I had a curious exchange after testifying before the House Health Policy Committee last Thursday. A gentleman approached me (I believe one of the Congressmen who supported the anti-abortion omnibus of bills) and warned me about the anger I was expressing. His tone was not reproachful but almost cautionary, as if he was more worried about me than others who might perceive my anger.
The conversation made me think about what emotions I was indeed feeling, and continue to feel days later. I suppose he was right, that Rage is my primary emotion on this issue. Rage at the disproportionate concern being expressed for the unformed unborn over the needs of existing children – hungry, homeless, undereducated, unwanted and unloved; over the physical, mental and spiritual health of pregnant women whose most private and personal selves are being violated largely by rich White men with a moral agenda; and over the ethical health of a society with no qualms about murdering innocent children overseas in our wars of conquest, murdering our environment for financial gain, and murdering the basic tenets of democracy and freedom through tyrannical law-making, fiscal slavery, hate and fear-mongering.
I also feel intense Sorrow. I grieve for the countless women whose stories are going unheard, whose opinions are dismissed because they don’t support the narrow theology of conservative lawmakers. I am deeply saddened that every woman in our world still lives in abject fear of the violence of men, and the imposed will of men over their bodies. I mourn the broad lack of compassion among my fellow men for our sisters, our wives and partners, our mothers and daughters. And yes, I do feel sorrow that abortion must exist as an option at all. But, the fact is that abortion has always and will always exist for certain circumstances, and so long as governments try to legislate morality and religious belief.
Confusion. I remain mystified by the so-called “pro-life” position. Listening to their rhetoric, the only logical conclusion is that their first and foremost objective is not the preservation of life, but the control and regulation of women’s reproductive organs and their lives as sexual beings. If you truly believe that human “life” begins at conception, then wouldn’t you want to eliminate all unwanted pregnancies? Then why would you not support mandatory sex education, the widespread availability of affordable birth control, extreme penalties for sexual violence against women, and the elimination of objectifying stereotypes that portray women as merely sex objects for the gratification of men? If you truly value all human “life” then you must certainly oppose capital punishment. You must certainly want society to impose more controls on handguns, whose primary purpose is shooting people. And you must be a pacifist. Unfortunately, I have met few “pro-life” individuals who also hold these other positions.
I am Afraid. Yes, I am a minister. Being a public figure is part of the job and I accept that responsibility willingly. That doesn’t make things any easier when a politician uses his position to berate me after misinterpreting my words and twisting their meaning. That doesn’t make things any easier when I see how people justify violence against others by their selective application of religious creeds and the permission they feel divinely derived. And while the many martyrs to the causes of freedom and justice are my heroes, that does not mean that I necessarily wish to join their ranks.
But I am also Hopeful. I have a vision of a future society where reason and conscience prevails. I see a time when the measure of a person’s success is not the acquisition of money and possessions, but the good deeds they perform. I know that others share this vision and the desire to make it come about. So I am not Lonely. I am Committed.