could change our ways if we desired to, we could repent and move in a new-year-direction. So January offers us hope that we and our world can be better.

And so does the Church Year, with January festivals that enlighten the already hopeful, promising month. Epiphany lives in these weeks and days, recalling wise men who follow a bright star to a child king born in a manger. We too can follow the star, we are told. We too can kneel before the Son of God born of woman, the God of all creation who took our flesh upon him. We can, if we choose.

Epiphanytide lasts two-to-six Sundays. It is a flexible season, moving with the date of Easter. When Easter is early, as it is this year (April 5) Epiphanytide shrinks. When Easter is late, it expands. So this year there are only three Epiphanytide Sundays, three celebrations of the manifestation of God’s love through his son to the world.

Epiphanytide’s Scriptures reflect great moments of change, moments of illumination, moments of vision that might effect our own change. They are meant to enlighten us, show us who the baby born in the manger was and is. We hear about Jesus as a boy in the Temple of Jerusalem, when he identifies himself as the Son of God. We hear the account of Jesus’ baptism when God identifies him as his beloved son. We hear about the changing of the water to wine in Cana, the first recorded miracle Jesus performs, identifying him as divine.

January moments, Epiphany moments, of light, of illumination. But sometimes light can be be blinding. How appropriate, I thought, that today we celebrated the Conversion of St. Paul as well, since January 25 lands on Epiphany 3.

The story of St. Paul’s conversion has entered our literature and lexicon, a powerful image in Christendom. We speak of a Damascus moment, or a Road to Damascus experience and understand we are talking about a blinding, sudden illumination, a 180-degree turn.

I hadn’t noticed before that this festival often lands in Epiphanytide. I’m sure it’s by design, for the Conversion of St. Paul is a perfect distillation, essence, of Epiphany, as though all of the manifestations we talk and read about are pulled into that sudden single blinding flash of light, light holding the voice of God.

Paul used to be Saul, of course, a righteous Jew who actively sought out the heretics who believed in this Jesus of Nazareth. He tracked them down. He arrested them and brought them in for trial and punishment. But that day – that Damascus day – changed him forever; that Damascus day changed the world forever. St. Luke recounts the event in Acts 22:3-5:

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest…”

The greatest witness of truth is action, a true about-face, a reversal in one’s calling and one’s life. Conversion. Saul is converted from persecutor to preacher, and in a highly public and dangerous forum. Saul knew this Jesus had been crucified. He was dead. He was buried. How could this Jesus now blind him with this light that appeared to be one with him? How could he be alive; how could he speak to Saul from the heavens? And to Saul of all people who was the least likely to believe the vision, knowing all too well the cost of such belief? And yet Saul does believe, he changes course, turns around. He even changes his name from Saul to Paul, and becomes in time the greatest theologian in the Christian world, melding Platonic ideas with Jewish and Christian theology. Paul explained the Gospel to the rest of us. He, like the wise men, manifested Christ to the world.

January too is Right-to-Life month, a time when our nation is called to repent and change. As I read about the many who marched through their cities and towns this weekend, I thought of that road to Damascus. I prayed that our culture would have such a blinding epiphany, a Damascus moment, that our nation would see that this is not who we are, that we are not a culture of death, that we do not kill our children. With each year, as another generation is lost to abortion, the protesting crowds grow in number. With each year, more help is offered to those with unplanned pregnancies, as networks of support crisscross our land.

I have found that the Christian life is dramatic and adventurous, a life of millions of epiphanies, moments of light. Sometimes the light of God shines on my own heart, revealing my sins, a painful illumination but a necessary one. Only in the blinding glare of such Damascus light can I truly see. So we are always repenting, changing, moving toward God, catching, reflecting, refracting light from him like facets of a shining jewel or brilliant star.

As January 2015 comes to an end, light lengthens and we see ourselves as we are. We travel the road to Damascus. We are ever repenting, turning around, yet ever sure of our destination. We travel into February, into penitence, into preparation for Lent’s lengthening and illuminating light. We look to the life of Easter, for we are on the road to resurrection.

Shadowy Borderlands

I’m setting my next novel in Berkeley, California. Folks ask me, “What is it about?” and I am challenged to give a coherent, short answer. “It’s a story about a girl who witnesses a murder…” I begin. But then, of course, it is so much more, and where do I truly begin, I wonder.

In some ways the theme is about borderlands, the edges of civilization. I believe our own culture is slowly returning to a wilderness state, with the borders of law, manners, social behavior redrawn each day, shrinking. We have been living in a darkening age for some time, a twilight time, but the night seems to be falling swiftly.

Berkeley is a perfect setting for a discussion about borders, for it sits between parkland wilderness and bay waters. Fire trails protect the townspeople from the dry hills above and hopefully break a wildfire’s path. The hills have known devastating blazes that devoured communities, so fire is no small threat. But other threats lurk as well, with a rise in crime in the civilized cities that form a necklace around the San Francisco Bay. Berkeley shelters its share of crime with lenient laws that encourage drug use, theft, and other violent means of self-expression.

Berkeley is also set in a landscape of intellect and passion, of mind and matter. Here the University of California, one of the greatest schools in the world, has birthed major scientific discoveries. The arts thrive as well, those expressions of our thoughts and beliefs and deepest desires. And yet traditional core curriculum is crumbling, no longer requiring a study of the past to understand the present. Gender and racial studies replace history, as though a narcissistic self-examination of skin and sexuality will throw light on civilization and what it means to create and foster civil society.

Berkeley’s early beginnings were Ohlone Indian, then Spanish, then Irish Catholic, having been settled by an Irish farmer (James McGee) who gave land to the Catholic Presentation Sisters for a convent and school. The city was named  in 1866 after an Irish Anglican bishop, George Berkeley (1685-1753) because of a line in the following poem:

Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four Acts already past,
A fifth shall close the Drama with the day;
Time’s noblest offspring is the last.

from Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America

The first line became shortened later to the cry “Westward ho!”  The line also became the title and subject of a mural by Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutz (1861), which can be found in the House of Representatives behind the western staircase. The phrase and painting represent the idea of manifest destiny.

The “course of empire,” of course, was thought to be at one with the advancement of civilization. The British Empire was and is a civilization built upon classical and Christian traditions, laws and values. As these authorities lose their power and persuasion, civilization loses as well, and cracks and fissures give way to a crumbling.

This week is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, when “time’s noblest offspring” – America – legalized the killing of unborn children. Since that day, 41 years ago, 56,662,169 unborn babies have been killed by abortion. And we continue the killing, with 1,382 lives – daughters and sons, nieces and nephews – lost yearly. January 22, 1973 was a watershed moment in our history, a time when we turned in upon our own people, to feed upon our own humanity.

It has been said that when we do not respect human life – the unborn or the aged, the infirm or the ugly or the handicapped – we encourage a culture of crime. We look out for ourselves, not others. We take what we can when we can as long as we can. Moral parameters become defined by legal boundaries; individual conscience does not matter. Soon it does not exist.

January 22 hits me by surprise each year, like a slap in the face, and I join in the crying of those who march upon the capitols of our land. I cry with them to return civilization to our once great and generous and loving country. I suppose the surprise comes to me each year because this memorial anniversary arrives so soon after the birth of the Christ Child in the humble manger, the child that would love us no matter our abilities, looks, health, age, no matter if we breathed outside the womb or not.

So we are as a nation in a shadowy borderland, a shadowland, between civilization and the jungle. A fire trail runs around our cities, but can’t always protect us from the blaze, the inferno of self. When such a trail becomes God’s fire of purgation, a cleansing of these sins through repentance and forgiveness, only then can we love as we are meant to love – love even the unborn, even our neighbors, even, even, even…

May God have mercy on our people, and may all victims of violence be comforted and redeemed by his great love.

 

On Liberty and Equality for All

Peggy Noonan writes today in the Wall Street Journal about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and its upcoming 150th anniversary in November. The Gettysburg Address is short, only three paragraphs and two minutes long, given at Gettysburg Cemetery for those who died in the then-ending Civil War, but it is said to be the most famous speech in the history of our country if not the West. Evidently President Lincoln wrote it out, corrected it once, then delivered it with Biblical cadences and phrasing. He was not the main speaker that day and was expected to say little, deferring to the lead orator. History proved otherwise, at least in importance. 

Ms. Noonan writes of this because, of course, it is the week of our nation’s birthday when we reflect on our innocent origins and giant ideals. It is a time when we as Americans consider from where we have come, where we are today, and where we are heading. We consider liberty and equality and the health of the Union. In 1863, at the close of the terrible war against slavery that divided our country, brother against brother, equality for all became the rallying cry for the North. Slavery of any kind denies equality and liberty. No one has the right to own another. In the course of the history of man, Caucasians have been enslaved, Asians have been enslaved, Africans have been enslaved, all owned as though they were products, as though they had no unalienable rights, no human dignity. These tragedies cry out to us, from Roman galleys to southern plantations.

So today, we say, there is no slavery. But many disagree, saying the unborn are the slaves of our modern world. Since 1972, when the Supreme Court ruled in essence that a woman owned the child within her, the unborn became slaves. And this ruling continues to be the law of the land, allowing women to own innocent Americans, to have the power of life and death.

Today a civil war rages in the hearts, minds, and bodies of our citizens. The divide is deep and is similar to the nineteenth-century Civil War we recall this autumn of 2013. I do not know what the outcome of today’s civil war will be, but I cry for our country so divided.

And like many others in many other times in history, I pray for an end to this slavery. I pray for every American to be equal under the law, from the moment of conception, for we are meant to be a nation of liberty and equality for all. And as Abraham Lincoln said, such a war is a test “whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure… “

Can we long endure? Many have died in this cause, millions aborted each year, mothers shattered by grief, fathers mourning their lost children, grandparents never knowing their grandchildren. The count rises. President Lincoln’s words ring true for us today:

“…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

As an American, on this 237th birthday of Independence, I resolve this too.