When the Strange God Wins, You Kill Yourself

A recent post dealt with the growing trend of (presumably adult) people, feeling entitled to express open displeasure at the public existence of children and their parents, or — as one contributor to the New York Times Magazine put it — “These wan goons. . .bringing their squealing offspring to brunch or for clogging up the sidewalk…”

The same issue featured this letter to the editor, written by “Carolyn” in Maryland:

Five years ago I faced an unwanted pregnancy. At the time, I had a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old, and I was working full time as a college professor and living an upper-middle-class life. When I found out I was pregnant at eight weeks, I consulted with my husband (who supported either decision) and we scheduled an abortion the following week. I was overwhelmed at the thought of caring for another child. Had I been turned away, I’m sure that I would be able to report that I loved that third child, that our family was doing well and that there were no notable negative impacts or issues as a result of bearing and raising the child from an unwanted pregnancy. I can, however, say the same thing now, having not had that child.

The blood runs cold. Break it down to its essentials, and it’s “Yeah, I could have had the kid and we’d have still been fine, but what’s the difference? This way I wasn’t inconvenienced.”

Or, put another way: “I just sacrificed my child to the idol of I. The idol of myself. I can’t even claim he was sacrificed for the idol of future plans, or that she was sacrificed to the idol of a career. No, I just sacrificed my child to me. To the idea of me: Ms. Personal Autonomy. I am like a god! I decide who lives and dies; didn’t feel like having another baby, so I killed it. Because I could. My other two kids only breathe and live by my grace, alone.”

The rhetoric surrounding abortion is fraught with high drama and the mantra “rape, incest or life of the mother” is repeated so frequently most don’t realize that those circumstances account for less than 2% of all abortions. Some women are pressured into an abortion; some abort because they are frightened and do not believe they have an option, or support. “Carolyn”, though, exposes the ugly truth: for many women an abortion is nothing more than service to the self, a sacrifice to the Almighty-I, which is the Strange God that tempts us all, and whom we are all called to reject — to “run away from”, as Pope Francis would say.

Then why, one might ask, would the New York Times run the letter and risk exposing this ugly truth? Why wouldn’t they? It is the creed of the New York Times that abortion is a “human right” and as such should be available “any time, for any reason with no apologies”, and so the shrugging witness of a disciple like “Carolyn” would have delighted them. St. Gregory of Nyssa said that “ideas lead to idols” and that letter assists in normalizing an I-god making idea they have been happy to promote for years: that not wanting to buy big jars of mayonnaise at Costco is as good as any reason for killing your babies. Yes, both of them.

In my book, Strange Gods; Unmasking the Idols in Everyday life, I recall a friend who chose to have an abortion because her wedding was looming. Obsessed with having a “perfect” day, she sacrificed the baby to the idol she had made of her plans. The marriage didn’t last, but that baby would have been over 30 years old, now, and a source of love in her life. Very likely my friend would have loved her son or daughter as much as she loved the children she eventually delivered — especially as she got older, and realized (as we all do with age) that unconditional love is a rare and precious thing, not to be tossed away lightly.

. . .a baby is a coming of new love; it is a means by which God, who is love, renews the face of the earth. Anything might build upon it; new life, new love, and a new phase of God’s design. . . . a new human being, full of love, is so much more of a lasting adventure than a big wedding and a dusty honeymoon album.

It is precisely because a baby brings the unconditional love of God to us in a renewed way that evil cannot abide it, and works so desperately to prevent it.

Earlier today David French also wrote about “Abortion and the Idol of the Self”

. . .people love themselves so much that they’re willing to kill another person to keep a boyfriend, to maintain a standard of living, or for many, many other reasons — none of which would ever justify killing another person outside the womb. . . The precursor for abortion is the idol of the self [and] abortion won’t end until the idol is destroyed.

But the idol is the self and so self-destruction is, paradoxically, the only thing that will satisfy.

That Strange God — the idol that is the idea of I — has the full force of the press, the United States Government and a lot of mindless, deluded sloganeering drones, who have no notion that they are no further enlightened than Eve; that they are standing in Eden, before a slithering hisser of lies, who introduces death to their hearts and souls with a single promise, “consume it and be like gods…”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Peggy

    What struck me was the “upper middle-class life” factor. She didn’t even try to hide her venality.

  • Brad Miner

    Jesus wept.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    While I think abortion can be a complex issue, in these examples you have provided I can only agree wholeheartedly. The same idols have infected and destroyed the notion of a committed monogamous marriage. Life is full of ugliness and strife, when it brings a loving child into it I cannot understand blithe rejection.

  • Janet Ackerman

    Yep. This article is “strumming my life with it’s words”. Makes me grateful for the self-destruction that brought me to my knees with nowhere to turn but my Creator. Oh blessed fault.

  • Ann Shultis

    Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    How utterly detestable that Carolyn is. Anyone that brags about an abortion is among the lowest. I think I’d rather shake the hand of that football player murderer than this woman. I don’t see a diffeence. She certainly requires our prayers, but the poor child that never knew full life requires more.

  • Marie Dean

    The entire world is turning against children and youth because of abortion. The anti-life claw grabs all who are vulnerable. Sadly, those very people who cannot allow another child into their lives will someday be put to death by the very ones who are left and decide that those who are old also have no right to live.

    The world has become totally utilitarian and no longer beautiful. Children make us soft and generous. Without children, we become cold, facing an empty future. I am fortunate to have a child and I can say that he changed my life more than any other person, as I had to die to self in raising him as a single mom. My spiritual life grew out of self-sacrificing love and still does. Such is our call as parents and a society

  • 2001Sacrament

    Our words and arguments cannot reach the many minds like “Carolyn”‘s (though we must continue speaking them – who knows when and how each seed will sprout?) – with sin comes the veil that separates us and blinds us to the beauty of God’s creation and His truth. Our prayers are needed for these souls; our trust in God. The flaws of others (and yes, our own too, of course) test our faith – will it be found wanting? What do we offer to Jesus for the conversion of sinners? What do their sins reveal in us? I am always horrified at such mindless violence, the brutal sacrifice of a beautiful child; I am reminded of a time in my life when I too was blind. Pray to our Blessed Mother for the conversion of souls and for the protection of the unborn. Our hope is in the Lord.

  • Brian English

    I have not been able to watch this video yet, but the article accompanying it reports that in addition to screaming that they hoped a pro-life legislator and her daughter would be raped, some of the pro-abortion crowd down in Texas was chanting, “Hail Satan!”

    http://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2013/07/03/video-abortion-supporters-chant-hail-satan-at-prolife-women-n1632934

  • James

    This woman says she was “overwhelmed at the thought of caring for another child.”

    Most of the Crisis Pregnancy resources are directed at young, unwed mothers, especially first-time mothers. Yet many women who have abortions already have children, many are married, and many feel overwhelmed at the thought of caring for another child.

    I think these women have been forgotten by the pro-life movement. The idea seems to be is that if you are married with children, then what’s another one? Or that a woman who would even consider one is a horrible human being.

    Needless to say, neither tactic is effective at stopping abortion.

    Where is the support for the married women with unexpected pregnancies? This is a ministry that is desperately needed, but sorely lacking.

  • Liam

    I thought we wanted to kill the true God to put ourselves in his place. Does the impulse towards deicide continue once we see ourselves as gods?

  • Igor Shafarevich

    Certainly, those who will callously murder the unborn will casually murder you if provided the power and the opportunity.

    Today’s liberalism is a death cult; just like its marxist, socialist, and communist ancestors.

  • MeanLizzie

    I happen to agree with you that young mothers (married or not) need to know where they can find some support — particularly young mothers who are without economic or family resources. I’ve argued in this blog that churches and outreach programs need to step up their efforts for married moms. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2012/11/28/open-hand-open-heart-ministry-to-young-mothers/

    This particular woman makes it very clear that she was living an “upper-middle-class life”; she was not without resources; very likely she could have afforded some paid assistance, like a P/T nanny, if she’d wanted to. She didn’t want to.

  • Gail Finke

    It has taken me years to realize that the kind of blithe rejection is part and parcel with the “hard case” kind of abortion you’re talking about. Allowing one allows the other. It doesnt’ seem as it if should be so, but it IS.

  • Florin S.

    And when her children find out that their mother killed their sibling, that will destroy the family. It has happened before…

  • Matt Bifulco

    Diagnosing the disease has devolved into hand-wringing. What’s the cure?

  • Billiamo

    They were no doubt chanting it to outrage their opponents. But ultimately the joke’s on them, isn’t it? Sad.

  • Billiamo

    I : the thinnest word in the language, but in every other way, the fattest.

  • Patti Day

    That and the sentence about “consulting” with her husband who “supported either decision”. What if he had said, “Honey, I know you’re the one who will be impacted physically, have to take a leave from your career, and handle most of the burden of caring for an infant, but this is our child. I want this child”. Maybe it would have made all the difference.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Very good point.

  • KarenJo12

    “You’ll be the one doing all the work and taking all the misery, but I want the glory.”

  • Peggy

    Yes, and it isn’t just abortion. I think the support of gay marriage and the contraception mandate indicate the death cult, too, in their barrenness and sterility. They are hostile to life.

  • dominic1955

    I used to be troubled by the writings and sermons of many of the Church Fathers and Doctors on the fewness of those who will be saved. How could a loving God send souls to hell, such that they looked like falling snowflakes to the children at Fatima. No longer. After a few years of reading and seeing diabolical garbage like this, I thank God for his Just Judgment and that terrible day we will all stand before Him without any excuse. Marantha.

  • Matt Bifulco

    Like Shakespeare said, “First we kill all the lawyers,” the first thing we need to do to set things right is to kill all the self-righteous legalists. These “deluded abortionists” who are falling into hell like snowflakes, are us. There is no separation “bone from marrow” between us and and the Mengeles. We are joined in the very essence with every other human being. And till we ALL “get right with God,” none of us will be. God created us “Man,” not men.

  • Matt Bifulco

    The second thing is, if we’re at such a distinct advantage to be keepers of the God-mystery, why doesn’t it show in our lives? Or are we just misery loving company? The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Gal 5, 22-23). You’re not teaching Christ if you don’t have them. (See especially “Joy”)

  • hospitius

    Or, she could have had the child and given it up for adoption if she were truly overwhelmed at the idea of caring for it. Why is that never an option in the minds of the Carolyn’s of the world and their husbands? Because it would be shameful; one’s selfishness would be exposed–whereas quietly killing the child carries no social consequences.

  • Nordog6561

    In the strictest sense I suspect that God sends no one to Hell.

    Rather, I think some people run and leap into Hell as fast as they can to escape the God who will not let them be gods.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    Not all abortions are equal, my own mother had one in between my sister and I. It was an ectopic pregnancy that likely would have killed her and the baby. Any pro-life action has to take into account the life of the mother as well.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    I also think churches need to step up their advocacy and promotion of adoption. We have 500,000 kids lingering in our foster care system. That does not speak well for those that ask young mothers to consider adoption for their child.

  • Mark

    Thank you for this. Dying to self is the key to the survival of the human race. The selfish side of free will–that which we call evil, will always encourage promotion and temporary satisfaction of the self, unto destruction. Be ready to be a fool for life. Be ready to suffer and die for it. We’re called to. And if world events are any indicator, we’re about to have to.

  • Mark

    Yet every time we sin, we place ourselves amongst her company. Christ Jesus died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.

  • Rosemary58

    The professor did not find herself pregnant at eight weeks. By then, she would have missed two periods, so she knew for several weeks by then. She was in denial for a time, so she asked her husband what to do.
    Two questions:

    If her life was so upper class, why could she not have hired a nanny to help her?
    If her husband was supportive, why was she so overwhelmed?

    Sounds to me like her conscience is working on her, and she is not liking that one bit.

  • Suzy Malavasic

    I watched the movie, “MR Deeds Goes To Town”, starring Gary Cooper, on TCM the other day. It was such a good movie and a great performance, that I ‘googled’ Mr Cooper on line. When I read his life bio, I read the tragic tale of his affair with actress Patricia Neal that lead to a pregnancy… and more tragically, an abortion. Sacrifice to their idols of career and self image. What really jarred me, however was when I read the date of the abortion, March of 1950. That was when I was born! My heart sank as I imagined the baby being taken from her mother’s womb… violently killed. Was I born at that same moment… it hurt me to think about that reality.

    I read on to discover that Patricia Neal later married and had children… nearly died from strokes… and came to regret aborting her child with Gary Cooper. She became an outspoken opponent of abortion, a lone voice in the atmosphere of Hollywood. She converted to Catholicism and became friends with Gary Cooper’s daughter, Maria (a Catholic, as her mother was… and father, later in life became).

    Maria told Patricia Neal that she forgave her for the affair with her father. BUT she really regretted the abortion of their child, who would have been Maria’s only sibling.

    Why can’t we understand our lives as part of a greater family… one that we were born into… not of our own doing… but by the will of the One who is the Giver of Life?

  • AnneG

    Off topic, but ectopic pregnancy will kill both the baby and the mother. They are usually diagnosed because of pain and bleeding. The Church recognizes this and supports the surgery to save the life of the mother. It is not a case of choosing, rather a case of saving the only life that can be saved. Medically, we call it abortion, but not a “therapeutic” and certainly not elective abortion.

  • Margaret Mary Myers

    My understanding is that, in an ectopic pregnancy, they remove the fallopian tube & then the baby, outside of the mother’s nutrition, dies, i.e., that they allow the baby to die (and that the baby would also die if left to continue in an ectopic pregnancy), but that they do not kill it. Hence, my understanding is that it is not an abortion, but an unintentional natural death.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    B/c my mother had many miscarriages before this one They detected it through an early ultrasound and thus were able to save the Fallopian tube. Would that change your opinion? The larger picture is that the pregnancy would have killed them both, in this case she had a D&E that saved her life.

  • Michelle

    How can a married woman have an unexpected pregnancy? The problem here is the lack of understanding what the first purpose of marriage is: the procreation and raising of children–bringing up saints for heaven. The good of the spouses is a secondary consideration–not that it is insignificant, but it is secondary. The third one is the channeling of the procreative impulse. But we are so romanticized that we think that it’s all about one’s feelings–as if those did not change quite often. Hence divorce, hence contraception (most of which is a kind of abortion), and hence abortion (carried out because the contraceptives failed). The failure from the ministries is not explaining this to couples. They have gone along with the compromised NFP rout, which is something that is permissible for a grave reason, not an ideal. Saying merely that marriage should be “open to life” is a gross understatement; as would be saying that eating that is “open to nutrition.” No, nutrition is the object of eating. Engendering is the purpose of the marriage act. Both are there that life should continue.
    If that were clarified, people who do not have what it takes wouldn’t get married in the first place and those who do will support each other, because they will have large, beautiful families and natural friendships, not a “ministry” as if having children were an oddity requiring special treatment. But matrimony is a sacrament, that is, it is a source of grace. God does give people what it takes and He does not abandon them if they follow His plan, and churchmen should not be embarrassed to proclaim God’s plan.

  • Pam Spano

    *chills*

  • Tina

    Relapsed, I don’t understand what you mean. An ectopic pregnancy is outside of the uterus. D&E (Dilation and evacuation) abortions are used in uterine pregnancies. A D&E would not help an ectopic pregnancy. Did you mean that she had a salpingostomy (only a slit is made in the fallopian tube), rather than a salpingectomy (removing a section of the tube)? Both are done through the abdomen. Or did you mean that she had a medical abortion using methotrexate? Can you please clarify?

  • James

    That’s not Catholic teaching.

    Unlike the old rhythm method, modern methods of natural family planning give women a considerable amount of information about their bodies. It is ALWAYS good for EVERY woman to chart for the health reasons alone. (These methods were discovered in the mid-1960s, which was coincidentally around the time of Vatican II and the Birth Control Commission. Thus the seeming “change” in Church teaching.)

    The Catholic Church teaches that it is good for couples to know about natural processes and that couples should prayerfully discern how to use this information. See Humanae Vitae 10. Couples should not avoid pregnancy for selfish reasons, but “grave reasons” is a mistranslation of the Latin. Humanae Vitae uses “serious reasons”, “acceptable reasons”, and “well-grounded reasons”. The Catechism uses “just reasons”.

    NFP is information about women’s health, a discernment tool for couples, and is in no way a “compromised route”.

    As for the primary and secondary purposes of marriage, this language is present in older sources, but not in newer ones. This is due to an increased appreciation of the “good of the spouses” and a true appreciation of the “remedy for concupiscence”, mainly due to the work of John Paul II. It is not that the procreative aspect is less important, but the unitive aspect is more important.


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