Monday, December 5, 2011

People like us

I received the loveliest email from a reader yesterday; with the reader's kind permission, I share some of it with all of you:
I passed the local PP abortion clinic yesterday morning. There is a crisis pregnancy clinic less than half a block away. Yesterday morning a group was praying outside PP - which as far as I know doesn't offer its "services" on weekends. I pulled over and made the Asian sign of greeting - hands together as in prayer, smiled and waved. They weren't certain what I was going to do - I presume they are used to some hostility as well as some friendliness.

Once they decided I was a "friendly" they gave the sweetest, warmest smiles. I really can't believe I used to view pro-life witnesses with such hostility and suspicion. I feel like I've crawled out from under some rock. Imagine raging at people who want to protect babies.

Thank you for your part in lifting that veil of illusion. Buddhist practice, which includes a chant for the happiness of all beings, including specifically "those born and to be born" also played a role.

Offering women only the choice to kill their babies is a pathetic comment on our society. Or a comment on our pathetic society. Whichever or both!

First of all: Deo Gratias!

Secondly, I think that what my reader points out here is very important; one aspect of our pathetic society is that we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree. It's not enough for us to have sometimes deep philosophical differences; we have to convince ourselves that the one on the other side of an argument is really The Other, as in, the one with whom we have nothing to do.

I've been guilty of that myself in the past, and I most sincerely apologize for it. Christ taught His followers again and again that we are to see The Other as our neighbor, and then to love that neighbor as we love ourselves. This does not mean that we will always agree about things; it also doesn't mean that we are obligated to accept our neighbors' viewpoints or ideas when we do disagree. We just have to accept our neighbor in his or her intrinsic being as someone like ourselves, with the full worth of every son and daughter of the King Whom we await.

If we want to end the horror of abortion, if we want to stand against torture and the capricious use of the death penalty, if we want to work for a society of renewed morality, greater integrity, and a stronger sense of both justice and mercy for all, we have to start by remembering that the people on the opposite sides of any of these issues are people like us. For those of us who are Christians this means recalling that each of them is created, like us, in the image and likeness of God, called to the same noble destiny of eternal happiness with Him that we are. It means refusing to see them as monsters or demons. It means praying for them as earnestly, when they fall, as we would pray for one of our own family, and as we hope for our own salvation.

It means that the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is linked inextricably to the command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strengths. And it means that we have to love all of our neighbors; perhaps we must love most those who annoy or irritate or frustrate or confound us the most.

My reader learned that the people praying for babies weren't really enemies, and the people praying outside that clinic learned that my reader was a friend. Imagine the good we could do if we could all learn this about each other; if we could keep that thought uppermost in our minds as we interact daily with The Others, only to find that they are our neighbors and friends.


Indygo Wolf said...

I have noted something among those who follow God's word that disturbs me just a bit; why must you have to be told to love thy neighbor? Why must you be told to accept me or the atheist across the street? Should it not just come naturally?

Red Cardigan said...

Indygo, briefly, the answer to that is in our belief in the Fall of man--that is, that human beings, at the dawn of creation, disobeyed God and that this act of disobedience had permanent consequences for the human race.

So we do have to be reminded, and to relearn, that we're supposed to live in harmony with each other. Our reasons and will, darkened by the Fall, tend us toward the sins of hatred and distrust of our fellow men.

There's a lot more to it, of course..but it's rather late and I'm turning in for the night. :) Perhaps I can clarify this in the morning.

freddy said...


Siarlys Jenkins said...

What Erin outlines is central to both Roman Catholic and Protestant teaching. Since Genesis was originally written down in Hebrew, and originally given (assuming it was revealed by God) to Jews, I believe there is a good chance that an Orthodox rabbi would understand it better. The Fall, or at least the notion of original sin, has no place in Jewish teaching.

As far as I understand it, we have an animal component and a spiritual component, the latter translated into English as "living soul." The Hebrew terms are nefesh chayyim, or neshama. The two components (C.S. Lewis refers to man as a curious hybrid) were loosely connected, but the original humans made a more fundamental connection prematurely. Thus, the instincts and emotions of the animal body (developed by the evolutionary process) overwhelmed the better judgement of the neshama, which was intended to be in control.

The results of course are the same. Our higher instincts and yearnings are easily overwhelmed by our baser passions. One point of religion is to provide a discipline to get the higher instincts back in control.

One of our baser passions, of course, is to demonize those with whom we disagree, or, to expect that if we are nice to them, they will instantly agree with us. Neither is true or to be expected.

I like the image of a PP clinic just a block or two from a crisis pregnancy center. Ideally, I would like to see each in the same building, to either side of a central reception area where women can get objective information, and then check out either or both.

That would be difficult, because the passions on either side would make it very difficult to see even one woman going the other way. Fortunately, most pregnant women need neither one.