Pro-Life, Pro-Woman, Pro-Responsibility

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

Twitter lit up like a bonfire this week with #ShoutYourAbortion.

Let me be clear: Every person is free to share or not share her experience. I do not believe in censorship. Neither do I believe that women who have chosen to have abortions should be called names or threatened with violence. Waving around giant pictures of aborted babies doesn’t help anyone.

But let’s be honest: Twitter – 140 characters – is not the ideal place to have this conversation. Like it or not, the topic of abortion is a deep one, whether one is pro-life or pro-choice. It’s impossible to address the complexities in such a limited format.

Of course, the proponents of #ShoutYourAbortion say that there need be no controversy. That it need not be a delicate issue. A woman should be able to say “I did this” with neither explanation nor context, which I suppose is fair enough. Such a stance turns away from the ideas of good storytelling, but all right. If you really want to take to Twitter and share, that’s your choice.

There has been a good amount of backlash regarding the hashtag, evenly divided (from what I have seen, which is, of course, not every single tweet ever) between the pro-life and the pro-choice crowd. The basic point is that #ShoutYourAbortion comes across as combative, prideful and does nothing to actually further the conversation or foster understanding between people of opposing views. Such objections have been met with “stop policing,” “the medium doesn’t matter,” “you’re an idiot,” “concern troll,” “I hate pro-life people,” and “moron.” (Again, just what I’ve seen).

Those responses are ridiculous. One does not start or engage in a controversial “movement” and then stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and scream at people – even people who agree with the position – who say that there are better ways to go about it. That amounts to nothing more than willfully ignoring constructive criticism.

Because the medium does matter. The way a message is communicated is important. Why else do writers spend so much time laboring over sentences? Why else would history be split on the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate; those who listened on the radio believed Nixon won, those who watched on television gave the victory to Kennedy. Why else do costume designers spend hours locating just the right fabric for a dress?

So, by all means, share your story. Just don’t be so shocked when people react negatively when that story is so very limited and without any kind of context. Don’t be surprised when you’re told that you come across as celebrating what so many – pro-life and pro-choice – see as an incredibly tragic moment.

I did have two “laugh out louds” as I responded to some of what I was seeing under this hashtag. One gentleman (which I thought was odd, because aren’t men supposed to have no voice in this at all?) slammed me for tweeting to Lindy West (one of the women who orchestrated #ShoutYourAbortion) that Twitter was not the best place for the conversation. When I told him that I had my own story with Planned Parenthood, he then told me to go ahead and engage. Except that I was already engaging. He just didn’t like what I had to say.

The second came when I saw someone, I don’t remember who, compare #ShoutYourAbortion to the efforts of First Wave feminists. That is nonsensical. First Wavers were a diverse lot, to be sure, but these were the women who fought for the right to vote, equal status and protection under the law, the right to attend college, the prosecution of rapists and the perpetrators of domestic violence, prison reform, reducing the length of the workday, child labor law and the abolition of slavery, to name a few.

Things that we could and should still be advocating, for women and girls around the world. But instead #ShoutYourAbortion. (And, you know, #FreetheNip).

Priorities, right?

I am disheartened to see the focus of feminism so narrowed in on “reproductive rights.” Abortion-on-demand has nothing to do with equality. If it was about equality, then men would be allowed financial abortions for children they do not wish to support. No, I’m not a champion for deadbeat dads. They are despicable. But if we’re going to have a standard, then it should be applied across the board. A woman can literally sever all of her ties to a child. So, too, should a man be allowed.

But that will never happen (nor do I actually believe it should) because this isn’t about equality. Abortion-on-demand is about escaping responsibility. No, I am not speaking of pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother. I’m not even speaking or rape or incest. I am speaking of women who have access to more forms of contraception than ever before. I am speaking of women who attempt to hijack the philosophical concept of bodily autonomy by saying that the baby “has no right” to “live off of” her. (Ignoring that the act of sex invites the creation of a child. Ignoring that the bodily autonomy argument is never applied to women who drink or use drugs while pregnant). I am speaking of women who have attended college in greater numbers than at any other point in history, meaning that they have probably taken biology and thus know that the genetic material of the developing child is entirely unique and separate from her own and that the “it’s my body” reasoning falls short. I am speaking of women who live with the cognitive dissonance of deeming an aborted baby as “merely tissue” while going on to have children at a later point. I am speaking of women who insist that life does not begin at conception, but then have no consistent answer for when it does begin. (Why should a toddler not be “aborted?” After all, she continues to rely on her mother). I am speaking of women who passionately yell “save the trees” and “eat vegan” and then, somehow, disassociate themselves from “products of conception.”

I’m saying that women know better. We are too smart, too informed, for this.

If feminism is about acknowledging and championing the equality of women, if it is about opportunities and choices, then it must also be about responsibility. We cannot blast men for shirking their responsibility to women and children while doing the same thing ourselves. If a woman chooses to have sex, then she chooses to open herself to the possibility of a child. She does not have to parent the child, but she cannot say that the child has been deposited within her womb without consent. Sex is the consent. (I am obviously not speaking of rape or incest victims).

Abortion-on-demand is neither the exhibition of independence or power. It is sad. It is motivated by fear and selfishness. I can say that. Once more, I have my own story.  So here’s where I turn to the pro-life community:

We must do better. We must embrace and uplift women. We must refuse to name-call or judge. We must be the support system every pregnant women needs, whether she’s unmarried or not. We must be the shoulders to cry on, the arms to hold and the ears to listen. We must be available. We must provide transportation, job references, babysitting. We must adopt when possible. We must help women to shoulder the burden and celebrate their courage and tenacity in stepping up to the plate.

Let us be the true culture of life in a world promoting death.

My journey to faith. (15)

For a look at the feminist case against abortion, please check out this article. (Yes, it appeared in a Catholic magazine. You can handle it).

Addendum: I have been told that this piece comes across as condemning. Stating that pursuing abortion is motivated by the desire to escape responsibility is not any more condemning than saying that a kid commits theft if he steals candy. It is no comment on the character of the person. We all have done things in order to escape responsibility; we are all entirely equal that regard. I am not throwing stones at women, attempting to silence them or rubbing my hands together with glee and hoping that someone will feel sooooo bad after reading this.

I linked to my own story twice in this post. Though I did not have an abortion, I have been down this road. I have talked with women and read testimonies. I completely understand the thoughts and the feelings. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. Yet this does not erase the fact that, bottom line, aborting a child because you don’t want to carry it to term is a selfish act. It is the only logical conclusion that I can draw when the reasons women give for pursuing abortion are “I was in school,” “I wanted to advance my career,” and “kids would hinder me.”

Addendum #2: Over on Twitter I continue to be picked at for my “tone policing.” Let me just reiterate that I never once said women should not share their stories. I thought I was clear in saying that Twitter wasn’t the best place for the conversation due to it’s sensitive nature. That the hashtag comes across badly, regardless of original intent (attempting to give the benefit of the doubt here). Watching the hashtag explode (implode?) into name-calling and threats (from both sides) confirms this for me. But again, if you want to go that route, go ahead. Just don’t get your knickers in a twist and promptly cast yourself as a victim when you don’t get a universally positive response. (Note: That’s not me defending the awfulness of people posting photos of aborted babies or making death threats. That’s completely wrong. I’m talking only about those who share an opposing view).

Addendum #3: The charge of “tone policing” leaves me shaking my head. I’m wrong for saying that there’s a better way to do have this conversation, to share these stories – literally nothing about content, just the medium. Fast on the heels of this charge comes the accusations of “judgmental” and “controlling.” Basically, others can say what they want, how they want, where they want…but I can’t.

We’ll just let that “fairness” sit and marinate for awhile.

A Spiritual Snit

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

The preschoolers, man. The preschoolers.

They can’t sit still. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but something in their little bodies makes it impossible for them to cease all motion. They don’t pay attention. Their brains just can’t focus on anything for longer than a minute. They ask the most random, non-lesson related questions I have ever heard. They’re obsessed with their shoes and whether or not they want to even be wearing them. All the really want to do is dump the bucket of legos on the Sunday school room floor and go to town.

I want to shake them all.

And then one of them prays and thanks God for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And the pretty flowers. And dogs. Another offers to share his toy with the new kid. They scribble wildly-colored designs and dream up fantastic stories. They get excited to make little presents for people and pour equal amounts of affection and snot into the projects. They are supremely confident that Jesus loves them. It’s just a fact like breathing.

I want to hug them all.

Then someone yells or there’s a disturbance in the force and we’re back to the shaking.

Teaching preschoolers is not my gift. It’s not the thing I would naturally choose to do every third Sunday. But I think sometimes God asks us to do the thing that sets our teeth most on edge.

Because it reveals something about us and about Him.

I’m a whole lot more like those preschoolers than I’d like to admit.

The insomnia began on July 31. (How sad that I can name the day). When I don’t sleep well, my anxiety worsens. My temper gets shorter. A haze clouds my vision, so to speak, and it all seems horrible. An, “I hate everything and pants” sort of moment.

I sink into a snit. Sulking in the corner. Glaring.

I just want to dump the bucket of legos on the floor and to heck with the rest of it, thank you very much.

I don’t want to pay attention. I don’t want to do the things I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t want to put forth the effort.

A spiritual toddler, for reals.

God sure does put up with a lot from me. (From us. We can be honest). He patiently, so patiently, keeps on leading, keeps on teaching. He waits when I get distracted by the shiny. He lets me play with it for a minute and then shows me that it’s not what I really want. When I sit down in the middle the road and pout, He doesn’t kick me. He doesn’t heap condemnation on my head. His Spirit speaks to my soul with a gentle, “I told you so. But we can chill here for now.”

He knows when I get heart-weary. He knows that my mind plays tricks on me. He knows that Satan’s game is to throw temptations my way and then call me names when I give in.

He defends me.

Think about that. We’re these stumbling, bumbling people trying to run with our wobbly knees and shaky ankles when we can barely walk. We don’t have very good balance. We suffer from deep spiritual ADHD. We fall and get bruised. Sometimes on accident. Sometimes on purpose and with full knowledge of the pain to come.

We cry and scream and throw things and kick up dust. We stomp our feet and say, “I don’t care! This is too hard! I don’t want to!”

Satan laughs and says, “See, God? See how much she sucks? You should shake her!”

Christ just holds up a nail-scarred hand before the Father and says, “She’s Mine. Snit and all, she’s Mine.”

The beautiful holiness of His advocacy makes me uncomfortable in the best possible way. That One so perfect and true and good would take up for me… That He would choose to embrace me when He has every right to shake the life out of me.. That He would condescend to wipe the tears and snot from my face and, say, with a smile, “Let’s try again, shall we?”

I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m crying right now.

As they say, the struggle is real. The war between the old woman and the new woman rages inside of me.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” – Romans 7:15 (NKJV)

And so I bow my head, indebted forever,

“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

Blood, Sweat and Tears

If you still look cute at the end of your

Gentle Reader,

Now that you’ve read the above quote, please resist the urge to slam your laptop shut and walk away.

I’m not throwing stones here. I’m not even talking about exercise. So chill.

On Saturday I tuned into the Living Proof Live 2015 Simulcast. I’m all about a conference that I can attend while wearing my pajamas. I’m also of the opinion that Beth Moore is a very gifted teacher. (We can disagree on this. I will still love you). Her teaching this year zeroed in on the concept of audacity.

From my notes:

Audacity – intrepid boldness, disregard of normal restraints; not held back; resolute fearlessness; the guts to do it anyway; adventurous

The first image that comes to my mind as I continue to ponder those words and phrases is that of a mountain climber. You don’t decide to scale Everest without a healthy dose of grit and guts. You don’t decide to take on Denali without a sense of adventure. Despite the winds and the snow and the hunger and the near-inability to breathe, you do it anyway. You don’t shave. You don’t wear nice clothes. You’re exhausted. But you’re not thinking about anything like that. You’re out there to conquer this massive thing, this huge obstacle.

And you’re doing it because it’s fun.

Because it brings you joy.

This is what we’re missing. Life is hard. Life is serious. Denial is not part of faith. Sticking our heads in the sand is not part of loving Christ. Wars rage, tsunamis rumble, cancer strikes. Women are raped, children are orphaned, men toil in sweatshops. The world groans with longing. The spirits of all people cry out for the True Lord (whether they acknowledge Him or not). We have to face these things. We have to roll up our sleeves, put on our big kid pants and move into the pain. We have to bring light to the darkest corners of the globe. This is our mission as the people of God.

But we don’t have to do it with a sour expression.

We’re getting this wrong. We trudge through life. We wear our faith as this heavy badge of obligation. Many of us are ready to jump into arguments at a moment’s notice. (Often political arguments, which are ultimately meaningless and draw ridiculous dividing lines between people). We’re ready to use the Bible to beat people into submission.

Where is our joy?

Go out with courage and joy. Go out with both.

Yes, we must have the nerve to stay in the Word and stake our lives on its truth. Absolutely. But who is ever going to be drawn in by a bunch of screaming? By dry, lifeless logic?

What are we doing?

Love with everything you’ve got and stand in the truth of God. Don’t fight with people, fight for them.

Let’s be honest: Who wants to hang out with someone who’s got nothing but a disapproving glare on her face all the time? Who wants to spend time with a man who can do nothing but frown?

Never before have I made a connection between courage and joy. I’ve not considered that bravery comes from the fun of the thing. And despite all the hardship of this life, Christ is fun. Do you know that? Do you understand that He made the duck-billed platypus and snow and music? Do you understand that He created you with the ability to laugh, deep down in your belly, so hard that silence descends and the tears roll down your cheeks? Do you see when He splashes the horizon with brilliant bits of color at sunset?

God is fun. Following Him is fun.

We’ve forgotten that. We get so fixated on other things. Easily the adventure He brings to our lives slips from memory. He becomes an afterthought, a tag-along.

When we go out into those dark places in the hopes of bringing life and light, we should do so because knowing, loving and following Him is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We can smile with delight. We can dance and sing with fervor. We can pray with the full assurance that He hears and will respond in the best way possible.

Faith is not drudge. It is not boredom. It is not obligation.

It is great fun. It is wild adventure.

In that fun and adventure flow the blood, sweat and tears. As we sing, it is with voices strained by loss. As we dance, our steps are halting because of the wounds. As we share the Gospel, it is with a catch in our throats as we remember from what He has saved us.

This isn’t about ivory towers of academia battling with each other using fancy-sounding words. It’s not about political parties. It’s not about protests. It’s not about shunning people. It’s not about feeling superior to anyone.

This Christian life, this walk of faith, is about moving forward with the tattered clothes and the aching muscles and the bruised skin. It’s not about looking cute. It’s not about being acceptable. It is about splitting ourselves wide open and allowing the Lord to shine through. It’s recognizing that a difference of opinion is no reason to end a relationship. It’s knowing that every piece of our lives belongs to and can be used by Him.

It’s about getting down and dirty. It’s about sitting next to someone in the mud as they search and grasp. It’s being willing to embrace the messy. To accept that each one of us is at a different point on the road. It’s about saying, “I get you. I know where you are. I accept you. Please, let me tell you about this extraordinary God who pulled me out of that very same pit.” And then sticking around.

It’s about being winsome, being “attractive in appearance or character.”

It’s about having a ready, genuine smile and real confidence, knowing that, whatever comes, the end is good and glorious.

But stop expecting it to be perfect. Stop thinking that it will go right every time.

We have to get out there. We have to be honest about our ugliness. It contrasts so nicely with the beauty of God. Our authenticity allows others to see how amazing He is. We must share our passion and knowledge from a place of brokenness, pointing everyone we meet to the Holy Glue.

We get out there and do the thing. We run. We fight. We engage. We get beat up, torn up. Our hair won’t stay pretty. The mascara will run, even the best waterproof kind. Our muscles will burn. Our bones will break. It will never, ever be neat or nice-looking.

We go hard. We love hard.

And we do it with a grin.

Because He’s the greatest blast of our lives.

My journey to faith. (15)