Sunday, November 4, 2012


Recently I rec'd an email taking me to task for a recent post about my aversion, squarely anti-abortion though I am, to reducing faith to an isolated political issue; and specifically about my not taking kindly to a woman who had jabbed her finger in my face and demanded to know, "Would you vote for Obama?"

My response was to think, "Well let's see, if there were a runoff between Hitler and Goebbels and Hitler were promoting some rudimentary kind of national health care, I suppose, if I had to vote, I could consider voting for Hitler. So I said, 'Well, I guess I might' "--the point being that Goebbels and Hitler were so close in basic philosophy, goals and world view as to be virtually interchangeable. And the other point being that when people are violent with us--and jabbing your finger in someone face is violent--we tend to want to be violent, sarcasm being another form of violence, ourselves.

Anyway, the sender then went on to say:

"I can understand being against abortion, but I can't understand not helping people have knowledge and tools to keep themselves from getting pregnant. I know several young women who keep a condom in their wallets, so that they can say, I'm not having sex with you unless you use a condom, and they can be in charge."

Now this I found telling. This points up exactly why I avoid identifying as either politically right or politically left: namely, that if one or the other candidate happens to land on the “right” side of a particular issue, it’s by accident—it’s not because of Christ. Because the image of a 14-year-old girl carrying condoms in her purse strikes me the same way as an image I recently came across of an attractive young blond in camo fatigues wearing an expression of what was apparently meant to be wholesome blood lust and cradling a giant gun in her lap: namely, the unpleasant, nerve-jangling shock you get when unexpectedly coming across an image of the rawest, rankest porn.

I took the time to write a long reply to the sender of the email, among other things thanking the person for reminding me of my own huge capacity for violence. I never heard back and am thinking, on the eve of the election, to reprint some of my (slightly amplified) response here.

The long answer, for now, is that from the Catholic viewpoint, the pregnancies that are prevented by all forms of birth control, esp. BC pills, essentially an abortificient, are themselves kind of holocaust, just as war is always its own form of holocaust. Birth control--itself a form of violence--is not the way to prevent abortion, another form a violence. For a teenage girl to keep a condom in her purse so she can be "in control" for when she has casual, uncommitted sex--and the very fact that the sex is outside the protective, nurturing, sacrament of marriage and not open to children means it is prima facie casual and uncommitted--to me is not a triumph, or a solution, or in any way a move toward Christ-like is a lie and the furtherance of a lie (I know first-hand because I lived that lie for many years), and it is just the kind of shortcut/end run, aimed toward power, fleeting pleasure, the objectification of ourselves and the other, and an utter disregard for the spiritual and emotional consequences of our actions upon which our culture and politics is founded. All that is, or should be, most precious in us, most inviolable, is in essence, killed...

Basically our thought is: It's too hard to love our enemy, so let's maintain that waterboarding isn't torture, spend $100 billion more in the next four years on 'defense', and kill him. It's too hard to treasure ourselves and to teach our children to treasure themselves, so let's give them condoms. I think this is part of why Christ said, "You have heard it said, "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire" [Mt 5:21-22]...The point is not that God is peering into our every action and thought, waiting to pounce when we're wrong. The point is that politics concerns itself with imposing from without while Christianity concerns itself with the conversion from within of the individual human heart. I am quite sure that if we treated ourselves, our capacity for love, our sexuality, our neighbor, and our world as Christ taught us to that the global population would regulate itself in a way that is never going to happen, and has not happened, when we try it "our" way. 

This all sounds very sterile and that is one reason I dislike the whole framework of politics as a venue for discussing or working out faith.  The sublime wonder of Christianity is that we are never going to be brought to our full joy, our full flower, our full capacity to give and receive love, except by abandoning ourselves to this strange and paradoxical God. That is why Christ was so dangerous. Not because he was anti-politics but because he was anti-lie. That is way more dangerous to the powers-that-be--inside and outside ourselves--than treason... 

Politics are all about power, control, and being "in charge." Religion is all about abandonment, surrender, and obedience to the Man who said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you." And that is why, to me, to try to mix one with the other does a disservice to both. 

To that end, the best thing I heard at the Magnificat Day of Faith was a quote from French playwright Jean Anouilh (1910-1987): "Beauty is one of the rare things that does not lead to doubt about God."

And this Henri Nouwen quote, just in from my brother Ross: “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly.” Which the Lord knows is all of us.


  1. An unwanted child, brought into this world by a mother who will raise it in poverty and abuse and hunger--that is violence, and it is perpetrated upon millions and millions of children yearly, a great many because of a lack of access to contraception.
    The prevention of the union of an egg and semen is not violence.
    The use of this adjective in this context is incomprehensible to me.

  2. Vivat Christus Rex!

    And (as a poker player might say) I see your Magnificat by Bach and raise you Allegri's Miserere mei Deus, Psalm 51. Look for it on YouTube! Ten minutes of sublimity.

    Oh, yes, that quotation from Anouilh. Yes.

    You know, I do fret about our country, and can come perilously close to the stance of the finger-jabbing lady. But I think this country is in good hands because it's in God's hands, ultimately -- and because people like you, Heather, live in this country and pray for the people in it perhaps more ardently and sincerely than I do!

    I ramble, but please allow me! Edward Estlin Cummings was onto something: "Let us pray always for individuals, never for worlds" [or parties, or systems, or countries]. "Better worlds are born, not made, and their birthdays are the birthdays of individuals." He might have said "of noble holy souls, of saints." Or even of inspired madmen who are (please God) becoming saints!

    But then, yes, Anouilh and Dostoyevsky -- beauty will save the world, and does not lead to doubt about God.

    Long story short: I needed this tonight. Thank you, Heather King (and thank You, Almighty God for inspiring your servant)!

  3. Every day I drive to work and question whether or not I am truly happy. Half way through my drive, I cross a fabulous bridge that is one mile from the beach. I look out to the East as the sun is rising over the magnificent Atlantic is beautiful. At that moment I know there is no doubt that God is with me, no matter what my day may bring.

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  5. Thank you Heather for sharing the Henri Nouwen quote: “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly.” I'd not heard that one before, but it resonates with me, another poor lover.

  6. Heather, I am brought back to an earlier post in which you commented:

    "What's "non-negotiable" is love. Thus, if we're against abortion, we have to ponder deeply the nature of the underlying love by virtue of which we know abortion is wrong. And then we have to live in every single area and to the smallest moment of our lives in, through, and by that love. That's the mark of the authenticity of our stance toward abortion, and of our faith."

    I have reflected on that post so much in the past week or so, esp as I was marching for the 40 days for Life pro-life walk. What am I doing to promote life within the context of love, which includes supporting the women and children once they have made a decision not to abort.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog, and inviting others to do the same.

  7. Dear Heather,

    Your reflections on the "neither the left nor the right" has given me peace during the political Bizarro Land we are in these days.

    But the Nouwen quote at the end spoke to me on a personal level. When everyday conversations take an unexpected ugly turn they can only be salvaged by prayer and grace.

    PS. I received my first copy of Magnificat a few weeks ago. (I love that they will send you a free sample copy!) Loved that the very first reflection- on the SAINTS, for All Saints, is by you! Well done, dear Heather!

    Looking forward to hearing more about your Magnificat conference. (Workshop? Gathering?)

  8. Ah Heather, I love that you are able to put into words the thing I know but don't know how to say. thank you for this, this morning.

  9. Heather

    It all seems so lovingly logical
    when you meld those thoughts together. Judith

  10. Hello people, I love the e.e. cummings idea: "Let us pray always for individuals, never for worlds" [or parties, or systems, or countries]. I couldn't agree more, and I always flinch at the intercessionary prayers at Mass when, as is sometimes the case, we pray for all "our" people in the military (often followed immed. by a prayer for the unborn: side question: why do we condone violence in one case and not the other?)--Anyway, I always think, Aren't we worshiping Christ, the Son of ALL Men? Shouldn't we pray for EVERYBODY in the military, all soldiers everywhere, and then pray to work for the day when we all beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks; when one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again? [Isaiah 2:2-5], in today's Morning Prayer, upon which I deeply meditated].

    I am just groping my way here, as always; as always, the edges don't quite fit. But I actually started crying last night on my walk before evening Mass, I am in such anguish over...I mean truly, the Church is my Mother. And I just can't get my mind around how to reconcile "Love thine enemies"; to reconcile and a Savior who died for love himself rather than kill anyone else, with a culture of war that goes for the most part entirely unremarked upon from the pulpit! I mean it's one thing to say "In our weakness we don't know how else to conduct ourselves in the world sphere; in our brokenness and blindness and lack of faith we can't see any other way to feel secure (and for all the money we spend on defense, does anyone in his or her right mind feel remotely secure, in a worldly sense, or more secure than last week, month, year, century?) or to fuel our economy besides war, but violence of all kinds is clearly against Christ and so let us all work ceaselessly for peace, do penance, consent to bear the terrible anguish/tension of the suffering that war perpetrates."

    But to pretend it doesn't matter or worse to conduct war under the BANNER of This cannot be. This is asking me to believe what the Church has never asked me to believe, which is an absurdity. A gross inconsistency. A lie...If we were truly of Christ, politics would be about figuring about how to SHARE everything we have! It would be about laying a giant banquet table and inviting the whole world...
    [to be cotd., I'm over the character count]

  11. Actually this ties in nicely with the Magnificat Day of Faith, which was sponsored by Magnificat, the magazine, and took place at what used to be televangelist Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in (stereotypically white, Republican) Orange County. The Catholics have now bought the church and are planning a huge renovation. We couldn't celebrate Mass because the church hasn't been dedicated yet but there was a lovely "Day of Faith" (I didn't get there till the afternoon) with apparently 3000 folks in attendance, group singing (which I, for one, loved), a keynote by editor-in-chief Fr. Peter Cameron (that's where I got that great Jean Anouilh quote), a rousing rendition of My Country 'Tis of Thee (during which I prayed for the PEOPLE of all countries), and a truly beautiful Evening Prayer during with the Pacific Chorale sang Bach's Magnificat in D. Very beautifully organized, a gorgeous Southern Cal. day, plenty of time to mingle and chat, boxed lunch, snacks, big, much-appreciated coffee urns. It was all very grand and televised and big screens all over showing close-ups etc.

    And I have to say my VERY favorite part of the day was when after the thing was over and me and my poet friend Rita A. Simmonds, who also writes for MagnIficat (and had made the trek along with so many others, including Fr. Cameron) from hurricane-ravaged NYC) were sitting at the "hospitality table," keeping watch while Fr. Peter fielded a long line of adoring fans. And suddenly this middle-aged dark-haired woman darted up and handed us a little note, hand-written on a piece of cardboard. She said "Can you give this to Fr. Peter; I don't have time to stand in line." So she gives us the note and the note reads, "Please pray for my son Isaac. He is 17 and in the hospital brain-dead. It was a skateboarding accident, but we believe in miracles."

    "We believe in miracles"...I looked out over this gargantuan plaza and the zillion square foot glass cathedral and the football-sized parking lot and I thought, Maybe this whole day was so that someone would say a prayer for this woman's kid. Rita said Fr. Peter said Mass for Isaac the next morning and he and his mother have been in my heart since then as well. At the end of the day, prayer and love are our weapons. These are our flimsy arms. These are our "answers" to questions that have no answers...

    Mark, glad to know you're alive and kicking! I hear you but my own thought/experience has been when sex isn't open to life, something gets torn, something gets divided, something is not the sacramental whole that we all long for and that we were all made for...

  12. This election has left me sick to my stomach, with all of the violence I've observed, the damnation and demonization that has been dealt out from all quarters. Have mercy on us, Lord, we who love poorly; may we learn to forgive, and abandon ourselves to You, our only true happiness.

  13. Hi Heather:

    "Shouldn't we pray for EVERYBODY in the military, all soldiers everywhere...?" Yes, we should. But why can't you give the folks in the pews a break? A lot of them have kids in the military. It doesn't hurt anyone to have the congregation ask God to keep them safe. You're going to say, "well, that's too easy. Christ demands radical love. We should pray for all soldiers." Isn't that the very essence of "praying for worlds"? Doesn't that seem more like praying for an idea rather than a person?

    Peter Hundt

  14. Hi Peter--

    Unlike you, with your lovely large Catholic family, for the sixteen years I’ve been a Catholic (including when I was married), I attend Mass for the most part alone. So the people in the pews are to me a community, a family, a source of consolation, comfort, strength, and love, even though, or especially because, as a single woman I am mostly unseen and unnoticed. In fact, it’s perhaps because I have felt so alone and so afraid for so much of my life that having the whole human family around the table is so important to me, or rather such a deep longing.

  15. Well, speaking of that prayer, I doubt that whoever wrote it, the priest, or his administrative assistant, or somebody else who has too much to do, was supporting the war so much as they were just praying for people who are in harm's way, which surely we should do even if we oppose the war. And I think that when we pray for our military, it doesn't necessarily mean that we are excluding the others any more than I exclude other children when I my children. I think we just have to give one another the benefit of the doubt.

    But, all-in-all I thought it was a great post.


  16. There was a small town in the Midwest in the 1940s where nearly all of its young men had to go to war in Germany. A spiritual leader of the town was inundated with calls from mothers and wives to pray for their sons or husbands to return home safely. The spiritual leader told them, "I'll pray for your son or husband, if you pray for the enemy soldiers, that they too will return home unharmed."
    They agreed. About a year later, every son and husband from that small town came home safely.
    That is our call. To love our enemies. How? To see them as God see them.


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