Religion and Shame

On the Saturday before Christmas, it rained.  A torrential downpour that left me drenched –  escorts don’t use umbrellas here.  They take up too much space and become like weapons on the sidewalk.  Usually, my rain gear keeps me pretty dry ~ this particular Saturday, not so much.  But at least it wasn’t snow.

This is from a different week, but it still looks like this...

This is from a different week, but it still looks like this…

We had about 40 protesters,  I think the rain kept some away, because the Saturday before Christmas is often much busier.    Theme for the day was – “God is watching you!”  Maybe that was in the anti-handbook for the week.  Several of the pray-ers in the  gauntlet would yell it at the clients as we went by.  A couple of chasers, and some of the preachers, were using it.  “God is watching you!”

That baffles me.  The client either believes in a God who is “watching them” or not – if not, then it’s no threat, if they do, then they’ve already come to terms with it.  Pointing a finger and screaming, “God is watching you!” doesn’t seem very productive.

But then I remember it’s not actually about being helpful or productive.  Sigh.  After a while,  I couldn’t help thinking it was a bit like “You better watch out, you better not cry…  Santa Claus is coming to town.”   I know, that’s just wrong, but it went through my head.  Unfortunately, more than once.

I think my perception of Christians has become warped by the fundamentalists I see on the sidewalk.  I’m not an atheist.  I know that groups like Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Catholics for Choice are Christians who support access to reproductive health care.   Yet I find myself sneering at “the Christians.”

I laugh at the Protestant preacher on his soap box who chastises us for being baby-killers – and for believing in evolution.  I shake my head at the Catholics with their rosaries in hand, as they pause their prayers to yell  at the women walking through their gauntlet of shame.

I remind myself that these people don’t represent all Christians.  But I hear myself say things that sound radically anti-religion.  And I wonder if I’m offending Christian escorts, or people who read the blog.  I don’t know.  That’s not ever my intention.

But ~ good grief ~ when people show up and yell “God is watching you!” at women going to the doctor, it’s hard not to feel a bit contemptuous.  

That same day, some of us escorts were standing on the corner of First Street when a truck pulls up.  The light turns red, and one of the men in the truck rolls down the window. {For a breath holding moment we wait… – will he thank us? shoot us?}   He says, “Aren’t you ashamed of what you’re doing?”

Relieved, and a bit amused, I shake my head, no.  Another escort says, “No, we’re not.”

So of course the guy in the truck says, “Well you should be!  You should be ashamed of what you’re doing!  Out here murdering babies…”

The light changes and they drive on.  But it’s a good reminder – the antis are selling shame – finger pointing, self-righteous shame. It’s not about religion, it’s about control.  And shame.

Just because they’re promoting it doesn’t mean anyone has to buy it.   If I could, I would tell the clients – the ones who pull their hoods up and try to hide from the antis’ meanness – I would tell them ~

“Don’t ~  don’t let them do this to you.   They don’t know you, they don’t know anything about you – don’t let them sell you this load of guilt and shame.”

But I can’t do that – once the client is there at the clinic, all I can really do is walk with them. So I’ll say it here and hope we all spread the word.

One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime.  More people are speaking out about their experience.  Those of us who may not be the one in three need to speak out too.  We need to let people know that we support the right to the full range of reproductive healthcare and family planning.

~~ fml221 ~~

13 thoughts on “Religion and Shame

  1. Well, Jesus did say that there were going to be people that would do wicked things in His name, and He wouldn’t recognize people who grandstanded in His name either. He said that a lot, actually.

    He also said a lot, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” and a good portion of the story is about His frustration with how dense and cruel people are to each other.

    Speaking as an atheist, when you drop the religious aspect and view Jesus’s story objectively, it really is a pretty gritty and poignant portrayal of just what happens when religion gets out of control over intuition.

    • Nice perspective, Longtail. I agree, the things that happen on the clinic sidewalk don’t reflect the way Jesus acted. Not by a long shot. Thanks.

    • The antis seem to forget that people in the Bible sought out Jesus. He did not run people down, scream at them, wave signs, erect pointless displays or lie to people to get them to listen to him. Jesus was not an asshole.

  2. I think this post is a prime example of why individual members of churches need to be aware of how church funds are being spent. Are the thousands and thousands of members of Southeast Christian OK with their donations being used to fund a center that seems to have the primary mission of protesting abortion and lying to women? Do they understand just how little of the time people are working to distribute supplies and help to women with born children as opposed to how many hours they spend stalking people up the sidewalk, holding signs and lying to women? It seems you have Catholic and Baptist churches who officially sanction these activities and I wonder how many members of these churches are aware or if they support this? And no, I am not saying churches should silence or condemn people to make them get off the sidewalk, but I also don’t think it would hurt churches to remind people that hysterical screeching and bullying is not a way to either persuade a women not get an abortion or to convince her to accept religion. If people are portraying God as a peeping tom who is watching women at a gynecological appointment without consent and the image of Christians that is being presented are people who are shouting, condemning, shaming and blaming nobody is going to want anything to do with them, much less hear about religion. I really don’t think somebody who is in the process of dealing with an unwanted or not viable pregnancy is really in the state of mind to want a religious lecture. The time to “share the Gospel” is not when people have asked you to leave them alone or when they are clearly in distress.

    • I think that’s an excellent point, KyCat – I know that lots of Catholics don’t realize what’s going on at the clinic, even though so-called “sidewalk counseling” is officially an approved thing to do. I don’t think most people know what’s going on at the anti-clinic or on the sidewalk -and really, that’s part of the reason for the blog, right?

      For sure, screaming anything at people, or talking at them, is not an effective way to persuade them or to help them.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. great post! Most of my friends are liberal Xians who dont do this stuff, however, it is all in their book. Letting the religious delusion continue even in mild forms facilitates the extremism of the righteous folks at the abortion clinic. Moralizing and expecting people to conform to you religious views and having the audacity to shove it downs others throats like this is a prime example of the arrogance of religious thought. It time we stop it. You might enjoy my blog at wearedone.org

    • You’re so right, wzingrone, religion does often seem to make people think they have the right to tell everyone else what to do. Or even that it’s ok for them to force them to live by someone else’s rules. I guess, for me, it’s been my time at the clinic that has helped me realize how wrong that can be – and isn’t that ironic?

      Thanks for reading, and for commenting. I did check out your blog – very cool!

  4. It’s strange to me that those who purport to be “pro-life” also tend to be (though not exclusively so) from the side of politics who think it’s the right of crazy people to own guns. They say they’re pro-life but justify the murder of doctors who provide health services to women.
    It’s kind of sad that politics and religion (two areas dominated by men) are once again trying to say that women shouldn’t be able to make their own reproductive health decisions. Not quite the same but indicative of the attitude, in Australia a male politician recently said sanitary pads / tampons were not essential products for and therefore should be taxed. Incontinence pads for men on the other hand are essential and therefore tax free.

    • I know, it is odd, isn’t it, setaian? Actually, it seems that pro-life is more about pro-birth. I think that’s pretty funny – that a male politician actually said

      “…sanitary pads / tampons were not essential products for and therefore should be taxed. Incontinence pads for men on the other hand are essential and therefore tax free.”

      And how typical of that mindset. In the same way, they want Viagra to be covered by insurance, but not birth control. Ridiculous.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  5. “… I find myself sneering at “the Christians.”” –> I can so sympathize with this comment. I’m no longer very religious, and while the reason for the change isn’t the behavior of other Christians, some of their behavior has done a great deal in recent years (and since moving to Kentuckiana) to further turn me off.

    Not that the message of Christ himself is bad. It’s supposed to be so positive, about love and compassion and forgiveness, about meekness and humility and de-emphasis of rote law and doctrine, about examining oneself before judging others. But I suppose that fanaticism and zealotry have many vehicles for their prejudices — religion, politics, philosophy, etc. — and at the end of the day they’re convenient excuses for changing one’s thinking and behavior, for better or for worse.

    • I think what you say about “fanaticism and zealotry” is directly on target. The protesters at the clinic are using that as the vehicle to express their own extremism. If it weren’t that, they would find something else. It’s unfortunate that they’re giving people such a negative view of Christians.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Actions such as demonstrated by the anti-choice “Christians” have driven me away from belief in any higher power. These people get to pick and choose from a religious doctrine, then use it as a weapon to hurt women who are seeking a legal medical procedure. I’m glad that you can find a few religious groups that support women’s reproductive rights, but their goal is the same as the obnoxious people throwing shame around as if it is confetti. And that goal is to increase the general population of whatever denomination.

    It’s OK to be contemptuous of religion. It has nothing but money, power, and control at its very heart.

    • Patty, I keep coming back to read your comment. I feel so ambivalent about what you say – I want to completely disagree with you, but can’t quite do it. I guess I think that you’re right – all organizations exist with a goal of surviving and growing. I think some of the people who practice Christianity do some powerfully good things, and I don’t want to be dismissive of a religion that supports them emotionally and in other ways.

      But your last paragraph resonates with me. I wish it didn’t.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

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