Monday, February 13, 2017

Pro-life is Pro-Choice

I am Catholic, raised in the Catholic Church, educated in Catholic schools, entered a Catholic seminary, excelled in Catholic theology, taught in Catholic schools, wrote on Catholic Social Teaching, attend Catholic celebrations and worship though I now prefer to express my faith in Unitarian Universalist communities and words mainly to avoid clerical authoritarianism.

I am pro-life. I argue that no one is more pro-life than I am. I rallied against needless war. I oppose capital punishment. I fight for civil rights. I act for programs that I know will help the most vulnerable achieve a better life and more options to grow, including social security, guaranteed income, universal health care and education.

Violence, I agree with Hannah Arendt, can never be justified though at times is necessary. Even the violence of surgery or other corporial interventions, like abortion, should be shunned except when necessary for a person's quantity and quality of life. I go so far as to say that no war is just although it may be necessary for life. And even then it must be limited by rules as "just war" theory attempts to delineate. 

A mentor, Dr. Martin Marty, a theologian and historian emeritus of the University of Chicago Divinity School once said that the abortion debate is like two bumper stickers facing each other while they race in opposite directions. It is not a conflict of ideas and values. It is a conflict of tribes.

Tribal conflict ultimately devastates civilization. So it is with the abortion debate in America. Therefore, with my long Catholic background, I am embarrassed and horrified to hear of bishops and priests telling people not to vote for pro-choice candidates or attacking programs that support a woman's choice for birth control including abortion. They perpetuate this tribal conflict which undermines social order and removes consideration of other life-enhancing policies for the already born. 

Abortion is violence. A physical intervention stops the growth of the fertilized egg towards becoming a human person. It is not to be taken lightly and should be prevented when possible and only performed when necessary. The question is who decides if and when it is necessary for the life of the woman and her family. The bishops? The president? The government? Or the pregnant woman?

I honor people who refuse to go to war out of religious conviction even if they have to suffer adverse consequences. I also honor women who refuse to have an abortion out of religious conviction even when they must suffer adverse consequences. But I do not honor them if they force their religious convictions on others. The state, Weber says, is a monopoly of the tools of violence. It's purpose is to curb violence, the violence of discrimination, the violence of crime, the violence of greed, even when it must use violence (the enforcement of law) to do so. 

Pre-enlightenment Catholics may argue that the government official or a person acting for society has a duty to stop an abortion even by force because he is defending a human life against violence. It is a human life, they say, because at the moment the seed penetrates the egg, God miraculously infuses an immortal human soul. That may be a religious opinion but to me it is nonsense. Should a particular religious doctrine determine policy in a secular republic? 

Better, you might argue that the fetus is biologically oriented to become a human person and so must be defended. But so is the unfertilized egg as well as the millions of sperm in one ejaculation. To save all these cells because they are naturally oriented to human reproduction is patently absurd. Moreover, the priests teach that couples can practice birth control by "rhythm" or what they call the natural method that has a chance of disposing the egg without being fertilized at certain times of the month. Natural method? C'mon?

The fact is that abortion has become less used as a means of birth control the more we have supported women in their rights to choose in matters of their bodies including their sexuality. And women who are not forced to give birth, but choose it themselves are more apt to raise their children to a fuller life.

If we are truly pro-life, we will be strongly, enthusiastically pro-choice. Women too have lives and can choose to shape and develop those lives as they decide without government hindrance. It is the height of misogynist arrogance to believe that we or the bishops know better. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Path past modernity

To get through and beyond modern times, transform expectations into hope, replace beliefs with faith, and transcend sentimentality by love. 

For many years, I've observed that we are on the cusp of an age past modernity. The whole world now bound by instant communication and well proselytized by the triumphant West preaching the gospel of self-interest, free market, and liberal democracy is reacting. Pankaj Mishra names what we inhabit now is "The Age of Anger."

In this in-between age, expectations of the "end of history" with a world-wide growing economy, the end of poverty, greater wealth, and unlimited progress have been dashed for most. Yes, there are more individual freedoms, better technologies, and more things to provide comfort, ease, and entertainment. But the cult of modernism has removed people from their families, their towns, their traditional values, their sense of belonging and meaning. 

Their old time religions are ridiculed. Their once taken-for-granted beliefs have been trampled. Modernism has led to rationalism, objectivity, nationalism, science, liberal education, critical thinking, continually changing economies with loss of lifelong jobs, polarizing inequities--and lots of resentment. And with resentment comes anger and blame. 

The dashed expectations and undermined beliefs is the result of "others." The literati elite, the Muslims, the foreigners, the terrorists are to blame--just as before it was the Jews or Catholics or Negroes or Communists. And just as before, demagogues are arising to promote and exploit that resentment, anger, and blame. But this time the world war they contemplate is not just with the old industrialized nations but also newly westernizing, developing nations. 

One path to postmodern times is reaction: a tearing down of all modern persons, institutions, and values, a denial of science and demolition of technology, a reassertion of tribe and borders, an apocalyptic devastation of rules and laws and peoples so a messiah can bring in the new or old world order.

But there is no going back except by total self-destruction. 

Another path through the age of anger into a reconciled postmodernism might well be illustrated by the three traditional cardinal virtues: faith, hope, and love. 
The path beyond modernism is a faith that transcends beliefs, a hope that dismisses expectations, and a love that surpasses sentimentality. 

The three Abrahamic religions taught there is no god but God (Christ, Allah, Yahweh). Many other spiritual traditions dismissed gods entirely. But they made their teachings, institutions, practices, prophets, books, and leaders divine. They idolized their beliefs. And so do the modern cults of wealth, fame, and victory. 

Neither the modern arrogance of idolatry, nor the angry reaction of iconoclasm is the path ahead. Each leads to the other.