What if 600 babies here died from hunger …

Up to 18 hours now.

Early Saturday morning, for my 16th and 17th hours, I was blessed to spend another couple of hours at the vigil with a deacon friend. He had also invited a guy in deacon formation. Another 40 Days regular, Protestant pastor “D,” also came for one of the hours. The four of us prayed morning prayer together, as best we could, in the cold wind and partial light, those thin little breviary pages constantly threatening to flip away.

Before “D” arrived, we talked about events earlier in the week, when several women came for abortions, and there were sidewalk counselors rushing up to try to stop them. I have not been there during abortion days, but my deacon friend was there last week, and it shook him, first of all the terrible reality of what was happening in that building but also the chaos of the sidewalk. The 40 Days for Life vigil is not generally involved in that kind of work; on Tuesday, the 40 Days people remained standing and praying in the midst of it all.

We talked a little about the other approach. All of us in the conversation were a little uncomfortable with it. There are different calls in pro-life work, of course, as in so many parts of life. But I got to thinking later that a lot of people proclaim themselves pro-life and are uncomfortable with the quiet, peaceful, prayerful, non-graphic witness we’re giving too, and not because they lack the ability to stand out in the cold for an hour and pray. Even that, some would say, is too “confrontational.”

In the conversation, I spoke a conviction that grew on me during the last 40 Days. Last year, 600 babies died in that building. And I try to imagine what the response would be if 600 children died any other way in our small city. What if 600 kids died because of water pollution, or secondhand smoke, or gang violence, or hunger, or war? What would our community be doing about that? Would we struggle to find people to fill vigil hours to pray to end it? Would we be so afraid of appearing confrontational in trying to stop it? Would the daily newspaper find occasion to mention the fact that it was happening?

The answer is all too obvious: We would move heaven and earth to stop it. We would march, protest, pray, confront, and act decisively and vigorously in whatever way our feeble powers and the moral law would allow us. It would be front-page news every day until the city’s children were safe.

It’s equally obvious why that’s not done with abortion. The violence of abortion is hidden, and it’s wrapped up in the toxic fog of deadly lies that has been pumped into us with great success for 40 years by the shapers of what we still, for lack of a better word, call a culture. It has progressively diminished the value we place on human life, eroded the family, annihilated chastity and reduced our common life to the point that we are little more than the sum total of our individual desires.

To state it bluntly, abortion is bound up, finally, in our insistence on a “right” to have orgasms without consequence with whomever we wish, whenever we wish, however we wish. “It’s all about the O,” as the saying goes. So long as the sexual revolution holds, there will be many “unplanned” pregnancies and broken or nonexistent relationships between the new parents. So long as those conditions exist, there will be great pressure for abortion, so the new parents, and those around them, can pretend they are not parents.

Of course most of the people having abortions are more the victims of these lies than they are perpetrators. Like most of us, they hear these lies, unchallenged, day after day, morning till night, on television, in popular music, in their classrooms, in their magazines, in their newspapers, from the politicians, from the laws. The lies could be summarized as the “free orgasm” — sex entirely free of commitments and babies, sex just for fun. But the free orgasm does not exist. Our whole sex-soaked, antidepressant popping, porn-addicted, Oprah-watching, self-help-book buying country, awash in contraceptives and aborting more than a million babies a year, is a walking, talking, screwing, mourning disaster of a case study.

Yet cast any doubt on the existence of that mythological beast called the free orgasm and you can expect the fiercest imaginable resistance — the kind of response, as Peter Kreeft notes, that you get when you attack someone’s god.

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