Bathwater Saints

Guess what I lerned on Facebook the other day?  Nah, you’ll never guess, so I’ll just tell you: Abby Johnson is a fake pro-lifer.  She just sits on her ass (that’s a direct quote) and bathes in publicity, without actually accomplishing anything.  She’s not really pro-life — not pro-life enough.

This statement is so patently nutty that it’s hard to even know how to respond.  Abby Johnson, who is pregnant, appears to spend almost no time sitting down — busy as she is with And Then There Were None and now partnering with the Guiding Star Project to open a Resource Center and Maternity Home in Texas, where she lives.  Johnson is ministering directly, with spiritual, emotional, and tangible physical aid and support, both to abortion industry workers, and to women who need help beyond the choice to keep their babies.

Let’s review:  Abby Johnson gives people a reason to stop performing abortions.  She gives people a reason not to get abortions.  She drags her pregnant self around the country, daily exposing herself to abuse from the left and from the right, and has literally made an open book of her life and her past with Planned Parenthood.  If anyone is saving babies and women (and men) from abortion, it’s Abby Johnson.

But . . . she’s not pro-life enough.

The only explanation I can find for such an idea is what I call “bathwater thinking.”  You’ve heard of throwing out the baby with the bathwater?  This is mistaking the bathwater for the baby.  Sometimes people are so devoted to a particular way of achieving something good,they make the way their main focus — their “baby” — while the original goal becomes the amorphous, disposable background.  It’s bathwater thinking that leads people to believe that someone like Abby Johnson isn’t pro-life, because she doesn’t check off all the boxes in the How To Be Pro-Life checklist, which was drafted forty years ago.

Bathwater thinking.  You forget the baby, the living, breathing people involved, and wallow around in that warm, familiar bathwater of your indisputably worthy cause.

Let’s think about St. Gianna Molla.  A good many people believe that this woman’s greatness came in her eager, joyful acceptance of death in order to save her baby.  Not so.  It is true that she was willing to accept the risk of death when she refused the therapeutic hysterectomy that would have killed her unborn child.  And she did end up giving her life so that her baby could live.  But the whole time, she prayed and hoped and longed to live. She wasn’t devoted to being pro-life: she was devoted to her baby.  And she wanted to live, so that she could be with her baby and her husband and the rest of her beloved children.  She was pro-life:  she hoped for life in abundance, including her own.

The same is true, in a somewhat different way, for St. Maria Goretti.  Over and over, I’ve heard this saint praised as a holy girl who prized her viginity so highly that she was willing to die to defend it.  And she did die as a result of defending her viginity.  But when her would-be rapist attacked her, she pleaded with him to stop because he would be committing a mortal sin, and he would go to hell.  She didn’t say, “Please, please, spare my virginity!” She begged him to spare himself.  

This is what it looks like when someone is close to God:  they want to spare the person.  They are in love with life.  They are focused not on the idea of morality, but on the person whose life and safety (whether physical or spiritual) are at stake.

In Maria Goretti’s case, she was focused on her rapist — and I am sure it was her love for him, and not her blindingly pure devotion to chastity, that converted him and brought him to repentance before she died.  That is how conversions happen.  That is how people are saved:  when other people show love for them.  It’s about other people.  It’s always about our love for other people.  That’s why, before someone is declared a saint, they have to perform two miracles for people still on earth.  Even after death, it’s not about the cause or the system or the virtue in the abstract.  It’s always about our love for other people.

Ideas like holiness, chastity, humility, charity, diligence, or any other virtue that springs to mind when you think of a saint?  These are bathwater.  These are the things that surround and support the “baby” of love in action.  A bath without bathwater is no good; but a bath without someone to be bathed is even more pointless. God doesn’t want bathwater saints, ardently devoted to a cause or a principle or a movement or a virtue.  God wants us to love and care for each other.  Love for each other is how we order our lives.  Love for each other is how we serve God.

It’s always about our love for other people.

 

  • OldWorldSwine

    Some of my Dad’s last words on earth, whispered to my Mom as he was in the ICU preparing to die – “It’s people”.

  • MeanLizzie

    In my book I call it a super-idolatry; you can no longer see the human person in front of you (or the spark of God residing therein), b/c your cause has become your idol. I use the example of a pro-lifer who sent me an email, when Betty Ford died, about how it was good that she was dead, b/c more babies would be born. Sometimes ppl get lost in things.

  • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

    “Let’s think about St. Gianna Molla. A good many people believe that
    this woman’s greatness came in her eager, joyful acceptance of death in
    order to save her baby. Not so. It is true that she was willing to
    accept the risk of death when she refused the therapeutic
    hysterectomy that would have killed her unborn child. And she did end
    up giving her life so that her baby could live. But the whole time, she
    prayed and hoped and longed to live. She wasn’t devoted to being
    pro-life: she was devoted to her baby. And she wanted to live,
    so that she could be with her baby and her husband and the rest of her
    beloved children. She was pro-life: she hoped for life in abundance,
    including her own.”

    This! You’ve articulated perfectly why I get uncomfortable with the way some venerate or talk about St. Gianna. It is her sacrifice, not her death, that matters.

    • EleriK

      I have a tremendous devotion to St. Gianna and one of my favorite stories about her is that she asked her husband Pietro to bring her a copy of French Vogue while he was on a business trip during her pregnancy with Gianna Emanuela (the baby she ultimately died for) – She wanted to plan her wardrobe for after the baby.

      I always try to speak of her desire to live without minimizing her willingness to give it all, and I think this is the example that most touches me as a young mother.

  • Colet C. Bostick

    I’m so glad you are defending her. I suspect she doesn’t even sleep.

  • Laura Rydberg

    Ahhhhh SO TRUE.

  • bearing

    Great analogy.

  • leahjacobson

    Hear, hear! In the time that I have been lucky enough to work with Abby on The Guiding Star Project I have been BLOWN AWAY by her tireless effort to spare people from the pain of abortion; both women seeking them and the workers who will be wounded by performing them. Abby is human, we all are, yet she does not allow her own weaknesses to stop her from doing what she knows is right. If people would act more and gossip less we would certainly be further down the path to creating a true Culture of Life. Thanks Simcha.

  • Infinite Grace

    Love this, Love it, love it, love it. My favorite… “That is how conversions happen. That is how people are saved: when other people show love for them.” I have to admit I was guilty of not believing in Abby when she first “came out,” but now looking back, my reluctance was based on the fact that I was so early on in my own healing from my past that my vision was skewed and I was selfish. Hearing Abby’s latest mission makes me happy and makes me want to do more – whatever more that may come to be. I’ve said it before that those of us, the millions of us, who have been part of the abortion industry in whatever way, are the key to ending abortion. They just need love first. http://www.postabortionwalk.blogspot.com

  • NurseTammy

    She is in good company…I implemented a program of care for families who receive life-limiting diagnosis for their unborn babies so that parents would have an alternative to abortion. I was publicly accused (in Catholic circles) of facilitating an “abortive delivery” (which I did no such thing…the baby in question was 34 weeks and her disease process ended her life, not her delivery) and that I (and other medical professionals providing perinatal palliative care) could not be trusted in providing this care to not “starve” and “terminally sedate” sick babies.

    Im not sure who they were suggesting could be trusted with caring for sick and dying babies since (even Catholic) medical professionals were all suspect. Yea, we devote out lives to caring for the weakest and sickest and smallest members of society and the naysayers sit at a keyboard and tell us we aren’t good enough. Not sure where they are at 3am when Im on Labor and Delivery holding a wailing mother who is suffering – oh I forgot….the naysayer is asleep recharging so they can be ready to type away at their keyboard another day and tell me how inadequate I am.

  • Cordelia

    You’ve helped me understand those two saints a little better now; I’ve never heard their stories explained in such an…attractive…way before. Thanks!

  • CSmith

    Lord, have mercy. It’s just so easy to take our eyes off our God who is Love.

  • http://californiatokorea.com/ Micaela

    Excellent, Simcha. I’ve written about this idea before, albeit not as eloquently. People come before ideologies, period.

  • HenryBowers

    Well-explained point, Simcha.

  • Victor

    (((But . . . she’s not pro-life enough.)))

  • Victor

    God loves all his children so much that he gives them their own bathwater and when that water breaks, “IT” is time for the baby to come out. Right?

    http://timeforreflections.blogspot.ca/2014/02/footprints-in-sand-new-version.html

    God Bless


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