Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Don't pick the red.

I hate response pieces. I wrote this one anyway.

Crisis published Ruse criticizing the NPLM, CLE, and the seamless garment.

First of all let's just get it out of the way, "pick the red, pick the red, pick the red," isn't a liberal refrain that I've ever heard.

Seriously though, the author seems not to understand the seamless garment. People are often afraid of things which they don't understand, and they invent enemies. Let's try to alleviate some fear.

The seamless garment argument is, simply, that even if you prioritize some issues over others (which of course you must) you cannot isolate the issues from their foundation.

I used to go to "pro-life" conferences and talks. They would talk about life: from conception until natural death. Abortion was the top issue, but you were going to learn about euthanasia too. And abortion related issues. Fetal stem cell research? In vitro? And from abortion it isn't too much of a jump to contraception- anyone in the room can explain how increasing contraception increases abortion. And from contraception, well, let's talk about sexual morality. Would you like to read a pornographic description of the unthinkable things gay people do? And while we're on it, pornography is really bad. Really.

As a teen I struggled to wrap my head around these things, each in their place but also tied together. The theme was nominally life. Why were we talking about gay sex? Or from a different perspective: why weren't we talking about war?

Euthanasia struck many as the odd issue. It's harder. If a very sick and dying person doesn't want medical attention which will slow down but not stop death? Who are we to say no? If that person only wants pain relief? That seems fine. If they want pain relief and a blurry brain so they're not afraid of the terrifying fact of impending death? If they want it to be over? It's easy to get there and many people at these conferences did. Euthanasia was a badly fitting puzzle piece. It confused the picture.

When you take away that one confusing piece? All the sudden you have a clear picture! Now we're know what we're talking about! We're talking about SEX. Sex! Sex! Sex! SexxXXXXXxX!! You have no idea how depraved those people are!

It wasn't just conferences. Lobby nights. Protests. The huge annual March for Life. Sex issues were always there and always clumped together in a category called 'life issues.' A category which included euthanasia, but only in a handful of sound bytes every year.

Sex dominates these talks and protests. Salacious topics. You know that thing Christians sometimes do where they gossip with prayer? "Hey. I've got a prayer request. Joe left his wife for the babysitter. The kids. Oh the kids. It's a really bad situation. Can you pray for them?" It sounds like concern. Sometimes it is concern. But polluted with all the juicy details, it stinks of gossip. The movement often felt like that. "Guys. We really have to pray. Have you heard the latest thing they're doing?" It's really hard to tell genuine concern from gossipy finger pointing. They're both definitely there. Regardless of good or bad intentions, the theme of these "life" events was sex.

That's not quite the derail it sounds. Let's get back to the seamless garment.

The idea is that issues are interconnected. Poverty and war. War and starvation. Healthcare and safety nets. Safety nets and abortion. Abortion and torture. It's not patchwork. If you isolate an issue you cannot comprehend it. You cannot fight it effectively. You cannot even see it.

Imagine your favorite sweater. A puppy jumped on you and now have snags in twenty places, some big, some small. Some obvious, some in the armpit. Can you fix it? If you grab one thread and yank it you will not fix the snag no matter how hard you pull. If you pull too hard, you'll get a hole. It might seem impossible to fix, but it isn't. Patience. Attend carefully to how each thread weaves into the others and gently work them back together. It's not a perfect analogy, obviously. Fixing all the problems, or even any of the problems, that we're talking about is going to take miracles. So, maybe the snags are holes and the threads are broken. You can do repairs, but you need the maker's help? You can make things better. You can make things worse. But you can't fix it alone. (Leave the analogy alone! You're killing it!!)

It's easy and common to abuse the seamless garment argument. Ask anyone who opposes it. Ask Austin Ruse. If all these issues are necessarily connected than all these issues are equivalent. None can be prioritized. Take on every single bad thing all at once, or be quiet you hypocrite. The abuse renders the justice fighter impotent. You cannot fight every battle at once. We're going to need it experts. Specialists. And, uh-oh, I feel another analogy coming on.

If you break your leg you go to an orthopedic doctor and get the bone set. If you have asthma you go to a pulmonologist. But who do you see when you have problems which pull against each other? My daughter needs breathing medications. When she was diagnosed with a heart condition which also needed to be treated with medicine, I noticed that her breathing got worse. It turned out that the breathing medicine and the heart medicine worked on the exact same neuroreceptors and they worked to opposite effect. The specialists had to work together even though the problems seemed completely independent. She's got all these complicated problems which need super-specialized doctors, but you can't treat them independently. The doctors have to work together.

Got it? If you treat abortion in isolation, you'll kill people.

The consistent life ethic, another name for the seamless garment, doesn't equate life issues. It insists that the people leading the charges against each assault on life work together. Understand that abortion isn't the end all be all. Life is. Eyes on the prize. The prize isn't an end to legal abortion; the prize is a culture which values the inherent dignity of life.

Misogyny has no place in the fight. Racism has no place. Religious bigotry. GTFO.

The seamless garment links together life issue which are linked. The objectors link together sex issues and umbrellas them under "millions of babies."

The seamless garment argument allows for prioritizing, but not for isolation. You might be called to fight one specific issue and that's ok. You will meet people and/or arguments which explicitly counter your fundamental cause in defending life, though not the immediate cause. That's not ok.

Case and point: a eugenicist and misogynist took the highest elected office in this country, hailed a "pro-life" hero. Eugenics and misogyny have no place in the fight for the dignity of life.

This isn't the red card street scam. This is Lucy telling Charlie Brown that this time she'll hold the ball still.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Face it; it'll always be too soon

Let's talk about guns. Yes, another shooting. Yes, it's painful. Yes, we have to be careful not to politicize pain. But it's time we faced the facts. This is happening so often now that it didn't dominate social media. Was it trending? Sure. But, at least in my feed, it was not a hot topic. A few people made a few comments. But what is there left to say?

Some simply offered prayers. Being if the mind that prayer is powerful, indeed the most powerful action we can take, I approve these posts. But I hear the objections too. Pray? Damn it. We need to act. We need to do something. How much online piety plays out in real life anyway. Do these promises of prayer pan out? Or are they empty promises? Stroking vanity and pulling heartstrings. Keeping up with the whitewash.

Please do pray. And if you feel like praying on social media is praying together with others, by all means. Pray.

But let's talk too.

This thing happened. This shameful and terrifying thing. This horror which has become commonplace. How did it become commonplace? How did it happen that a shooting like that wouldn't grab the attention of the whole country? How did that happen? We all know what happened, kind of, but we're not talking about it. We're moving on. Our minds and hearts are otherwise occupied. Does that shock you? There was a mass shooting and as a country it's a story, but not the story. Are we so complacent?

Fatigue, maybe. Or helplessness. We don't just know the story, we know the aftermath. We know that before anyone has had time to process the horror, the same fight with the same arguments, the same battle lines and the same talking points will begin. We know that some will decry the barely begun fight. It's too soon. Not now. Don't turn these beloved dead into political pawns. Respect them. Respect their grieving families.

We know the argument and counter-argument, objections and responses. We hear them in our heads right alongside the breaking news.

It's familiar. Mass shooting is familiar. Four words I couldn't have imagined strung together sensibly.

It's time to admit how bad it's gotten. It's time to face the fact that it will always be too soon. However we got to this point, we're here and we have to talk about it.

For an ever growing number, it isn't too soon. It's far too late.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Let's talk.

I wrote about birth control. I had enormous reservations about sharing my story. I was worried that my story would read as permission to ignore true doctrine when it's uncomfortable. 

God doesn't promise comfort. All our favorite saints embrace discomfort. Dying for the church started in scripture and it hasn't stopped yet. That a thing is hard does not, in fact, mean that it's wrong. 

So here's the thing: I think that the teaching is, at it's core, true & eternal. But I also think that it shouldn't be an impediment marriage. That's not the heart of the teaching at all! 

The heart of the thing is that your unique and beautiful self joins with your unique and beautiful spouse in matrimony, forming a unique and beautiful union. That relationship is sacred. Two become one. That's not fussy language, it's a reality. The oneness is physically emphasized in a unique physical relationship. 

You give fully. You receive fully. All of you. All of him. You are one in a very real and completely mind-blowing way. 

If you or he hold back, that changes the thing. It undermines the oneness, whether the holding back is physical or emotional or whatever. You get married and you are fully in. When you aren't you undermine the oneness. 

The two become one and the very interaction between them, their love itself, is creative. That's a uniqueness in the marital relationship. If there are no kids, that doesn't change the uniqueness, which is in potential. But what if the couple actively prevents kids? The prevention itself is a fundamental change to the nature of the relationship. 

The teaching is sound. It's rich and in my opinion very beautiful. But the heart of the thing is a selfless, unitive love which becomes creative. 

I want to tread lightly here, but the question is, what if the procreative function is itself an impediment to the unitive, self-giving, surrender? 

That is hard because our culture wants a complete separation. The culture wants sex and procreation to be entirely separate and that is a fundamental challenge. That idea, if we embrace it, doesn't just make chaste living anachronistic prudery. That idea undermines the nature of the sacrament. Love,  selfless and unitive, becomes. Creates. We participate in Creation though an act of love. We become creators. The physical expression of unity communicated between a husband and wife is a participation in God's speaking being. 

If you can set aside the culture which insists that sex is an impotent carnal delight, and you keep the relationship within the doctrinal comprehension, I think the question is legitimate. So again, what if the procreative function is itself an impediment to the unitive, self-giving, surrender? We have to be careful because people are listening for us to say that the Church was wrong all along. I'm not saying that at all. 

I'm saying that prioritizing the sacrament of marriage over children is theologically sound, though perhaps shocking. I'm saying that the teaching about birth control never was supposed to be an impediment. I'm saying that the spirit of the law is oneness in marriage. The spirit is the law is to protect the sanctity of that holy and precious union. Don't hold back. Give your whole self. Receive. Unity and love. 

And to be very clear: I'm not offering an answer. I don't have one. Separating the unitive function from sex reduces it. We are not test tubes. We are participants in God's beautiful plan for Creation. In fact, I'd argue that it reduces sex in a very similar way to the more often discussed separating of sex and procreation. 

My story is my story, but it isn't as uncommon as you might think. Edited to a few sentences, my story is that my health precludes pregnancy. My treatment involves hormones, among other medications and the other medications also preclude pregnancy. NFP is not a real option for me. Am I supposed to be celibate? 

If you are looking for permission to write off the church there are a lot of places to find that, but this isn't one of them. My intent is to look at the teaching with the same regard as scripture and Creation and every other way God communicates his truth. How does this truth apply to me and my life? What is the truth communicated? 

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, right? But let's not make excuses. Let's talk. 

P.S. I have gotten all kinds of responses to my last post. All of them, so far, have been really kind and respectful- even and maybe especially those who disagree. I'm enormously grateful.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Oh. Are we talking about nfp?

When I got married I wanted a million kids. I didn't think I'd want to think about nfp unless I couldn't conceive. I wasn't particularly pro or anti. It's just a tool which some people like and some people need.

I've always been irregular, but again, unless I had difficulty conceiving I didn't think it was important beyond a passing mention in regular gyno visits. (Ok, once when I went for a few months with nothing and then had nearly back to back periods. That seemed worth a special trip to the gyno. But nothing came of it except a note in my medical file.)

My first child was born less than two years after I got married. So, not immediately, but no difficulty.

My second was born when my first was three. My third was born when my second was two.

So, to understand where I am now, you have to understand all of that. Because my second was medically complicated. For four years she was in near constant emergency. I could not turn off. Being psychologically in crisis mode for four years changed my brain chemistry. When she became more stable, I couldn't. My brain couldn't handle not being in crisis. Or something. I have caregiver PTSD. So, I was depressed and anxious. I don't mean sad and scared. I mean I have a debilitating disease which made me incapable of getting out of bed for a few weeks. There were prior incidents, but that was the one which made me face this thing medically. It wasn't until I was in treatment that I realized how bad things had gotten.

Medicine made breathing easier. I could breathe. No weight on my chest. I could sleep; no nightmares about every imaginable horrible thing. I could interact with people. I could answer the phone. No more out of body experiences. I could go on, but suffice it to say, it was dramatic.

So, in treatment, I have several different medications. I have one regular med. I have one which I take when my regular med might need a boost. And I have one to take for breakthrough episodes.

I've been telling myself not to feel guilty about any of these, but I still do.

About once a month, but with quite a bit of flexibility, my anxiety gets really bad. It shouldn't have taken me a year to sort it out, but asking someone who is in a state of panic to figure something out is just not fruitful. When I am suffering from PMS my anxiety and my depression come back. They come back swinging. Hormones going crazy makes mommy go crazy. This is useful information. I cope, currently, by taking my booster med every day starting as soon as I notice and stopping when my period begins.

And what does any of this have to do with NFP? Well. This: None of these meds which I need are safe for pregnancy. None. There are meds which are, but changing medication isn't like swapping a lightbulb. It takes weeks for any new med to begin to work and some just don't work. There is not a better medication than the one I have for breakthrough episodes.

So, maybe I can risk pregnancy anyway? Is that what you're thinking? What's two or three awful weeks?

Let me tell you. I went on an antibiotic several months ago. I didn't stop taking my meds, but I didn't know that they wouldn't absorb as well while I was on antibiotics. So, my brain acted like I stopped. It was awful. Terrifying. Unbelievably. After that incident, I faced the fact that I don't think my body can handle pregnancy. Because, among other things, I've been pregnant before. It was wonderful in all the fanciful ways people discuss, but it's a hormonal nightmare.

A hormonal nightmare exactly when my medication wouldn't be an option. Not the regular. Not the booster. And definitely not the breakthrough treatment.

I thought about nfp. I looked into it. Everyone who loves it talked about resources. Resources which cost time or money or both. I had neither. Get a teacher. Get an app. Get an ovulation kit. Get get get. I wasn't going to. So I tried just reading and learning. The bottom line, for me, was that without significant help, I was very likely to get pregnant due to my irregular cycle. I know. I can hear you objecting. But symptoms. Got it. You know symptoms vary, right? It isn't as obvious for everyone. I tried to know and I couldn't. If you want more details I think you're rude.

So, I talked to my psychiatrist. Changing meds? My doctor really didn't want to do that. We could, but it would be hard. Did I want more babies now? (Will I be damned for answering? Honestly?) I don't want more babies. I want to want them. But I'm completely overwhelmed. Life is hard. Babies are a lot of work and they're physically draining. I want to want them. Oh, I love babies so much. And I love being a mom. And I love my kids. But no. No I don't want more, if the choice is mine. Is the choice mine? Is it a choice?

Isn't there a medical exception for birth control, she asked? She was very respectful of my faith and I was very open with her. There is. Kind of. But it isn't cut and dry.

I could talk to someone, but here's the thing: I already knew what any of the people I might ask would say before I asked. I knew who to ask if I wanted to hear yes and who to ask if I wanted a no. But I didn't know myself!

I prayed. I talked about it with my husband. I racked myself spiritually. I went to my good Catholic doctor. (I didn't know what he'd say. I knew he would give me whatever medical advice I needed, but spiritual stuff?) He didn't duck. He said, "God understands." That's all.

I'm using artificial birth control. I hope it's ok, but I'm sure God understands. We talk about it. We go way back and we're not afraid to scold each other.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Kaepernick is a Hero

This article is excellent. One of the best I've read on the subject. But I think that skipping the Nate Boyer interaction does a disservice to the story and to Kaepernick himself.

Nate Boyer, veteran Green Beret, saw a protest before the media uproar. Kaepernick wasn't ashamed but he wasn't aggressive either. He wasn't apologetic or flimsy. It was a clear, strong backed protest. This nation is mistreating her sons. It isn't just a conflicted history, though that is certainly there too. It's happening now. I agree with this author. Do not blunt the message. Do not water it down.

Still, the taking a knee thing? That matters a lot. That is about communication. That is about listening respectfully and adjusting. Kaepernick is a hero for our time. He's the hero we've been looking for and we're missing it.

He was sitting for the anthem. It was a protest but not an in your face protest. Few noticed, but one of the few who noticed was Nathan Boyer. He responded by writing an open letter. And I don't think we should underplay that either. The letter was a criticism before conversation.

Kapernick, citing his Christian values, responded gently. He didn't get angry. That would be merited, right? Another white guy who doesn't get it is trying to tell him that he should respect the flag of a country which does not respect him. But it isn't what he did. He didn't get angry; he invited Boyer to talk.

That is such a big deal. I don't understand why it isn't at the heart of all the coverage. Protest, criticism, dialogue? It's stunning. It's rare. It's exactly what we need.

Green Beret veteran Boyer also had a right to anger. The protest was literally saying that the country he'd risked death to defend is not worthy of even a moment's respect. The values he defended are shadows. False promises. But he didn't respond to the request for dialogue with anger either. He agreed. Let's do this thing.

And they did. The men met and talked. Each explained their position and each tried to understand the other. Can we take a minute to focus on how awesome that was?

During that conversation, Boyer suggested kneeling. Kneeling is how veterans respect their fallen brothers. I don't know if he had it in mind, but in the context of what was being protested, that seems singularly appropriate. Kaepernick is honoring his fallen brothers.

Kaepernick agreed and asked if Boyer would kneel with him. Boyer said he couldn't, but he'd stand next to him. And he did.

The men walked away in mutual respect and the protest, now getting notice, was changed. Kaepernick heard Boyer and adjusted. Boyer respected it and stood by him.

The story is about race and violence and protest. It is about patriotism and the flag. But it's also about progress with dialogue. Skipping that is foolish and disrespectful. Kaepernick is the hero we need.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Jesus in the shadows

"Is that Jesus?"

She whispered softly. She was pointing up generally in the direction of the crucifix and the altar.

My initial impulse was to just say yes. Yes. The priest represents our Lord and it's ok to see him as Jesus when he's lifting the chalice. Yes. The statue represents Jesus. Yes. The Eucharist is, really and truly, our blessed Lord. Whatever you're pointing at, the answer is almost certainly yes.

But you hear stories about confused kids thinking the priest is Jesus or that Jesus is a statue. I probably worry too much. Three year olds are very literal people. We should probably take the time, even now in the middle of Mass, to understand where she's pointing.

"Do you mean the priest?"
"No, silly. That's Father K."
"Right. Do you mean on the cross?"
"Up there? Mom. That's just a statue."
"Ok. Well. Do you mean the cross?"
"?!" No words. Mom is clearly not very clever.

"Mom. No. Behind the statues. Is Jesus there?"

What on Earth? Is she imagining a man behind the curtains. The great and powerful Oz-christ?

"I don't know what you mean, sweetheart. There is not a person behind the statues."
"Mom. I know. There's shadows. See? Is Jesus there?"
"In the shadows?"
"Yeah."
"?"
"He's everywhere, right? But I can't see very well in the shadows. I think he's there. I think that's Jesus in the shadows."

I think she might be on to something.

When you are struggling, He's there. When you can't see, him or anything else, He's there.

Faith means believing when it isn't obvious. When good things happen we call them blessings. We see God in the good. Ah-ha! The medication kicked in! Praise God! Oh! We had a snow day when I needed sleep! TBTG! It's easy to see God when things are working out. We don't always thank God for our blessings. We don't even always notice our blessings. But when good things happen, it is easy to see God if you care to look.

But what about when things are not good?

The hardest part for me about having anxiety isn't the fear. The debilitating, painful, unfounded and unfocused fear. That's awful, but worse is that I can't control my mind. It's running off in a million directions.

For me, the hardest part of the anxiety attacks is that I don't know how to pray. I don't know how to attend.

So while my mind is running in a million terrible directions and I can't help but recall every awful thing I know, I don't know how to ask Jesus to calm the storm.

Doubt doubles down. Doubt grabs the swirling fears. What if it is all meaningless. What if I'm wrong. What if God isn't real.

Dear Lord, help. Quiet the storm. "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."

And there, in the terrifying darkness, with my unfocused pleading. In the shadows. God is there.

It isn't a magic trick. I'm still scared. I'm still lost. I'm still confused. I'm still unfocused. But he's there.

"No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to this rock I'm clinging!"

I love the song, but that line in particular. What is calm clinging? It doesn't make sense. Not just holding on. Not just standing firm. Clinging. When the storm is knocking everything about, this rock is firm. Unmoving.

Cold. Scared. Clinging.

Close your eyes and hang on tight.

When you can't see your hand in front of your face, cling. Hang on with everything you've got. He's there. In the darkness. In the shadows. In the fear. When you need Him most. He's there.

The inmost calm is quieter than the noise of the storm. But it doesn't shake.

Becca is probably right. In some ways, Jesus in the shadows is more real than the statues.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

To my Trump supporting friends

This is my hope. 

I hope I am wrong. I hope you get to laugh at me and say I told you so. I'll take it gladly. I'll laugh too. I'd rather be an idiot than right. 

I hope that I'm overreacting and seeing things that just aren't there. 

I hope you're right. That I'm confused by a grand media distortion. 

I hope my family remains protected by the protections in the ACA. 

I hope my Muslim friends aren't more marginalized and endangered. I hope that my friend's mosque burning was an isolated event. 

I hope that the racism I see is getting better, not worse. 

I hope that when you yearn for yesterday, you mean you miss your ignorance of violence against homosexuals, and not that you miss the violence. 

I hope first amendment rights are not sacrificed at the altar of the second amendment. 

I hope first amendment rights aren't quietly crushed under the weight of fear. 

I hope that that intended list of criminal immigrants is not, as it seems to me, a tactic to create a scapegoat. Using fear as a tool of hate.

I hope you're right. 

Dear God, I really hope I am wrong. 

I hope that replace is as important to you as repeal. I'm not unsympathetic to the current problems. I hope you don't try to solve them by going back to the old problems. 

I hope that freedom of religion is as important to you as you say it is. 

More than any of that, I dearly hope that if I'm right you're ready to stand with me. 

You will not watch mosques burn. You will not watch bullies and bigots. 

You will not be shaped by fear. 

You will not watch a eugenicist agenda roll back decades of tiny progresses for people with disabilities. You will stand up. 

I hope that since you believed it when you said, "but he'll never," if he does you'll flip on him as fast as he flipped on you. 

I hope you're ready to scream, "Black Lives Matter," because they do. And you know it. And the only reason you're not screaming now is that you don't see what I see. 

I hope you're ready to register Muslim if they want to register Muslims. Allahu Akbar. 

I hope you'll let yourself see, if I'm right. 

I won't say I told you so. If I'm right we're going to need you. We're going to need each other. 

If we have to stand in the way of a steamroller, better to do it locked arms and many. And, I hope I'm wrong, but I see a damn steamroller.