Monday, November 24, 2014
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The first time I recognized that I had a different point of view than pretty much all of my church friends, it was the 2000 election. I had turned 18 and the very first election in which I was able to cast my vote was when George W. Bush was running for President against then Vice President, Al Gore.
After placing my vote earlier in the week, I was headed off to visit Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. My best friend was attending there and I was going to classes at a local college in Indianapolis, but longed to go to a Christian university to study ministry. So, I took advantage of a trip that our church youth group was going on to take other students interested in attending this particular school. We were listening to election results on the radio in the church van, when the youth pastor’s wife realized that I had voted in this election. She was really excited for me and was glad that I had voted for George Bush…
Except, I did not vote for George Bush.
When I told her that I did not vote for George Bush, she was shocked, as were all of the other adults in the church van. When they all asked me why, I said it was because he was not pro-choice in regards to women’s reproductive rights.
Not only were the leaders appalled at my decision, but they felt the need to tell me over and over again that it was wrong for me to feel that women should have access to choose to end a pregnancy…did I not think that all life was precious? How could I believe it was okay for a woman to kill a harmless, innocent little baby? To say I was berated would be an understatement. The response from the youth leaders in that van and even from some of the students was straight up harassment. The entire weekend, I heard lecture after lecture about this wrong I had apparently committed. And when I wasn’t being lectured by adults, I was being made fun of by some of the students. Everyone assumed I had just made a misinformed mistake, that I just didn’t know what I was doing.
But I did. I made that conscious decision when I cast my vote.
What the youth leaders, pastors, and students didn’t know was that I was adopted, and being adopted played a huge role in how I came to feel about a woman’s right to choose.
Now, most Evangelical Christians would still probably assume that since I was adopted, I would still be pro-life instead of pro-choice. Again, this is a false assumption.
My biological parents were very poor and already had two children before I came along. Since my parents had very limited financial resources, they were desperately trying to figure out what they were going to do. It was financially impossible for them to raise a 3rd child. My biological father began to insist my biological mother have an abortion. But my biological mother knew that she had a choice in the matter…
She had a choice. And she pushed back against this idea to end her pregnancy, knowing there must be another way.
Eventually, through a lot of random circumstances, my biological parents met my adoptive parents, and they worked together, which resulted in me being born, and adopted by a couple who could not have a child.
Now, what most people on the pro-life side of this issue believe is that anyone who is not pro-life is some evil, baby-hating, pro-abortion person. And that’s just not true.
I’m not pro-abortion. I think it must be an incredibly horrific experience and difficult decision to make. But I also know that I’m limited in my understanding of choices because I’ve never been in a position to have to make that choice to end another life. I know that when I say that I believe in the Constitution and in the rights of individuals, it means that I would protect the right for people to make intensely personal choices, even if it means I may not agree with their choices. I know that I can’t fully understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of a person who has come to that decision to have an abortion. What I do know is that if I can’t understand someone else’s experience, then I certainly can’t judge them. I certainly have no right to do that or to tell them what they should do. Based on my limited experience in life, I have no right to take away someone else’s rights.
And I believe that if we limit a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, we would do irreversible damage to civilization. Let me make it clear: passing legislation that would make abortion illegal will not stop abortions from happening, just in the way that prohibition did not stop people from consuming alcohol, but instead, created a subversive and dangerous market for what they were seeking, resulting in corruption and death. Making abortion illegal will not solve the problem, it will only mask it from being seen in daylight.
By allowing a woman to have the right to choose, however, we can create regulations that may help us create opportunities that ultimately help women and children. We can make sure that if a woman has to make that difficult choice, then she will be taken care of by a qualified physician, and not by someone with more nefarious intentions or motivations. We can create education programs that help people understand the circumstances of their decisions and give them alternatives.
It would be naïve of us to fully believe that we live in a country where women have equal rights. The truth is that women still face issues of inequality in multiple aspects of life here in the United States. Can you honestly say that if we pass legislation that would absolutely take away a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, that we are the advanced society that we claim to be? What does it say about us as a society if we don’t trust that a woman is capable of choosing what is best for her and her family? If we only mask the problem so that we aren’t forced to see it in the daylight, can we really lay claim to be the greatest democracy in history?
Being pro-choice is not the antithesis of being pro-life. It is not the enemy. Being pro-choice is acknowledging that women face all kinds of issues in our country, and is a decision to be open to help educate and serve women that desperately need help, no matter if they decide to end a pregnancy or to seek out adoptive services. Being pro-choice is being humble enough to know that I am in no position to pass judgment on others. Being pro-choice is a practice of unconditional love, humility, sacrifice, and being brave enough to confront the difficulties of humanity.
I fully believe that if I had been conceived prior to Roe vs. Wade, that I would not be alive. If my biological mother had no choice in how to decide whether she would give birth, I believe that she may have sought out an illegal and potentially dangerous method to end her pregnancy. If she did not have the right to choose, she may have felt forced to give birth and raise a child that she could not financially support. The fact that she was able to choose adoption, though, gave her the opportunity to not only help herself, but gave another family a chance to have a baby. Her choice created a space for love and sacrifice and healing to exist where it may not have existed had she been forced to raise me. She chose to find a way to choose life.
I know it goes against the grain of what our American ideals are of what it means to be a Christian, but I’m pro-choice. Being a follower of Christ means that we don’t just sweep issues under the rug so we don’t have to confront them. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that we pass judgment on people because we don’t understand their circumstances. Being a follower of Christ means that we meet people where they are at and love them, even when it is difficult or they do things we may not agree with. It is a harder path to follow.
So, when I look back on the days following the 2000 election and remember how I was harassed and bullied by people who thought I had made a mistake, I don’t look back with regret. I look back on a situation where I made the first few steps of following a path that was more difficult, required more love and less judgment, and doesn’t exactly sit well with religious folks. And that reassures me that I’m on the right path.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Imagine if this type of speech was made by the President:
“We had an opportunity today to return Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to the United States. However, we reviewed the circumstances surrounding his capture by the Taliban and determined that since he voluntarily walked off base, we could not justify rescuing this soldier. It matters not that he is an American. It matters not that he volunteered to serve in the military. It matters not that he has been held captive by Taliban forces for 5 years and his health was deteriorating severely. We wish him the best of luck and condolences to his family, who have suffered greatly these many years that he has been captured. Also, his dad has an unusually long beard, so we think he might be a Muslim. So, yeah…no rescue today, folks. Thank you, and God bless America.”
Ridiculous, isn’t it? We all know that if the President of the United States said something like this, the media would go bananas. The reason this scenario sounds ridiculous is because it is exactly ridiculous. But, all of a sudden, there are pundits and armchair politicians, media outlets, and the typical peanut gallery of radical conservatives who believe this is what the President should have said. The very people who claim to have supported this soldier and prayed for his safety and return, despite the circumstances of how he was captured, have now decided he was not worth it.
They’ve deleted their supportive tweets.
They are denying support that they once freely gave on the record, on camera.
This is a new level of low for the political right, who have always prided themselves on being supportive of our military and not leaving any of our soldiers behind. They do not seem to think that this soldier was worth the negotiating of five members of the Taliban who have been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade. According to the voices on the right, these prisoners were more valuable sitting in a prison than an American soldier, suffering at the hands of the Taliban.
They argue that the soldier wandered off base, deliberately deserting his post, and that’s why they can’t justify a prisoner exchange. Why should we break our necks to get to a guy who carelessly wandered off and was captured?
An American soldiers life and value are suddenly conditional. We don’t know the whole story about what led to his capture or why he wandered off base, but according to the right, we shouldn’t even care to find out. We should have left him for our enemies to devour. Instead of at least getting him back here and conducting a proper military investigation, apparently we would rather let the Taliban serve up their version of military justice. And we are so short sighted that we don’t realize that doing nothing hurts us more in the long run.
So, this is how we treat our soldiers and POW’s now? We leave American soldiers to die if we think there was something “off” about the circumstances surrounding their capture?
They also argue that these 5 Taliban prisoners released from Guantanamo are supremely dangerous and criticize the President for releasing them “back to the battlefield.” But I think that’s seriously misguided thinking, on a couple of levels. First, these guys have been out of the fight for over 10 years. Let’s face it, war is different now than it was 10 years ago. Plus, if they were so dangerous, how is it that we managed to catch them? We have this problem where we make these guys out to be a terrorist version of Jack Bauer or some group of X-Men, and it’s just not true. In fact, thinking that these guys are supremely dangerous is kind of giving them exactly what they want…our fear of them is exactly the kind of terror they hope to inflict upon us. So, let’s not give them that perceptual victory, ok?
Second, it’s not like these guys are now free and clear to do whatever they want. There were very specific conditions based on the agreement of their release. Trust me, these guys are having their every move being watched. As an aside, though I am very critical of our military’s use of drones, don’t you think for one second that if we needed to take these guys out, that we could do that in the blink of an eye? Bill Maher said it best: “we didn’t so much set them free as much as we gave them a running start.”
I’m having a hard time fathoming that the political right believes that we should usher in a new era of conditional military procedure, where we don’t always bring all of our people back home, which is why I don’t buy it as a valid response for the right.
There’s something more at work here…and I think it has to do with the party affiliation of the man who sits in the Oval Office, and the fact that there are elections coming in November.
If you’re still operating with the hope that Congress will get something done, you’re living in a different dimension. These people have no concern whatsoever about governing or doing what you or I trusted them to do. They have no regard for lives being affected by their inaction in the here and now. They don’t do their job because they are consumed with keeping their job. And shame on us for letting them.
Shame on us for allowing them to imply that we should let a soldier remain a captive and die because he deserved it for walking off of his base. Shame on us for letting them decide that is how military justice should be served. Shame on us for letting them forget about Iran-Contra, or about all of the Gitmo detainees released under President Bush. Shame on us for allowing Gitmo to still stand.
The two sides we are seeing in this situation with the soldier have nothing to do with what we see at the surface. It’s all about providing that sound clip, that video clip to be used in the million dollar ad buys we will be suffering through all summer and fall until November. It’s all about face time on the Sunday shows and promoting another book or some other product. And if you’re buying what they’re selling on Fox News or Glenn Beck or Alex Jones, then you’re a sucker. You can’t be the party of family, pro-life values, driving around with a yellow ribbon on your vehicle that says “Support Our Troops” and decide that an American military family doesn’t deserve to have their son come back home alive, and at least be able to give us all some answers for why he wandered off of that base.
Keep an eye on the politicians who will continue to argue that we shouldn’t have brought Bowe Bergdahl home…and watch how they will have to defend their talking points as they campaign over these next several months. Then, you will see the true motivations of these folks.
We don’t leave anyone behind, period. And if you think we should or that there are caveats to that mantra, then I hope you never have to face a family who had their loved ones returned home in a flag-draped coffin, or speak with a soldier who has returned home maimed emotionally and physically. Because if you could stand there and argue that we don’t bring everyone home or that there are conditions in which it is ok to let a soldier die, then I would argue that you have lost your soul.