A couple of months ago I read a book called Unplanned. It is the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director. She worked tirelessly to help women in need and believed women had the right to choose what was best for them. Even though she was uneasy with the financial pushing for abortions by Planned Parenthood, she stayed on to ensure that women in crisis were helped in any way possible.
That all changed one day when she was asked to hold the ultrasound wand and witness first hand a 13 week baby being aborted through the ultrasound screen. From that day on her heart was changed and she began to realize she had to leave Planned Parenthood. She found refuge in a group that had been praying at the fence of the clinic since her first day as a volunteer. This group was called Coalition for Life.
The book was amazing and inspirational. I wasn't expecting anything less. Abby's story is so full of courage and strength. But what really got me thinking was the group Coalition for Life. Abby's book is full of stories of those people praying at the fence and calling out to women with love to tell them there are other choices. She talks about the 40 Days for Life event that started right there at the fence of her clinic.
I am pro-life. All the way. I'm not "kind of" pro-life thinking it's OK for a woman to get an abortion if she was raped or if the baby will have Down Syndrome or some other life-altering condition or if the woman's life is in danger. I'm also fully against the death penalty and torture. But would you know that by looking at my Facebook page or even my blog which is a little more "protected" against people who would disagree with me?
I think I have mentioned this in a post before, but the reason I don't go all pro-life is because I know there are women who could read what I am writing or posting and become upset because they have had abortions. Cowardly of me? Yes. But these women may be hurting and I don't want to add to that hurt. But another reason I don't post pro-life stuff is because I know there are many people out there that are pro-abortion and will challenge me on my beliefs. Cowardly? Yes, times a million.
But part of me wonders if I would even have the courage to pray at an abortion clinic. No sign, no t-shirt- just stand and pray. I think I would even be too afraid to do that. I've heard of too many stories where the clinic workers, patients, and family members of patients hassle the people praying. It's not that I would be embarrassed to be seen there. I just wouldn't want to deal with someone challenging me.
Last Friday my dad unexpectedly came to visit. Joe was napping so there wasn't a lot of distraction. Without distraction my dad likes to veer the conversation into his two favorite topics- politics and religion. He is way out in left field on both topics.
Politics I can deal with. I despise politics, hate talking about them, hate election years, but that is because of the massive disrespect, arrogance and discord it causes among our nation. But I am neither conservative or liberal, so you can bash whoever because I pretty much think that politicians are like butt holes- we need them, but they are full of poop. So I pretty much zoned out when he was talking about how evil conservatives are and how they are ruining the United States.
But then he drifted on the subject of religion. There is no way I could zone out when my dad is going off on an array of topics such as: God is a loving God... he wouldn't create hell, so there is no hell; The Bible is not true; Jesus never said you had to believe in him to go to heaven; How he (my dad) doesn't believe in the Resurrection or miracles; How he was fed "bullshit" by his parents in regards to religion (his father, my grandfather, was a Protestant preacher and one of my most amazing men I have never known. Joe was named after him.); sexuality isn't connected to religion and how he is an agnostic and how there was no such thing as subjective truth. There were many other things that he ranted about, but one that bothered me was the fact that he doesn't like it when religious people "push" their beliefs on others, especially in regards to same-sex couples getting married and a woman's right to choose.
He's gone off on these tangents before. I did interject a few times on the hell subject, but that was about it. I just nodded my head and gritted my teeth. Conversations like these make me want to drink copious amounts of alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. They physically and emotionally drain me. But I have a toddler to distract me and it was a Friday, so Ryan and I got to relax and watch a movie later that evening. I got my mind off of the crapbag of a conversation I had with my father.
However, at around 3:00 in the morning Joe woke up and I nursed him. He quickly fell back asleep but I was wide freakin' awake. The words my dad had spoke just ran through me. All I could think about was how I didn't speak up. I was a theology major and I didn't know how to respond. It was as if all those classes, papers, exams, book reading- it had all melted out of my brain. My dad's bogus arguments didn't bother me, it was the fact that I didn't say anything at all.
I laid there in bed for about two hours just thinking about why I don't speak up on anything. I very rarely call anyone out for being rude and disrespectful. I don't defend my beliefs. I don't even share them, really. I finally came up with three major reasons I keep quiet.
1. I don't want to offend people and I have this unhealthy desire for people to like me.
I know I am easily offended when people post that parents who immunize their children are poisoning them. I get offended when people write that people against same-sex marriage are homophobes. I get offended when people write that conservatives are a bunch of right-wing religious nut jobs. So I don't write anything that might offend someone. People carry deep wounds. We don't always know what is going on in their lives. I never want to cause people to hurt. I don't want to come across as arrogant.
I am sure there are old friends of mine that think I am kind of nutso for embracing my Catholic faith because I was NOTHING like that when I was younger. I cringe at the thought of my hometown acquaintances laughing and talking behind my back because I don't use birth control and how I think that sex should be reserved for marriage. That goes for my family as well. I want people to like me. Isn't that pathetic? But Jesus didn't say if you follow him everything would be hunky dory. You will make enemies. You will lose friends.
It is really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that you CAN be friends with someone who has the complete opposite beliefs and views as you. My old college roommate is a die-hard Republican. Her statuses often reflect that. There is one woman who always either semi-makes fun of my former roomie for her beliefs or straight out starts to debate. One time I came to my friend's defense. I was so mad at this other chick for being so rude. I privately messaged my roommate and she responded with an "LOL." The girl who made these comments was a good friend of hers. She was just a die-hard Democrat and they didn't agree on anything politically or morally for that matter, but they still hung out and had fun together. I have heard lots of people where their best friend is on the complete opposite side in regards to politics and religion. But then I see examples like my father who basically will have nothing to do with his own brother because he is "too conservative." Some people can overcome their differences. Sometimes those differences can destroy relationships. It's a slippery slope.
I really admire those people who have a brave attitude and don't care about what others think. There are people who state their beliefs in a respectful way. If I don't agree I just read it and move on. I have lots of friends who post pro-life stuff and religious statuses and they never have anyone heckle them. Either all their friends think the same way they do, or they word their statuses in a way that doesn't invite hatred.
2. I am a coward and I don't want to look stupid.
I don't post stuff because I am a coward. Plain and simple. I don't want to invite debate because I don't want to debate at all. I'm afraid I won't be able to explain my position clearly. I can't find the right words sometimes. And let's face it- explaining religious beliefs isn't easy. It can be very complex especially if you are talking to someone who doesn't believe in certain things such as subjective truth or the Bible. I've seen people's status updates get 50+ comments from someone who just keeps arguing and throwing out random facts. It gets dizzying-ly complicated.
I am a part of a Mommy Group on Facebook and a girl I went to high school with asked for some birth control advice. She got plenty of suggestions. I thought about suggesting Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness Method. I didn't even have to go into the religious aspects of it, I could have just talked about how detrimental contraceptives are to a woman's health and well being, because there is medical proof in that. But did I? Of course not. I didn't want to look like a kook. I didn't want to start a debate. I am a bonafied scaredy cat.
I am truly a coward because my hands start sweating and my heart beats really fast when I am faced with a possible debate. In the instinctive fight or flight response I flee. I run as fast as I can. Miles and miles away. Then I hide myself.
If I do write a comment on someone else's Facebook status and stand up for myself or defend something I believe in (even something as stupid as Twilight) I won't read what other people say after me. I'm afraid of what they will have written about my comment.
Another reason I don't like to debate is because I am afraid I will get some fact wrong. Or that the person I am discussing a topic with will twist my words or twist the whole argument in a new direction. When it comes to philosophical arguments I am clueless. I wish I could be like this guy and really know how to debate with logic and calmness.
This is a long video but very interesting.
3. My emotions get in the way.
During the few times I did speak up to my dad I felt like it wasn't me talking. It was like someone took out my tongue and I was possessed with the mental capacity of a rock.
When people disagree with me and are even the slightest bit disrespectful I get MAD. Like Incredible Hulk mad. I cannot control my emotions and they show through since I am such a sensitive person. When I feel like I am being personally attacked I get VERY VERY defensive and start to get irrational. When I get mad then the inevitable happens- I cry. Then I get even more mad that I am crying. So then it's game over, epic fail for apologetics and evangelization.
Sometimes it is hard to talk politics and religion because some people are so so stubborn that they won't listen to any opposing side. They accuse others of being "close minded" but they are guilty of that themselves. Sometimes they bring out such outlandish comments that it seems like a huge waste of time. So when someone is stubborn and won't listen I get frustrated. It turns into a "Why won't you just listen to me?!" sort of argument, an argument that is need of being "won" and that is never a good tactic.
I can't take criticism. I take things too personally. I wish I could be like Simcha Fisher, the Archbold brothers at CMR and Bad Catholic and be able to take on troll-like comments. But I suppose it is different when you don't know those people who make mean and hurtful comments. It's probably easier to shrug off.
I wish I could be like my friends who post their anti-vax posts and Occupy protest articles. Because even though I vehemently disagree with them at least they have the courage to post it and take any criticism that comes their way.
I know there is a right way and a wrong way to express my beliefs. We must do all things in love. Sometimes the things we might post about religion may not seem like they were written with charity. It might appear as though we are trying to look holier than thou and condemn others. But I think most of my friends who do write this stuff, this stuff being the same stuff I believe in, are doing it out of love. Of course we should always be mindful of how we word things. That goes for everything in Internetlandia.
The way I try to express my beliefs is to practice what I preach. I am against birth control, so I use NFP. I think it is extremely important to go to Church so I participate in the Mass every Sunday. I show my beliefs by practicing them and if someone were to come up to me and ask, "So WHY don't you use birth control, you weirdo?" I would be more comfortable in answering them.
I have written before that nothing good in this life is easy. Parenthood and marriage aren't easy. It isn't easy to be Christian. It sometimes isn't easy to stand up for what you believe in. If it were easy they would call it, "Sitting down for your beliefs." (OK, I know that was stupid.) But the good things in life really are worth the effort and courage it takes to take part in them.
G.K. Chesterton once said, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."
I want to be that living thing. I want to be that light of love to others. I want to bring truth. I want to please God. But it sure is hard when I am such a coward.