Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Inalienable Rights

Lately it’s been really, really hard to keep my chin up when I watch the news/read the paper/drive around town amidst a sea of Obama/Biden signs. The latest polls put Obama solidly – meaning ten-points-plus – ahead of McCain. I’m hoping that the Ace of Spades is right in his assessment; specifically, that “the polls are crap.” I’m praying for a miracle, and I’m very serious about spending the night of November 3rd -4th in a vigil before the Blessed Sacrament with other miracle hopers. However, I’m beginning to feel like an elephant is on my chest whenever I’m online. Whether it’s Facebook, hulu.com, or even Wotmania, election news and election advertising is everywhere, and it’s suffocating. I feel like we're at the part of the horror movie where the whole audience is screaming, “Don’t go in there!” but the characters succumb to the false sense of security in their surroundings and let their guard down. In this post about the current bishop's meeting, Karen over at Some Have Hats nicely summed up the reasons I'm truly scared- not just uneasy or annoyed - with a potential Obama presidency. FOCA pushed through. Marriage ripped apart. Catholic professionals denied legal protection if they refuse to cooperate in laws or actions contrary to their faith.

I'm not saying that John McCain is perfect. I know he's not the ideal candidate, either. I'm against the war, against more drilling, against driving the budget further in the hole with tax policy we can't afford. I know he supports ESCR. I'm not a Republican. Absolutely not. But I'll vote for Republican candidates if they're the only ones standing up for the rights of the unborn. Taxes, gas prices, war, welfare, and healthcare are all crucial issues. But there are more important ones at stake. Once it's no longer legal to murder babies because they've been inconveniently conceived we can talk about taxes and healthcare.

Last week I visited with some old friends from high school. Our visit was lovely and fun until the subject of The One came up. I expressed my disgust for many of his past policies and future promises, but was utterly and incredulously shot down. One of my friends used the old “personally opposed” standby, remarking that, “I would never have an abortion, of course, but the reasoning for that is because it’s in the Bible. It’s religious. You can’t force your religious views on other people. It’s a woman’s body, and it’s her right.” I gently responded that one can arrive at moral conclusions in the absence of religion via natural law; such as: stealing has never been deemed acceptable in any society that we know of. We know, using nothing more than our brains and experience, that taking something from someone else is not a good thing. Same with the inherent evil of murder, and abortion is murder. She hastily switched topics, and we spent the remainder of our time somewhat awkwardly chatting about the parallels between Twilight and Buffy.

I feel a big rant coming on, and since I haven’t ranted in a long time, it’s overdue.

I am so, so, so, so, disgustingly sick of people – especially women- telling me that abortion is a woman’s right. The phrase, “right to choose” was crafted with exceeding cleverness, because in three small words it implies that 1)killing a baby is a choice and 2)if you don’t approve of killing babies you’re against women’s rights and therefore 3)you’re some kind of nut. Well fabulous.

The crux of the situation, though, is not about killing babies or women's bodies. It's the argument over what a “right” is. A human person, no matter how many cells he or she might be composed of, has an immortal soul. A human person is made in the image and likeness of God. A human person, even pre-born, has the same rights and dignity of the other seven billion human people who happen to have made it out of the womb and into the world. However, pro-abortionists would have us believe that human people only acquire those rights if their mother decides that they deserve them. This makes humans the authors of life, which, sorry guys, just isn’t the case. Babies come from sex. These two things (sex and babies) are designed to go together. With the exceptions of rape or abuse, babies do not come into being without a man and a woman choosing to have sex.

Let’s chat for moment about what a “right” is. A right is something a person has regardless of circumstance. For example, racial minorities, as human beings made in the image and likeness of God, have the rights of life, security, safe work environments, legal protection, and civil participation. The tragedies of racism and the need for the Civil Rights movement were ordained because African Americans (and others, of course) already had those rights by virtue of being human beings. Because their inalienable rights were being suppressed by unjust laws, those unjust laws had to be changed.

Every conceived person- no matter the circumstances of his or her conception – has a right to live simply because he or she is a human being and human beings deserve life.
The list of inalienable rights includes life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and some others nicely articulated in both the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights and the Church’s beautiful Gaudium et Spes. Notice that list of human rights doesn’t include something big. Sex.

Sex is a privilege, not a right.

Take a minute to absorb that. Again, excepting cases of rape or abuse, babies that result from sex are not accidents. As Dr. Janet Smith is fond of saying, an accident it crashing your car into a tree or falling on the ice. Accidents are things that happen out of sync with what we’d expect. Babies, however, are a sign that something went right- sperm met egg and a new life resulted. This is a good thing, a sign of health. People don’t get pregnant by accident. Throughout all of history, pregnancy only results because someone made a choice. Even the Virgin Mary had a choice to say “no thanks” when Gabriel brought God's message to her. Had she not been obedient and trusted God implicitly, things might* have been different (*a theological argument far beyond the humble scope of this little blog).

Driving a car isn’t a right, either. Giving the keys to someone who is unable to handle the responsibilities of driving is a recipe for disaster. The DMV knows this, and so there are all kinds of rules about who can drive and who can’t. My youngest sister is fourteen. She might want to drive. She might have the maturity and the dexterity and the judgment necessary to drive. But she’s fourteen years old. She hasn’t passed the driving test or learned how to drive safely. No matter how much she might want to drive, she can’t. Notice that she and her fourteen year old friends aren't holding rallies about it or begging their Congressmen for the "right to drive." Even as a teenager, she understands that driving is not a inalienable right, but rather a privilege.

Sex isn’t something people deserve because they’re over the age of majority. Sex isn’t something people deserve because they’re attracted to one another or because they love each other. Sex is a privilege. Something as powerful and holy as sex is not to be thrown about lightly, which is why the Church has always taught that it is only acceptable between men and women who are married. I am a single woman. Because I’m single, I’m not having sex. I might want to sometimes. Loving someone, being attracted to someone, or have the opportunity to have sex doesn’t change the simple fact that I am not married and therefore unable to participate in the privilege of having sex. Like the laws about driving age, the teachings of the Church about sex are for my own good and the general good of society. I'm not married, so it would be pretty darn tricky to raise a child all on my own. Some women are forced into such a situation and it's incredible how brave and strong they have to be. However, that's not the ideal situation for anyone- emotionally, economically, or otherwise. Even if I didn't become pregnant, the emotional upheaval of becoming one flesh with someone whom I might never see again would be an incredibly difficult burden to bear. Thus, for my own good and the good of others, I don't have the privilege to have sex.

Why is this such a big obstacle for people? I’ve been there. I’ve been in love and deeply attracted to someone. However, I do not have the right to have sex because I am not married. This shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, but I think Christopher West hit the nail on the head. Our culture has taught us that we can’t control ourselves. We’ve (thankfully) defeated the heresy of angelism: thinking that our bodies (and therefore sex and sexuality) are bad or unclean. But the pendulum swung too far, to the heresy of animalism. Now we live a in a world that says that our impulses and instincts ought to rule us; that urges are natural and we should give in.

Paraphrasing Christopher West: If a dog walks into a room and sees a steak, he'll immediately run over and eat it. He won't stop to consider, "Well, I've already had three meals today and I'm not really hungry." Or, "maybe the next dog who comes in the room really needs to eat." Or, "This meat has been sitting out for a while; it might be rancid." Of course not. The dog is instinctual and designed to eat the steak. Cause, effect. Simple.

If we put ourselves in an analogous situation, we can either behave as humans or animals.
Scenario A: A young man and woman are in love and/or just be attracted to each other. They might have met earlier that evening or maybe they've been seeing each other for a while or may even be engaged. They really, really, really want to make love. Everything in their bodies is screaming "full steam ahead!" and so rather than deal with the uncomfortable idea of going home alone, they give in and make love. It might feel wonderful. It might be meaningful. But that doesn't change the reality that outside the confines of marriage vows their intimacy was wrong.

Scenario B: A young man and woman are in love and/or just be attracted to each other. They might have met earlier that evening or maybe they've been seeing each other for a while or may even be engaged. They really, really, really want to make love. Everything in their bodies is screaming "full steam ahead!" However, they know that they aren't married. They know the privilege of sex is denied to them. So with a sigh the separate, say goodnight, and go to bed alone. It might be frustrating. It might feel unfulfilling. But because they've honored each other and the specialness of sex, they'll be better off in the long run for their sacrifice.

Now, which couple is more like the dog with the steak- ruled solely by feelings and instincts - and which is embracing their own dignity and humanity by embracing the greater good by denying the here-and-now?

Postmodern culture sees nothing wrong with Scenario A. If if feels good, do it. And if the couple in Scenario A conceive a child, pro-abortionists see nothing wrong with the woman getting an abortion to rid herself of the inconvenience of a child- a child she said yes to when she and her partner had sex. This is part of a larger argument about why the Church opposes contraception, and I'll probably write about that in more detail someday. But the bottom line is that sex was designed for marriage, and marriage vows have four unbreakable parts: marriage is free, faithful, fruitful, and forever. Because God designed sex and marriage and babies to all go together, sex still plays by those rules even if marriage isn't part of the deal. Every act of sexual intimacy binds a couple into one flesh, sometimes through the conception of a new life. Even if sex doesn't produce a child, the couple has still given part of themselves to the other and that has its own set of consequences.

More central to the pro-life argument, however, is that sex is a privilege, not a right. Actions have consequences. If a couple chooses to have sex, they are choosing to deal with the consequences of sex. Sometimes those consequences include pregnancy. Pregnancy is meant to be a joyful thing: a new life has come into being because of love. A new soul has come into existence, and our human souls are immortal and will exist for the rest of eternity. This is big stuff!

Unlike having sex, having life is a right. Humans do not have the right to kill other humans (possible exceptions: self defense, just war. Again, both beyond the humble scope of my little blog). Sex is not a right. If you don't want to become pregnant, don't have sex. This is not rocket science. If A leads to B and B is an undesirable outcome for you, don't do A.

Rant over. Deep breaths.

I'm still going to be praying for a pro-life and pro-family presidency. Even if Obama wins, I'll pray that he does as little damage as possible. We won't know until November 4th (or 5th? Depending on when they finish counting?), but until then I won't abandon hope. Now that's audacity.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Best of Times/Worst of Times?

What a week!

Bad things:
The stock market tanked. The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the state’s gay marriage ban. Obama is leading the polls (despite the connection with Ayers). The Nitany Lions creamed the Badgers last night. I miss my family.

Good things:
It’s fall. Its’ beautiful- an utter symphony of beautiful colors, crisp air, and crunching leaves. Yesterday the final trailer for Twilight was released, and it looks fantastic. Any fears I had about the movie not doing homage to the novel seem to be allayed for now. And yesterday I drove sixty miles to meet a wonderful friend for coffee/dinner/chatting at the halfway point between our respective cities. It was a wonderful four hours of fellowship, laughter, and remembering just how awesome good friends are. Gas is blessedly cheap right now, $3.19. If I go to Fleet Farm and use my 4 cents off coupon it’ll only be $3.15. (aside: how ridiculous is it that $3.15/gal is “blessedly cheap?!”)

This week is my one week a month off from directing the childrens’/youth choir, and I get to go to Madison on Friday, star sewing my Halloween costume, and on Tuesday night I’m dying my hair red. I’m a little nervous about going redhead, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

You've come a long way, baby

I have a love-hate relationship with Google. I love its search engine, applications, and compatibility with seemingly everything, but I abhor its yuppie pretentiousness, new tendancy to stick its nose where it doesn't belong, and the direction it might be going (ha!).

But today I discovered this little gem: Google's oldest existing search index (from January, 2001) and have been having a little too much fun searching for people/terms that were not in existence/prominence back when I was a sophomore in high school (!).

Such as:

Horcrux
(no hits. At all. This was inspired by one of Jo's anecdotes in her online diary at jkrowling.com, now archived over at the Lexicon: "SEPTEMBER 29th, 2006
Sitting at my desk trying to invent a word yesterday brought back memories of the last time I did so. I had tried for days and days to hit upon the right name for 'the receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a fragment of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality.' Finally, after much transposition of syllables, I scribbled 'Horcrux' on a piece of paper and knew it was The One. But what if somebody had already used it? With some trepidation I typed 'Horcrux' into Google and, to my delight, saw what I was looking for: 'Your search - "Horcrux" - did not match any documents.'
So anyway, yesterday I Googled 'Horcrux' again. 401,000 results. As you might imagine, this gave me something of a lift as I went back to scribbling nonsense words on the back of a takeaway menu."
)

Barack Obama
(returned less than 800 hits. Think about that. Issues and politics aside, in 2001 he was an Illinois State Senator (and one who was voting to defeat the Born Alive Protection Act, at that).

and that seemed unfair if I didn't include....

John McCain
(who received 226,000 hits, many of them referring to his failed presidential bid a year earlier)

World Trade Center
(whose number one hit was the Towers' official website, http://www.worldtradecenter.org/, which is now an empty domain name for sale from Network Solutions)

High School Musical
(over 800,000 hits, and fewer than 4,000 when the term is in quotes... none of which were about a [then-nonexistent] Disney movie phenomenon. What would Sharpay think?!)

YouTube
(returned zero hits)

Wikipedia
(proudly proclaims that its writers (everyone!) had compiled over 6,000 articles and hoped to one day top 100,000. Web 2.0 was barely getting started. Today Wikipedia has over 2.5 million articles just in English!)

iPod
(the top hit was for Image Proof of Deposit Document Processing System, and in the first fifty links listed (of about 1,300) Apple wasn't mentioned once)

Vatican
(the official website's 2001 archive is nearly identical to today's, except that the Pope's name is different. I'm tempted to turn that into a fable about the Church 's steadfastness in an otherwise transitory culture... but maybe their web designers just doesn't like changing the template. Either way, one small batch of consistancy was nice)

I also appreciated that the 2001-verision's homepage was titled "Google!" rather than today's standard "Google."

Maybe they're less excited nowadays?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Someday My Prince Will Come

.... or, "Will my prince come someday?"

Jen of Conversion Diary wrote a beautiful post yesterday, and, as often happens when I read her blog, she got me thinking.

It might just be a symptom of being in one’s early twenties, but lately it seems that nearly everyone I know is engaged, married, in a serious relationship, or entering the priesthood/a religious order. Even two college friends who swore on pain of death that they were going to focus on grad school and careers before “settling down” are well on their way toward engagement rings. I’m happy for them, certainly! I’m so glad that they’ve found their earthly partners and are living out their call of life. Several of those friends have started to have babies, and it’s been beautiful to watch young couples grow together as they prepare for a new life. However, there comes a point when smiling and trilling congratulations like a Disney princess can get me only so far.

A wise friend of mine (also single) once said, “It’s especially frustrating when you know what your vocation is but you’re not yet living it.” She’s absolutely right. For a while last year I wondered if my near-perpetual singleness was a subtle hint; I tried very seriously to discern if I’m called to the consecrated or religious life and ---I think--- I received a definite “no.” Rather, I’m confident that I am called to be married and have children. This doesn’t shock me; after all, eight-year-old me was planning her wedding and naming her future kids. Back then I expected I’d follow a path much like my mother: I’d meet someone in college or shortly thereafter, become engaged within eight months, married less than a year later, and live happily ever after. Well, I’m twenty-three, one year out of college, and have no expectations of being married anytime soon. Huh. “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

However, as hard as it can be to be single in a world that is essentially designed for married people, I’m glad of it. First of all, I know with absolute certainty that I’m not ready to be married yet; that is, God still has a lot of work to do getting me ready to be someone’s wife. Sometimes my womb literally aches to nurture children, but I also know that I’m entirely too selfish at this point in my life to be a good mother, so that’s an easy one: no children yet, so no marriage yet. (those two do, in fact, go together, despite what our contraceptive culture would teach.)

Why do I ache to be married? Well, there are several reasons, some silly, some substantial. But then, there's also a nagging feeling that maybe I shouldn't be, despite what I might want. I know that if God wants me to be married he'll send me a prince eventually so I'm not terribly worried. However, despite my hopes for a husband and a big family, God might have other ideas. Am I brave enough to accept that? I don't know. Another wise friend (I'm gifted with several of those) noted once that since marriage is an earthly reflection of a heavenly reality (Christ's relationship with the Church), why settle for the reflection when we could instead spend our time preparing for that inevitable future? She's right, up to a point. St. Paul agreed, certainly; advising unmarried persons to remain single as to better focus on affairs of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7). It's also true that I am falling more deeply and deeply in love with Jesus the longer I stay single. In my last relationship I mis-prioritized my beau over my Heavenly Bridegroom, and it showed in my lax prayer life, my focus on unimportant things, and our easily-rationalized/ignored bouts of unchastity. However, I know that doesn't always have to be the case. In fact, husbands and wives ought to help one another grow in holiness and grow closer to God. I've seen this work in the lives of several couples, so I know that my most recent experience doesn't have to be the rule.

Far be it for me to know the mind of God, but I suspect there are two key reasons why I'm single right now. Firstly, the work I'm doing is more easily done by a single person. Many awesome youth ministers are married, but I don't know if I could be married and do a good job at work as well as a good job at home. Some women can do two things at once, but I'm not sure I can.

If I'm honest with myself, one of the biggest reasons I want to be married is pride. Not the good sort of pride, either. I'm an ardent practicing Catholic (and not the Nancy Pelosi kind), so I get very passionately fired up about chastity, marriage, natural family planning, and respecting life. It's easy to talk oneself blue in the face about why the Church is teaching the truth on these issues, but living out the Catholic Faith is a much more effective means of witness--- and a much harder one (look at many Sunday-only Catholics who contracept, condone abortion, support the death penalty....etc.) Because I'm single and therefore am not having sex or children, it can be incredibly hard for people to take me seriously about NFP and chastity. I told a co-worker that when I'm married my husband and I will practice NFP and seriously discern whether or not God is really calling us to postpone another pregnancy or not. I was dead serious when I said that I'm open to as many children as I'm called to have (*note: not "as many children as possible" but "as many children as God thinks we should bring into the world, decided through careful prayer, discernment, spiritual direction, and openness to life). Her response was a snorted, "Well, honey, just see how you feel after you've had your first couple kids; you won't want anymore." This is coming from a devout Catholic woman who works at the parish, loves Jesus and the Church, is fiercely pro-life, and helps minister to people in the community! And still she's plagued by the brainwashing of our contraceptive culture! It makes me crazy.

That said, if the main reason I want to be married is so I can have an intensely beautiful Catholic wedding, be open to life, raise lots of children, and write books and blogs about Catholic motherhood, then it's just pride. It's "See, look at our family! We follow the Church's teaching and things are great! We love being open to life! Chastity rocks!" Pride. "Look at us, doing it the right way. Aren't we fabulous?" Satan is so sneaky! These desires- for good things, like marriage and family- are so easily corrupted into a selfish "I am Woman Catholic, hear me roar!"

These feelings remind of the way I often felt in junior high. I wasn't the most popular kid back then, a bit awkward and nerdy with horrible fashion sense. I desperately wanted to be well-dressed and popular and pursued by the boys, but it wasn't to be. I was also deeply infatuated with Prince William at the time, convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were going to fall in love and get married. I couldn't wait to show up at my ten-year reunion with the next King of England on my arm, able to gloat and lord it over my seventh grade nemesis that I had married the ultimate popular guy. See the resemblance? Clearly, middle-school-me didn't want to marry Prince William because I loved him or because I wanted to help him grow into a more Godly man; rather, I was using our [imaginary] marriage to prove a point and show off. Pride!

"Speak the truth in love," St. Paul tells the Ephesians. When and if I do marry, I'll have to be very careful to remember that. Chastity and children are good things, but if I twist those concepts around for prideful ends it's still sinful. I need to learn how to detach "ha! told you so!" from witnessing an authentic Christian life. Until then, the wedding gown I've designed will just have to stay confined to the sketchpad.

So perhaps my prince will come, someday when I've leared to be less selfish and prideful and more giving. Or maybe I'm gifted with singleness and will be able to fully focus on the "affairs of the Lord" forever. Either way, I need to be at peace with what God wants and not fall into self-pity like Kate Monster at the beginning of Avenue Q:

I'm kinda pretty
And pretty damn smart
I like romantic things
Like music and art
And as you knowI have a gigantic heart
So why don't I have a boyfriend?
{expletive deleted}!
It sucks to be me!

Because it doesn't! My life is pretty peachy; I just need to trust God a little more.