Choose life

It’s a small mercy that I at least never attended an anti-abortion protest. That was a little too tacky, too “political” for my upwardly mobile family at our upwardly mobile church. God sent his Son to die on the cross so we could clean up and move to the suburbs, and his perfect will for our life obviously didn’t include yelling and screaming and getting arrested. Nonetheless, the pro-life movement is driven by “my people,” the evangelicals, who are now on the cusp of victory in a generation-long battle that has deployed all available tactics, from the long march through the institutions to harassment, terrorism, and assassination. They wanted it bad, and now they’re getting it. We’re all getting it.

Recently I was talking to a friend from a similar background to mine. Though he was a little younger, we both shared the experience of living through the Bush years in a conservative Christian college milieu, and both of us found it profoundly disillusioning. He put it well when he said that both the Christian college community and the Bush administration represented a world in with “our people” had won, and both were unlivable. I can’t help but notice that the same pattern held when the evangelicals won by catapulting a man who exuded the sleazy menace of a televangelist — preaching the prosperity gospel without the tedious “gospel” part — into the White House against our will. And it will continue to hold when Roe is overturned, as the result will be a moral, social, and political disaster that will make Prohibition look like a well-considered public policy intervention.

I can understand the desire to regulate abortion, especially later in the pregnancy. The US is a bit of an outlier internationally in terms of the pure abortion-on-demand model, as many European countries, even ones we would consider more liberal, have more limitations on abortion. But whatever imagined sensible regulations you might support in principle are not going to happen. Abortion policy is going to be designed by fools and misogynists who suspect that a woman who became pregnant through rape must have secretly wanted it on some level. Stories like that of the Polish woman who was left to die of sepsis because a ban on all abortion procedures prohibited her doctors from removing her dead fetus will multiply throughout our great land. Women will die from extra-legal abortions in unsafe settings. Women will be jailed for having a miscarriage. And no one who so gleefully pushed for the Supreme Court to overturn a right that the vast majority of Americans support will care. After all, they should have thought about that before they had sex!

Again and again, “my people” keep punching above their weight, shaping public policy despite the fact that the majority of their fellow citizens oppose their agenda and find vocal evangelicals creepy and annoying. And again and again, these people who have a direct line to God, who know what’s best for everyone and especially everyone’s family, have nothing to offer but scapegoating and shame and death. They don’t think about the practical effects of their agenda because they are addicted to magical thinking and victim-blaming. Evangelicalism can never fail, only be failed — if things aren’t working out, it must be due to individual bad actors, or because we’re not doing it hard enough, or, I don’t know, demonic influence or something. Whatever! Moving on!

Over the last decade or so, I have tended to start a fight with my family every time the evangelicals win. In a way, that’s unfair — they only get two votes, they’re not activists, they’re not setting the agenda, etc. It’s not like they are causing these (often fluke) outcomes in any meaningful sense. And yet I cannot help but notice this pattern where seemingly every time there is an anti-democratic outcome that empowers people who want to make the world worse, “my people” are on board with it.

To the extent that they think about me and my ways — which is presumably not much, since I’m a bad son who doesn’t visit nearly often enough — my parents and aunt and uncle and grandma and Sunday School teachers and old high school friends and their parents all wonder what went wrong, that I’m not happy, too. And I can never make them understand because of a lifetime worth of defense mechanisms and cheap rhetorical ploys and “couldn’t I say the same to you” — and yes, you could say the same to me. You can say anything you want. Clearly. And nothing I do or say seems to be able to deter you from your course of smugly, self-righteously cheering on the worst people in the world who want nothing but to make the world worse, and resentfully lashing out at anyone who complains.

And meanwhile people will keep dying and lives will keep being thwarted and you won’t even care — no, it will be even worse than not caring. You won’t even get to the level of not caring because for you it will not have happened.

3 thoughts on “Choose life

  1. “Evangelicalism can never fail, only be failed….”

    I recently visited my evangelical mother, who was diagnosed two years ago with ALS. She said to me, “I don’t blame God for my ALS. We live in a broken world.”

    This is the same woman, who six years ago, after having a below asking offer accepted on a new house said, “I think it was a God thing.”

    I almost threw up. The ability to hold those two thoughts in your head simultaneously is incredible. I wanted to start a fight.

    She conveniently became (virulently) anti-abortion long after her child rearing years were over. She probably won’t live long enough to see the anti-abortion project seen through; her granddaughter will though.

  2. As I work with such people daily, in their Catholic version, as a priest, what is striking is both their anger and their fear. The anger is obvious, of course, but the fear is rarely discerned or discussed. At times, it is alluded to, but not as a crucial factor of the problem. I can’t think of a country whose citizens are more afraid than Americans, but it remains “unthinkable” in an analytic sense, even for those on the left.
    It is a tragedy that this fear brings only suffering in it’s train, as you say. “Be not afraid,” Jesus says multiple times in various ways, but this has never really been taken seriously in theology. Nor has his pronouncement from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    We are all born in and of fear and ignorance, but humans, as a whole, have yet to admit, much less accept or embrace it.

  3. Evangelicals say they’re “pro-life,” of course, but they have shrugged as a million Americans, and more than five million worldwide, have died due to this plague. They’ve come up with all sorts of excuses for not valuing those lives as much as they claim to value the lives of fetuses and embryos, but none of them hold water.

    They are *not* pro-life. They have proven it, demonstrated it over and over again, these past two years. Whatever their reasons for being antiabortion, a devotion to the sanctity of human life isn’t one of them.

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