She Could Have Been Me

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She could have been me.

I didn’t get to that thought at first. My first reaction when I saw the Live Action undercover video The War on Baby Girls was anger. I’ve known this was happening, that women were aborting baby girls because they were baby girls, for quite a while.

My sources were nurses and chaplains who work in Oklahoma hospitals. I helped pass a bill which tried, within the straight jacket of Supreme Court rulings on the subject of abortion, to do something about it. The supporters of legal abortion claimed that the bill was unnecessary, that sex-selected abortions don’t happen.

It gets wearying, dealing with the constant barrage of lies that attend politics these days. No one tells the truth; not about their intentions, the legislation, or the objective facts of medical practice. Nothing — and I mean NOTHING — brings out the facile lying more than the fine art and practice of medical misogyny.

So, when I watched that video, my first reaction was anger. It took a few hours for the other reaction to come around. I kept remembering that counselor. She was careful with her words. She never said “abortion,” or “abort.” The word “kill” didn’t cross her lips. She talked about “terminate.”

“If you decide to terminate,” she said.

I replayed her face as she told the girl to avoid telling people that she was planning to abort her baby if the baby was a girl.

Some people might “place judgement,”  she said.

Nothing about the counselor shouted Monster! But what she was doing, what she was saying, what she was aiding, abetting and helping to happen WAS monstrous. How did she, how does anyone, get to this place? The grim logic of abortion and its illogical conclusions doubtless played a part in her actions. If a five month old baby (and that’s what a 20-week fetus is) is not human enough to have a right to life, then what does it matter why we kill her?

But the counselor’s words resonate: “Place judgement” she said. That’s the paralyzing ethos of our times at work. Judging, judgmentalism, are the evils in this upside down world, not the murder of an innocent baby girl.

I would guess that a lot of people look at that counselor with disgust and rage. But I feel sorry for her. I hate having to admit this, but the truth is, she could have been me. There was a time when I wasn’t just pro-choice, I was a stinking fanatic about it. I had seen and experienced first hand the violence, degradation and destruction that is misogyny and, like so many young women of my time, I saw abortion as a way out.

But when you go down that path of using one evil to justify another evil you end up committing even greater evils yourself. If you really aren’t a monster who has no conscience or concern for other people, you look for ways to hide what you are doing from yourself. The greatest lies of our times are the lies we tell ourselves to justify doing things that we know are wrong. What makes it work is that the whole culture conspires with us in the doing of it.

The culture, not just of Planned Parenthood, but of our whole American world, says that you can not, you should not, you must not “judge.”

As with most lies that are effective, this one has truth mixed into it. The desire to play God runs strong in all of us. I think that if we had the power to enact our judgements on one another, none of us would go to heaven. We would all condemn one another to hell.

But using the word “judgement” itself as a condemnation is not only idiotic, it’s destructive. The human brain is designed by Our Maker to observe, compare, think and conclude. These conclusions are just another word for “judgement.” When our culture labels this power to discern and decide an evil; when it shears our thinking brains away from us, we become a culture of co-dependence and mental decay.

It’s as if we’ve all suffered a cultural stroke and the words “this is wrong” have been erased from our minds. Instead of saying the plain facts of things, we go into mental gymnastics, trying to “understand” the most hideous behavior. We create fantasy motives for crimes against humanity which are tissues of lies we tell ourselves. These fantasy interpretations of the plain reality in front of us help us silence the thinking, analyzing parts of our brains. They allow us to avoid the social anathema of being labeled “judgmental.”We find ourselves unable to set standards for behavior for anyone, including ourselves.

That is how a basically kind-hearted person can become a monster.

The great irony is that the flip side of this is no better. If we take the untrammeled power to judge others onto ourselves, we unleash the monsters of condemnation, discrimination and, inevitably, killing of innocents. That’s where the gulags, pogroms, lynchings, rapes and murders come from. On the other hand, if we flee from this into a refusal to “judge,” we unleash the monsters of condemnation, discrimination and, inevitably, killing of innocents. That’s where the attacks on Christians, abortions, euthanasia, and starvation of millions for corporate greed come from.

We can whipsaw our human nature from pole to pole; from legalistic judging to fear of judging that becomes another kind of legalistic judging, and we always end up right back where we started from. We are caught forever in the morass and mess of original sin and we cannot think, moralize or fight our way out of it.

The only thing that can save us is the cross. The only One who can save us is Jesus.

I know. Because He saved me. My first reaction to that video was anger. Then, I indulged in a few minutes of self-righteousness by remembering what I went through trying to help pass a bill to lessen the practice of sex-selected abortion. Finally, I came around to the truth: That counselor could have been me, was me, is me, without Christ.

Human beings become monsters when we take the deciding of right and wrong, good and bad, on ourselves without reference to the One who made us. Nothing we can do, and I mean NOTHING we can do, can save us from this. You can go to church, sing in the choir, read the Bible, but if you do these things on your own power and by your own lights, you can and you will become a monster to somebody. You may not have an abortion. But you’ll do something.

We are not saved by ourselves, of ourselves, or even for ourselves. Our salvation comes through the humiliation of the cross and the only honest way we can approach that cross is with humility.

The only salvation we have is at the foot of the cross.

The counselor in that video could have been me.

When you look around at the sins of the world, which of them could be you?

WordPress to Patheos, What’s Happenin’

Dear Friends:

Moving a blog is a little bit like moving to a new house. There’s a lot more to it than you thought when you bought the thing.

Public Catholic Patheos will have its formal debut next Monday. I’m going to start publishing posts at Public Catholic Patheos before that. In fact, I plan to start in the next day or so. I hope you come over and look at things and give me feed-back.

My understanding is that if you come to the old Public Catholic site you will be re-directed to the new one, but that this won’t happen until everything is up and running on Patheos. Let me know if/when this starts working.

In the meantime, the site, which will be all-singing, all-dancing in a couple of days, can be found at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/. We’re still polishing the rough edges, but go over, have a look and tell me what you think. I welcome your feedback.

In Christ,

Rebecca

PS: Be sure to add that link to your bookmarks so you can find me later! You can also get Public Catholic Patheos by rss feed and a number of other methods that are on the site.

The Search for Brad Pitt’s Spine

An elderly woman sent a letter to the editor in Springfield Missouri. The letter was published in the local newspaper.

That would — and should — have been the end of it. But the internet wolf pack locked onto this elderly woman and her little letter. They did this because she has a famous son. Brad Pitt’s name in a headline is always good for a few extra hits from the search engines. Driving up traffic to their web sites by whatever means is how these people make their money. It seems that the trashier they behave, the more money they make. So, the pack went on the hunt for Mrs Pitt.

I have not read Mrs Pitt’s letter. I don’t intend to. First, I am not from Springfield Missouri, so what an elderly woman writes in a letter to the editor of a local Springfield newspaper doesn’t matter to me. Second, I am not writing this post to comment on what she said. I don’t care what she said. I am writing this post to defend her right to say it.

Mrs Pitt has evidently run afoul of some of the internet sewer dwellers who seem to believe that anyone who says anything they disagree with is fair game for threats and character assassination. According to reports that I have read, this lady has been subjected to all manner of attack, up to and including death threats. She is evidently feeling besieged. The sewer dwellers have won their victory. They have effectively intimidated another person who disagrees with them into giving up the exercise of her right to free speech.

This isn’t anything new. Character assassination and verbal terror tactics have become the norm in what passes for public debate in this country. What is surprising is that Mr Pitt has responded to these attacks on his mother with silence.

Mr Pitt is a world-famous public figure who has not been shy about giving his opinion in other areas. His silence in this instance of the public trashing of his mother looks far too much like assent. What kind of man (or woman) would allow anyone to attack their mother this way and do nothing?

From what I’ve read, Mrs Pitt made some sort of comments about the current Presidential race and about same-sex marriage. Based on what I’ve read about her comments on the one hand and Mr Pitt’s stated views on politics and this social issue on the other, I am guessing that he does not agree with his mother’s viewpoint on these things.

My question is, What does that matter? She’s his mother. The issue isn’t whether or not they agree, it’s whether or not he’s man enough to stand up for his mother when she is being attacked and abused.

I don’t know of  a gay man — and I know several of them — who would sit by and let someone attack his mother like this. It wouldn’t matter what she had said.

I wish that both Mr Pitt and the responsible members of the gay community would take a stand against this kind of outrageous attack on people who are merely exercising their right to free speech. Mrs Pitt’s letter was published, presumably with her permission, in a newspaper. That makes everything she said open to equally public disagreement and debate. It does not open her or anyone else up for personal attacks, filthy name-calling and death threats.

I do not see how a movement that is based on working for the human rights of a group of people can justify advancing that work by attacking the human rights of other people.

I have no quarrel with homosexual people advocating for the things they believe. I also have no quarrel with them working within the electoral system and the courts in support of those beliefs. It doesn’t matter whether or not I agree with all their goals. That’s how we do things in this country.

The rights to petition the government, vote and organize, freedom of speech and access to the courts belong to every American. The Constitution applies to every single one of us; whether we are gay rights activists, or an elderly woman writing a letter to the editor in Springfield Missouri.

Anyone who tries to effect social change will encounter disagreement and resistance. If you can’t accept that and answer these disagreements, counter this resistance, in a civil and intelligent manner, then it makes it look like your cause is without real merit.

I hope that responsible leaders in this movement will make a statement of non-support when followers of their movement do something so wrong as these attacks on Mrs. Pitt. I think they should do this out of respect for the basic human rights of all people, including those who disagree with them, and also out of respect for their own movement and the things they say they believe.

As for Mr Pitt, my only advice to him is,  grow a spine.

Public frustration prompts new campaign for political civility :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Public frustration prompts new campaign for political civility :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

I think this speaks for itself. I am proud of the Knights of Columbus for doing this and will sign the petition.

Culture Warriors

I am creating the Culture Warrior Award to honor two stalwart culture warriors. These men stand for life, and they are in the fight for the long haul. They are two of Public Catholic’s finest Culture Warriors. We need more courageous blogs like theirs. You can find them at: http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com/ and http://scpeanutgallery.com/

Nobody Even Cares About What’s'is Name

Read the blogs. Look at the polls. Ask your neighbors.

People are planning to vote against President Obama.

Other people are planning to vote for President Obama.

Nobody (except maybe his family) appears to be voting either for or against What’s'is Name. You know who I’m talking about; that other guy — the billionaire I-was-one-of-the-most-aggressively-pro-abortion-governors-in-America-until-I-decided-I-wanted-to-run-for-president thingy person that folks who are voting against President Obama have to … ummm … sorta vote for.

It appears that the President is in this race pretty much alone. And he’s got himself in a tie. Somehow or other, this supposedly genius politician has maneuvered himself into a dead heat … with himself. What’s'is name focuses on teeny-tiny issues of gaffe attacks and unseemly arguments such as the I woulda killed him deader than you did debate. He dances and prances around the ring alone, shadow boxing with himself. Meanwhile, Obama pounds himself with a right, a left, a right … until … he’s got himself on the ropes.

I’ve seen a lot of stupid things in politics. But this bizarre dumb-off of a presidential election takes the cake.

Both our contenders seem focused on attacking one another. They’re spending a lot of money, attacking each other’s positions and opinions. The problem is, we the people know all this stuff already. We already know that Obama never met an abortion he didn’t like and Romney feels pretty much the same but has, pragmatic politician that he is, decided to pretend he doesn’t. We already know that Obama wants to bring religion under the government heel. We already know that Romney is the bought and sold creature of the big corporations.

We. Already. Know.

So. What’s an American to do? Go to the write-in ballot?

I am a duly elected legislator. There are a lot of people who think it’s part of my job description to line up with my party and support our turnip, no matter what. But I guess somebody forgot to put the poison in my kool-aid, because I won’t do it.

Frankly, I am disgusted with the choices that our two political parties keep giving us. Year after year, election after election, we have to choose between the guy who’s owned by the special interests who are going to stab the American people in the back, and the guy who’s owned by the special interests who are going to stab the American people in the back with a different knife.

From time to time, a reporter will ask me how I voted in this or that election. It’s usually about some hot button issue here in Oklahoma. I always tell them that I voted by secret ballot. I do this because when I go into a voting booth, my vote is the same as any other American’s, and like all Americans, I have the right to privacy with my votes. My other votes, the ones I cast as a representative, are very public, and they should be. But not when I vote in elections. When I do that, I’m a private citizen.

So, come November, I’m going to vote by secret ballot. There are a lot of questions further down the ballot, issues and races that aren’t presidential, where I want to vote. I have an opinion and I want to express that opinion at the polls.

But when it comes to the dead-heat of Obama vs Obama with a side order of What’s'is Name … um … well … I wish I didn’t have to vote for either one.

Walking Between the Labels

My husband and I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes Saturday night. The hero ape, after a lifetime of gentle living at the hands of benevolent humans, was cast into a cage of swinging, screeching, fist-banging members of his own species. As we watched his shock and dismay, I remarked to my husband, “That kind of reminds me of going to work.”

The reason my husband thought that was funny is because I had mis-matched the labels. If it has hair all over its body and walks with its knuckles dragging on the ground, it is not human. The knuckle-draggers among us are labeled “apes” and we know that no matter what the ape might be, it ain’t us.

This primal ability to distinguish “us” from “them” keeps us alive. It helps to know the difference between a rattlesnake and a cabbage, between giant spiders and your grandma. Labels not only keep us safe, they allow us to live together and cooperate with one another in how we order our society.

Unfortunately, people are smarter than they are wise. Whatever ability we have, we always seem to find a way to apply it for evil. Labels can be used to ostracize, punish, degrade and manipulate other people. Used this way, labels become shorthand slander. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the political world.

Political discourse has devolved down to scandal-mining one another’s histories, gaffe attacks and label slinging. Never mind the problems besetting our nation and the world; if you can catch someone using an off-color word when they thought the mike was off, or if you can get enough people to label them a “communist” or a “fascist” or whatever, why then you beat them at the polls. You can win the election. Take home the prize. Get your hands on the state treasury and the power of government.

The standard way for politicians to survive this is to pick a side and stick with that side. “Your” side will then stick with you. They will label, gaffe report and scandal-mine your opponents for you. They will be your tit for the other guy’s tat.

The one thing no politician in their right mind would ever do is venture out from under the cover of “their” side. With no one to protect them from the hail stones of public excoriation, they will be beaten to a pulp and carted off the field in nothing flat. The only way to survive in politics is to, as Okies say, “dance with them that brung ya.”

There comes a point in every political career where sticking with your side means doing things you know are wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, the day will come when your “side” expects and demands that you chose them over everything else you believe.

If you are a Public Catholic, this day will come soon and be repeated often. If you think you can hold elective office and never be forced to choose between God and your party, God and your friends, God and your “side,” you need to think again. You will have to choose, and you will have to do it over and over and over again.

If you chose Jesus, if you decide that the “side” you’re on is the Jesus, Joseph and Mary side, there will be payback. Your payback is that both sides will come at you. “Your” side will do everything they can to punish and purge the “traitor” in their midst. The “other” side will join in where they can and wish them success. You will be alone.

Public Catholics have to walk between the labels. They’ll call you a “communist” one day, and a “fascist” the next. What they really mean is that you are not “one of us.” It won’t be long before everybody on both sides is slander-mining your history, gaffe-reporting your speeches and labeling you everything but a nice person.

You will be maliciously misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, and just plain lied about.

The only comfort you can take is that this is exactly what Jesus said would happen. It’s how they treated Him, and if you truly try to follow Him, it’s how they’ll treat you. Their labels don’t fit you. You’re not a “conservative” or a “liberal.” You are a follower of Christ in a world that hated Him then and hates Him now.

You follow a risen savior Who was beaten, mocked, tortured, despised and murdered. You follow Jesus. And His label is the cross.

It’s the Last Week of Session

It’s the last week of session.

What that means to me as a person is that I make arrangements for people to keep my mother entertained, kiss my family goodbye with promises of all the fun we’ll have “when it’s over,” and pack up my Timbuk2 messenger bag in much the same way I pack a carry-on bag for an ocean-crossing flight.

I know and my family knows that I will come home long after they’re asleep and wouldn’t be fit company for civilized people even if they did get to see me. The fights and conflicts I encounter this last week of session keep me so jazzed that I can’t converse or even think about anything else for days after it ends.

The last week of session is every bit of conflict and angst that the entire process has engendered, stuffed into a few days’ time. It beats me up emotionally, physically and spiritually. Not only is the work load overwhelming, but this is the time when all the ugliness comes down.

The last week is when leadership passes the bills with the hidden zingers and out-front corruption. It’s a week when crony capitalism takes over and we do the really big deals for the special interests. It’s a week full of “Swahili moments” when legislators refuse to hear that what they do affects millions of people. This is when we make the laws that make the rich richer, the poor poorer.

After seeing the things I see during the last week of each legislative session, I always feel as if I need to have my mind washed out with soap. Fighting and losing these fights year after year wears at me, leaves me half sick with indignation and anger. It takes a while after the session is done to get over it. I know I’m going to have to go to confession to cleanse myself of the anger I will bring home from my job. I do every year.

So I pack my messenger bag with my personal version of legislative survival gear, including things to use as a distraction when the tension gets so great that I have to pull back from it for a moment. Surviving this job requires that you learn how to take a break in place, sometimes in front of the television cameras. It’s a trick of the mind, of absenting yourself from the fight while still being engaged in the fight. I can’t begin to tell you how to do it. You just learn how, or you don’t make it in this job.

The last week isn’t a fashion show. I wear my most comfortable shoes and least binding clothes that can pass muster as “professional.” I usually start the week in slacks and end it in jeans. The “professional” part comes from the ubiquitous three-button blazer I pull on over the jeans and shirt.

That’s not exactly Vogue photo quality, but this is Oklahoma where most of the male legislators show up for work in cowboy boots and Stetsons. My sandals, shirt, jeans and jacket never cause a ripple in this crowd. We all know the work load in front of us. Besides we spend so much time together that we’re kind of past that.

In addition to packing a messenger bag to the point that its weight makes me walk lop-sided, I always, no matter how long the hours, pray the Rosary each day. I ask God to use me for His purposes and to not let me do anything really stupid. Then, I trust that I am under His protection and head out for battle.

I have no idea if I’ll have time to blog this week. I probably shouldn’t even try since there is no way to predict what I might say in the midst of a week of full-bore legislating.

So, I guess I’ll close off for a few days with the same promise I make to my family: I’ll be back, and we’ll have a lot of fun when it’s over.

The I Woulda Killed Him Deader Than You Did Debate

What’s a Christian to do when the political debate in the campaign for President of the United States descends to a question of who would have killed Osama bin Laden first and deadest?

Is this all these two candidates have to offer us? Is it what we can expect through the summer and fall as they slash and burn, trying to get themselves elected?

On the one hand, we have the president, who has attacked the Catholic Church and religious freedom. On the other hand, we have a man who appears to change his beliefs when it suits his ambitions, who, when he was governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a health care plan that actually used tax payer money to pay for abortions.

For the past few weeks, they’ve been tossing verbal grenades back and forth over the death of Osama bin Laden. President Obama was elected under something of a cloud four years ago. A lot of people thought he was a secret Muslim, that he would sell us out to Al Qaeda. Now, he points to the corpse of bin Laden and says, “See?”

Romney, not to be outdone, comes back with stout claims that he would have done the same thing if he’d had the chance, in fact, he would have done it sooner and meaner and, and, well, he would have killed bin Laden deader than dead, he would have killed him deadest.

Meanwhile, here I am, out on the Oklahoma prairie, trying to follow Jesus, trying to stand up for the First Amendment, trying, in the face of this barrage of unseemly non-squiturs and spin, to figure out what’s best for my country.

I love Jesus. I love my Church. I love America. I love my children and my family who will live out their lives in this country.

How do I be faithful to those four great loves and vote for either one of these guys?

Am I the only person in this country who’d like a better choice?

I know there are party loyalists, the yella dog Democrats and the die-hard Republicans, who would vote for anyone anytime who had a “D” or an “R” after their name on the ballot. I know also that some people hate the Catholic Church and its moral voice so much that they will throw the First Amendment under the bus if that’s what it takes to harm the Church. I know there are people who don’t care one way or the other about abortion.

But, I’m not one of them.

I’d like a president who had a center, beliefs and ideals, to see him through the challenges of the job. I’d like a president who honestly valued the lives of every person throughout their span of years, from conception to natural death. I’d like a president who respected the Constitution and religious freedom. I’d like a president who was grounded in a strong Christian faith.

These men are asking us to trust them with our country, with America. They’re asking us to put our lives, our futures and our children’s futures in their hands. It would be nice, in the course of this campaign, if they could elevate their discussion at least somewhat above the I woulda killed him deader than you did debate.


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