Monday, December 22, 2008

Life, Pro-Life, Politics, and Homeschooling

In the post below I mentioned a homeschooling board I visit. I won't say which one specifically; some of you may know the board, and some don't, and that's fine. I'm not trying to single out this board or these Catholic women, or point fingers.

But I'm a little disturbed about something.

The board in question is a Catholic homeschooling board, and its purpose is to promote and encourage Catholic homeschoolers. I respect that. The moderators on the board work hard to keep the place free from heated conflict or temper-driven conversations, and I respect that too.

But the board is Catholic. And Catholics are supposed to be pro-life. And in the past the board has permitted various pro-life conversations to take place; in fact, a current conversation is about IVF and its evils.

However, there's a sudden spirit of caution that creeps up whenever Barack Obama's name is mentioned over there. For example, the post below the news item I shared earlier was a moderator's post; she essentially thanked the poster for the information and then reminded everyone that no discussion was to take place--even though the poster was sharing pro-life information, the fact that the information was critical of the upcoming administration meant that discussion had to be preempted.

The board is currently working out its political policy. I hope that what is forged will be a good, workable solution. But I have a few observations of my own:

1. Politics is a part of life. When we shut down discussion that is "too political," we're essentially telling people that this one part of their lives is permanently off-topic. I could see that being true on, say, a cooking board or an arts-and-crafts board or even a generic homeschooling board that focused solely on curriculum discussions, but on a Catholic homeschooling board it seems strange that politics would have to be off-limits for discussion. Catholics are supposed to live in the world, after all, and take part in the world's concerns, bringing our Catholic values to bear on the issues of the day. There will be times when we disagree, respectfully, about the practical actions we need to take, or even whom we need to vote for, but is that a reason to shut down all political discussion altogether?

2. The election is over, and Catholics, sadly, helped to elect the single most pro-abortion President our nation has ever known. Barack Obama plans to make abortion even more available, to pay for it with taxpayer dollars, to stifle dissent, and to require Catholic doctors and nurses and pharmacists--and even, possibly, Catholic hospitals--to participate in abortions. Some of our bishops are already speaking out about these matters, so is it really the case that these topics are too controversial to be discussed in a Catholic setting among our fellow Catholics? Must we bury our head in the sand for the next four years rather than ever say, in even the mildest of ways, that those Catholics who voted for Obama might possibly have been misinformed about his abortion extremism?

3. Pro-life issues transcend partisan politics, even though it is the sad reality in America today that one party is committed to legalized abortion on demand, while the other party's platform opposes it (though individuals within the party are pro-abortion anyway). Catholics should be able to discuss the importance of such issues as abortion, contraception, IVF, embryonic stem-cell research, and other matters which relate to the culture of life/culture of death divide without having to worry about offending those Catholics who generally vote for the party whose platform is in support of the culture of death; not every Democrat agrees with the party's position on these issues, but the fact remains that the Democratic party is the party which takes anti-life positions--and people on a Catholic board should be able to discuss this fact without having to worry about hurting people's feelings. This is especially true during a Democratic administration--Catholics must be able to speak up about the administration's efforts to advance the culture of death without being told that it's divisive to do so on a Catholic forum, in my opinion.

4. It has been said that the reason to limit these sorts of discussions is in part because these conversations don't belong on a board about homeschooling. But to me, a board about Catholic homeschooling should never be afraid to permit Catholics to converse about the issues which are of the gravest concern to Catholics today. We are, after all, educating the next generation of Catholic voters and Catholic activists. We teach them as much by our example as we do by our words, and if they see us shun controversy in order not to offend our fellow Catholics, the lessons they are learning is that it's less important to stand up for Catholic values than it is to get along with everyone. Maybe, having been educated that way in Catholic schools in the 1970s, I'm a bit over-sensitive to this sort of thing--but I want my children to be unafraid to stand up for the truth.

5. Having said all of that, though, I do recognize two things: one, that the moderators at this board may simply not have the time to keep political discussions civil, and two, that lots of women out there, even some of my fellow Catholic ones, seem to think that "I disagree with you," means "You're wrong, and I hate you," for reasons that continue to puzzle me. So while I hope that the board will find a way to let some mention of Obama's name here or there stand without worrying that the pro-Obama members will react badly to any criticism of him, however slight, I recognize that this may be impossible; in that case, I suppose that maintaining the current "No politics" status quo may be the only workable option.


KC said...

I, too, am puzzled by some people's reaction to a disagreement.

Anonymous said...

I am not puzzled at all. People will disagree, and mostly on the basis of what they, themselves, personally have experienced, no matter what the 'official' stance is, and especially when there is a perceived discrimination. However, in a discussion of the disagreement, when one side uses as its main argument of opposition to the political stance, 'because I said so' or 'it must be true because they said so' or 'you must agree with me, because I believe what x body has come out to say, therefore I am right and you are officially wrong', then the political discussion becomes a matter of 'yes, there is a disagreement, but because this is the official line, it is the only correct one, and you are not in agreement, are complicit, and you yourself as a human being are therefore wrong, and a benighted fool', then this is not a reasonable discussion, nor even enlightened, but a 'shouting match'.

I'm not puzzled at all why a Catholic Board of Education would even want to be involved in a futile (for discussion) free-for-all shouting match with the loudest 'voice' being the one seeming to be the only view to be truly valid, as a member of the Catholic Church. Maybe, politics is a part of life, but we don't all share the same, and discussion of politics in a Catholic Board of Education might not be the proper venue, but if it is, then all sides should share equal time, and if that is not possible, then there is probably no room for a political discussion. The Church presentation of the official Encyclical in another forum may be more appropriate.

As for suggesting that the Church view is in opposition to the government, then what one might be suggesting is anarchy.


Paula in MN said...

Once again, you have taken my thoughts and turned them into a beautiful essay. Thanks!

LeeAnn said...

I think it mainly has to do with the moderators not having time to moderate what would undoubtedly be a very contentious discussion.

I am also puzzled as to why topics like this can't be discussed without assuming the person opposed to you hates you. However, I think experience has probably shown us and the moderators, that if issues such as wifely submission, veiling and pants-wearing can cause such heated discussions, then politics will only exacerbate things. There is already a tone sometimes from certain posters that a person's position on these things is related to one's catholicity.

I agree that it can be annoying not to be able to post one's opinion, or even just plain facts, that venture into contentious politics, but as it's not my board, I understand their time and patience limitations in dealing with such things.

Also, I think time will show the Obama administration's supposed commitment to reducing abortions as immaterial. Those pro-life Catholics who voted for Obama, swayed by the arguments of Kmiec and others, will likely come to this rueful conclusion eventually--when the restrictions to abortion disappear, the numbers of abortions increase and so on.

There might be something to say for waiting to criticize an administration until it actually comes into power, as well. Maybe there is a feeling of some remote hope that Obama can somehow actually deliver on his supposed goal of reducing abortions and that we should wait until he actually officially does something to criticize him.

I think some discussion might be more acceptable, I would think!, after Obama actually becomes president and makes some movement on these issues. We'll see!

Rebecca said...

This reminds me of a surreal experience my SIL and her family was having during the elections, at the Catholic school her children were attending. They were doing "mock elections" and naturally a discussion of the real election came up among the 10-12 year-olds. When one child said his parents were voting for Obama, one of my SIL's children was horrified and said, "But he is for abortion!" The next day, my SIL was called into the principal's office and was told that her children should not be discussing such things during school. The other children's parents weren't called in.

I would think that discussions should be allowed at the school, and on your homeschooling forum, as long as people agree to remain civil in their speech. I know that many homeschoolers have limited access to other homeschoolers and often join such boards just to be able to talk about anything--big things and little things--that tend to be a part of homeschooling and being Catholic. If that board has off-limit topics, maybe you should open a board just for such topics.

I love how you aren't afraid to speak up, Red, about important things, and I think you always do so charitably.

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, my goodness, Rebecca! If I were a parent who had children at that school, I would pull them out and demand my tuition money back! What is the point of a Catholic education if Catholic school children can't know about abortion or which candidates support it?

The Krazy Girl said...

I'm not a member of that message board. Although I do go and lurk. If the boards purpose is only to encourage Catholic homeschooling they should not have allowed the conversation about IVF.

Anonymous said...

Red, I manage an email list for our local homeschool group. We have a very limited focus, largely because some people are very sensitive to disagreement, and they will simply leave the list if there is too much of it. There are other places on the web where one may find a forum for discussing tough issues, but our homeschool list is not one of them. We prefer to have the participation of more of our members, than to give a carte blanche for controversial discussion, political or otherwise. On our list, the IVF post would have been intercepted by a moderator. Too bad though, as it was an enlightening discussion...ah well, you can't have it all.