A Plea for Open Conversation between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Voices

A Plea for Open Conversation between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Voices

Yesterday was the Women’s March on Washington. It was beautiful to see women gathering all across the country to speak with a common voice.  I have friends who participated with eagerness. I know others who questioned its purpose.  And I know some, like my friend Shannon, who wanted to participate but felt excluded because of their Pro-Life stance on abortion. Hers is just one of many stories I’ve heard from women, holding opinions on both sides of the abortion issue, feeling isolated and excluded from a community of women because their stance on this topic separates them from the dominant culture around them.

Like most complex topics, when it comes to abortion there are intelligent people arguing it from many different angles.   And while plenty of folks seem quite certain that they have the “right” answer, the reality is there are valid arguments on both sides.

Will you, for a minute, set aside your own convictions, pull out your imagination, and try with me to put yourself in the shoes of someone standing on the opposite side of the picket line?

Pro-choice women care deeply about women’s health. They have well founded concerns about what will happen to women who seek abortions illegally if this practice were to be abolished in the US. They see a world history that has treated women as second class citizens and they deeply desire that women maintain freedom to control their own bodies.   They fear for children who will be brought into a world when parents don’t have the emotional or financial resources to provide for them.

Pro-life women believe that a baby’s life begins at conception, with this in mind how could they not fight to preserve these lives with the same diligence as they would for the lives of children who are one, or ten or sixteen years old and in danger. They fear for the trauma that women will experience after having aborted a child, grief and depression that can set in even decades later which is often devastating to the woman and her family.  They worry about women being coerced by family and un-supportive partners into abortions that they don’t truly want.  And they are concerned about the medical consequences of abortion.

Pro-choice women are not Pro-death as their opponents like to think, and Pro-life women aren’t Anti-choice. Each side is simply looking at this delicate conversation from a different angle and starting with a different set of values.

There is social and medical science to support arguments on both sides.  There are religious beliefs and cultural traditions that can lead to drawing conclusions in either direction.  There are heart wrenching testimonies from individuals to support both perspectives.

I am not an advocate for taking a moderate stance. If you do your research and feel passionate in one of these directions than certainly speak up, protest, donate, take action.  But don’t make an enemy of those who disagree with you and don’t shut them out of your life. Don’t assume that they aren’t equally motivated by love, and data and respect for human kind.  Don’t assume another is a misogynist or anti-feminist or sacrilegious just because she falls on the opposite side of this issue.  We all want what is best for women and for our country and we all have no choice but to work together to achieve it.  So let’s be the first to sit down with someone who holds a different view and give them a listening ear and an open mind.  Let’s go out and speak up for our side with all our heart but let us never loose sight of the fact that what binds us as women is far greater than what divides us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

To Suffer With, Sin Nature and the New Creation a reflection on an act of violence

We all grimaced, just the headline was enough, Four Black Teens Torture Disabled Man. Through squinted eyes we watched a few seconds of brutality before we turned away, our stomachs in knots. In our conversations and on social media we cried out for justice, asking for a punishment equal to the crime.  And then we prayed for peace for the victim and his family.

 

And yet, at least for those of us who call ourselves Christians, but probably for anyone who calls themselves human, we were compelled to go further.  As our anger softened we began to make room for pity, not just for the victim but for these four young souls. These teens who, in another world, would have been at home with their own families instead of living in a world where kidnapping and assaulting an innocent man is a reasonable or even exhilarating thing to do.  We still wanted them to be punished but in our piety we prayed for them too, to know love, to seek forgiveness and to be put right.

 

But Christ does not call us to contempt nor does He ask us for pity.

Christ, our sacrificed lamb, asks from us the reward of His suffering. He implores us to bring Him our own broken and bleeding hearts. Hearts big enough for both victim and persecutor. Hearts with open eyes to see each human as our own flesh and blood.

When we look into the face of a stranger we see ourselves, and in this transcendent  mirror we find that we share with them the condemnation for the wrong that they have committed and we are ashamed to realize that they share in ours too.

 

Each of us is responsible before all, for everyone and for everything.

– Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

If this seems like a stretch, let’s take a step back and think for a minute about The Butterfly Effect.

What if you had $20 in your pocket and instead of giving it to the lady begging on the street you spent it on a frappaccino and gluten-free scone? Meanwhile that lady is down to her last dime and decides her only option is to start prostituting herself to put food on the table.  What if her daughter’s (one of the culprits in this assault that we are discussing) introduction to violence was from the men who came over to buy sex from her mother?  What if by the time she was 18 a beating and some cigarette burns were nothing because she had been through far worse? And what if your $20 could have spared her that? What if the next day her mother would have found a real job?

Each of us sit in our positions of moral authority not because of our intrinsic personal virtue but by another set of  happenstance situations that have brought us just as randomly to where we are today.

 

Evil isn’t something that someone else does, if we are sinners then sin is something that we do, it is part of us. The words we say or don’t say, the work we do or don’t do, even in our best intentions we can’t help but cause harm.  We inherited a sin nature and we perpetuate it everyday as we continue to live out our imperfect lives.

This may feel like the ultimate of dismal injustices.

But it is also the very truth which allows us to connect with another person, which gives us courage to suffer with and leads us to cry out for justice not just for one act of violence but for every single hurt and failure that has wounded the hearts of all mankind.

 

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

-Henri Nouwen

We see ourselves when we see Christ suffering on the cross and we see ourselves when we see the brutality of the soldiers nailing Him to it.

Our hope in Christ does not spare us  or the world from the tangible consequences for our failures. But as we profess with St. Paul,

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

To Suffer With: Sin Nature and the New Creation: reflection on an act of violence

we see that our story doesn’t stop in our sin. Instead we claim a boundless victory. We celebrate a restored creation and we rejoice in a  grace that is free to us no matter how grotesque our actions.  The vilest sin in the whole world no longer binds us because  we have a new life and a renewed nature in a resurrected Christ.
For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

 

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

I’ve been wanting to do something to celebrate the end of the Christmas season for a few years now and this time we finally pulled it off.  There are a few different approaches you can take for having a party this time of year.  First off you can have a 12th night party which is on (you guessed it!) the twelfth night of Christmas.

You can also do an Epiphany party which is technically the day after the 12th night of Christmas but it seems reasonable to celebrate it any time between the 12th night and the following Sunday. Epiphany in the church is a celebration of Christ’s first revelation to the gentiles in the form of the star appearing to the Three Wise Men.

And then on the off chance that you have some connection with Eastern Europe where they still use the Julian Calendar you can also celebrate what we referred to in my childhood as “Greek Christmas” which is on January 7th as far as I can tell. For our party we didn’t really specify but here are the things we did.

First we did not do dinner.  Let’s face it, a dinner party is a lot of work and a lot of expense. After Christmas we just weren’t up for it. Instead we made a King’s cake. Which is typically a sort of sweet yeast bread rolled with cream cheese filling. I was out of cream cheese and didn’t have time to wait for a cake to rise so I made a simple cinnamon swirl bunt cake and though I didn’t try it everyone said it was good and there were no leftovers.

Don’t forget to hide a baby in the cake! This was a tradition familiar to us after spending many winters in Mexico (did you know that kids in Mexico often get more gifts from The Three Kings on Kings Day than from Santa on Christmas?).  Whoever gets the baby is supposed to make the tamales for the next feast but we didn’t hold anyone to it. A more modern tradition is to hide three babies (you can substitute a large bean, or use a fig like I did, the little plastic babies are hard to find, I know it sounds super weird) and whoever gets a bean gets to wear a crown, one for each king.

Second make Wassail, a hot mulled cider which is the traditional drink for this time of year. We had Brandy to add to ours and then hot chocolate, not to add, just for another option.

Third  make Magi crowns.  I found the most basic crown pattern on the internet, print it, cut it out (two at a time, it went fast) stapled two together, spray painted them gold and voila. I picked up some jewel stickers at the dollar store and the kids used them to decorate their crowns. This was a great souvenir, kept the kids surprisingly engaged, and no one got injured with the stapler.

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

Fourth make Magi gifts.  We sent the kids home with three versions of DIY Play-dough mixed with glitter for gold and the others fragranced with frankincense and myrrh essential oils (actually I didn’t have mhyrr so I used Ylang-Ylang and Lavender, no one knew the difference).

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

One more add on which was an unexpected treat that my husband whipped up was a lively family sing along of the first verse of “Here we go a-wassailing” which apparently is a song about poor folks going door to door drinking warm beer, and the “12 Days of Christmas” which was a hit with the kids.

Life has been hard for many of my friends and family this holiday season.  And for some who have had a recent loss Christmas felt like a very low place.  Gathering for ongoing celebrations is an important part of living and grieving  and healing together. This party took us about half a day’s work to pull together and the memories of time spent together finding babies in cakes is totally worth it. So here is to the 12th Night and Epiphany and Greek Christmas and hoping that in 2017 we will always be able to find something to celebrate.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

7 Reasons to Join the Liturgy of Life Reading Group A Year on the Body and Spirit

Our bodies have become a political battle ground.  We are rattled with concerns of pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, racism and refugees. And then there are the more subtle issues of divorce, promiscuity, human cloning, and transgenderism just to name a few.  If we call ourselves Christians then the way that we understand our skin and bones and the life that dwells therein informs our conversation in nearly every controversial issue of our day.

If we want to be informed or engage in a thoughtful discussion on any of these issues we must first deal with the body, the human form where these issues are played out, and we must examine what it means for Christ’s body to be broken for our bodies.

Is the body simply a collection of cells, like algae? Is it an inert container for a soul? Or is our physicality essential to our spirit? Is it a source of disdain for not being as strong or thin or capable as it should be?  Are eating and sleeping and having sex pleasures to delight in or are you eager to be free from the body’s sensuous provocations and base impulses? Is Christ dwelling in us a physical reality? Can He really be found in the flesh of our neighbor or a beggar or a child?

Enter in the 2017 Liturgy of Life Reading List. I have no promises that this reading list will answer all of those questions but I do hope it will give us a start. In 2017 we will look at death, care-giving, family, at sexuality, then at the sacredness in all things as experienced through the act of cooking and eating and finally at how our bodies are connected to other bodies through social justice.

We will do this through the lenses of two Catholics, an Anglican, a Russian Orthodox, a Presbyterian and one of our founding church fathers, from texts that were published as recently as 2012 and as distantly as 329.

I have tried to make book choices that are manageable in length and in difficulty (i.e you don’t have to have a college degree to get through this list)  each offering a unique perspective on the body.

As you read along I hope you will be challenged and will end this year with beneficial insights into the realities of body and spirit.  So on to the seven reasons,

1. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy (February)

Don’t be intimidated by the name Tolstoy. This book is short and the style is straightforward. Ivan Ilyich will be our introduction to the body. We will be reading this as we approach lent which is traditionally a time of reflection on our own mortality (I got you excited huh? Betcha can’t wait to start thinking more about dying . . . sorry, but I think in the end it will be good for us).

2. Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen (March)

Nouwen packs big ideas into simple stories. This book will take us from death into care giving and help us to explore the meaning and purpose of our physical life and death.

3. What is A Family?, Edith Schaeffer (April and May)

I’ll admit that Schaeffer’s style can be a bit tedious but Schaeffer, in her unique fashion, will help us look at the family through different lenses. She will transition us from thinking about our individual bodies to our bodies in more complex relationships. Family is our initial and most essential connection to the physicality of others. On the surface she gives advice and perspective on family life but she will also build a bridge to the deeper ideas of our bodies being indwelt with Christ and our ability to minister to the people closest to us through Him.

4. At the Heart of the Gospel, Christopher West (June, July and August)

Three months for this one. It has some deep and essential ideas about the sacramentality of the human experience, specifically in the context of sexuality. I figured since we will be reading it over the summer we will probably move at a slower pace. Of all the books on the list I think this one is the most important to read given the issues facing our modern world. If you don’t happen to be Catholic don’t let West’s multiple references to Catholic documents and officials confuse you, he is digging into some great ideas that have value for all of us.

5. The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon (September and October)

In some ways this is the lightest but also the most tedious read especially if you don’t share Farrar’s love of cooking. It is 98% cooking and 2% theology. And yet the 2% wouldn’t mean anything if it wasn’t for the 98%. This book could have been written about any type of work, more than being about cooking (though it really is mostly about cooking) it is about the value of paying attention. When we put forth the energy to work with care, whatever interaction we are having with the world leads us to experience God.

6. On Social Justice, St. Basil the Great (November)

This book was written only 300 years after Christ walked the earth in the days when the Church was still newly established. It is perhaps the founding document on Christian social justice. You will be amazed at how readable and also how applicable this book is to our modern life. If Christ in us then we are truly His hands and our work is to extend Him to the rest of the world.

Well I couldn’t come up with a 7th, but still I’d love to have you reading along.

We will plan on kicking off the first book in the beginning of February and I’ll be posting about twice per month specific to our current read.

To follow along in discussion make sure to check in out our facebook discussion group.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

linking up with some other quick takes today, check them out.