I knew this was going to happen.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to try to pound you with REM lyrics. In fact, I’m not even a fan. I may get more hateful reactions to that comment than the whole rest of the article. While I don’t hate them, I don’t think they are they bestest, most awesomest, most creative band EVAH!!! Eleventy111!
I’ve flirted around the edges of this discussion in my head and with trusted friends. I know this isn’t a place for anti-choice religious arguments or proselytizing of any kind. It makes sense, which is nice because for a long time there have been so many things that don’t make sense to me. See, when I come to Every Saturday Morning to write an article or comment, there are rules that must be followed. They are clearly spelled out and easy to follow.
There was a time where religion gave me those same guidelines; or maybe not. I was raised in a fairly religious, conservative household. Yep, I had the perfect, traditional family, except maybe my mom worked and women in my family were not doormats. The problem is, the same religion that I saw and still see provide a safe haven for people and encourage many people to contribute to their community has now reached a place I can’t abide.
I have long known that the overwhelming opinion of people who attend my particular branch of Christianity consider themselves “pro-life.” I could abide this, because to be quite frank, many of them are what I consider “pro-life.” They participated in Meals on Wheels, offered GED tutoring courses that had nothing to do with stopping an abortion, ran a food pantry and had other charitable programs that had nothing to do with the contents of a woman’s uterus. There were no ranting damnation sermons against abortion during services and if anybody was out protesting or waving fetus porn they weren’t proud of it.
Certainly, I have questioned and disagreed with some of the finer points, or even bigger points, that came along with the beliefs I was raised with. I was the weird middle-school aged brat who read both the Courier-Journal and Newsweek in their entirety at my grandparents’ house after Sunday lunch. I have been pro-choice since Newsweek or some other publication kindly explained to my delicate mind what abortion was, including illustrations. Maybe I was a heartless Jezebel even then. I didn’t understand why people cared so much about things that felt no pain or fear over those who could. You know, like women.
In spite my religious background, I will confess to having always had a bit of what my mother would call a potty mouth. I’m sure it has come out in my writing most of the time. I can fling foul language about with the best of them. My mother would be horrified. We weren’t allowed to say shut-up, dang, crap, fart or frickin’ in the house I grew up in. No, I’m not using those as euphemisms for any of the really bad words. We really weren’t supposed to say those words. Despite that, I found it extremely relaxing to, in the privacy of my room, let many of those really bad words fly after a bad day at school.
So, here I am. Still trying to figure out how to fit religion in with my foul-mouthed, pro-choice, feminist and liberal beliefs. Some of them are easy to integrate. Being kind to others and doing unto them as you would have done unto you? Check. It makes total sense that if we all acted like this the world would be a better place. This isn’t to say that I don’t fail at it, probably daily, but the aspiration to be like this all the time makes sense to me. Some of them are not as easy. Not doing what established religious tradition says we should do and never questioning? Oh yeah, I’m all about that too.
What bothers me is that the same religious text I use as one of my reasons for fighting for reproductive rights is the same text people use to wave fetus porn, say awful things, lie and in general terrorize anybody who disagrees with them. I suppose I could write pages about my opinion that a lot of people are on the sidewalk because it is the cool thing to do among their Wednesday night Ladies’ Group or because the preacher talked about loving your unborn neighbor from the pulpit on Sunday so it is the cause of the week. For many people, it isn’t about religion, or God, or life. It is about running with the cool crowd. These are the people who pray a lot louder and more intently when a possible client walks by. It is more seventh-grade clique thinking than religion.
So where do I fit in all this? I don’t know, and that is the problem. I have rationalized and excused many beliefs in the particular church I belong to. I have never been one to say my church or my religion was the only way to live or the only way to be happy. I thought as long as people were behaving like I imagined Jesus did, overall, that I could find happiness and satisfaction in this church, even if I disagreed with a lot of what other people believed. My thought toward any religion or religious institution has always been that none are perfect, just like nobody is perfect. I know I am far from it.
My tipping point came when at the end of a service they announced that they were holding a fundraiser for a local (to me) crisis pregnancy center. I know my face turned several shades of red from anger and confusion. The person with me told me later she thought my head would explode.
I went home full of righteous anger and a quest to research this particular place. Finding out they were deceptive and liars would make the break easy and simple. But alas, like most of life it wasn’t so easy or simple.
I don’t know anybody who volunteers there and I don’t know of any negative stories from this particular CPC. They are many miles from the nearest abortion clinic and their name clearly tells you that they are a Christian organization and not a health care clinic. They clearly state that they don’t refer for abortions. Hell, their site even calls a fetus a fetus and gives correct information about Plan B, even though they are obviously anti-abortion.
I don’t think that they are any way deceptive about what they do and what their mission is. They don’t offer ultrasounds performed by non-medical volunteers who type “Hi Mommy” on the screen or stalk women if they think they are going to get an abortion. They do say they refer for counseling after abortion, but it is to a licensed, albeit Christian therapist, who has a degree that is not from some 6-week course in “pastoral counseling” or a weekend where people learned how to further guilt women in some sort of “post-abortion” counseling group.
So even though this particular CPC is probably one of the “better” ones, this isn’t good enough for me. They still use the lure of free pregnancy tests to bombard women with their personal beliefs in God and abortion. They don’t ultimately care about helping the woman figure out what is best for her, even if that is having an abortion. The ultimate goal, the reason for existence, is to talk the women out of having an abortion, to take away one of her choices. So while the initial anger faded, the feeling of knowing I can’t in any way, shape or form belong to a group that supports in any way the limiting of choices for peoples’ reproductive health remained firmly. Is it a big thing? No. Are my feelings petty? Possibly, but I also realize that it doesn’t always take a one single, giant event to cause a person to change their beliefs.
What does this have to do with anything? Probably nothing for most people. For me, it makes me wonder about the person I could have become. What if instead of being that person who read everything she could get her hands on and questioned everything, I had become one of those people screeching at women on the sidewalk?
Nobody who knows me will dispute the fact that I am a passionate person. Maybe too passionate. I flung a shoe across my room screaming obscenities after watching a YouTube video of one of those Abolish Human Abortion “counselors” peering over a fence and trying to get video of a funeral home removing the remains of what was likely a much-wanted fetus from a clinic.
Once I decide a topic is important, I can become downright obsessive to the point of being annoying about it. So I guess I wonder how far away I am from those people who feel that religion is calling them to wave fetus porn, yell at clinic doors, straight up lie to women and in all other ways be huge assholes. Sorry, I can’t think of another word to describe these people. When I know I am right and it matters, I often feel the need to convince others. Ask anybody who knows me well. Even if I am not right I am persistent enough to get people to just agree I am right just so I will shut-up. (Sorry Mom, I said a naughty word again.)
I don’t question if I am right about being pro-choice/pro-access. I know, KNOW I am right that women should not be forced to carry unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies. I’ve heard all the arguments and yes, unlike antis I have actually considered that I am wrong. I just know I am not. There is no singular moment in my life when I became pro-choice. I have actually been pro-choice since before I had a term for it.
The problem comes when I try to figure out where I fit into religion. I know there are numerous denominations of Christianity that support a woman’s right to abortion. I am checking them out. Maybe I am “spiritual, not religious.” In spite of the bad language and criticism of “Christians” I throw around here, the truth is religion has played a strong role in my life. I have been involved in a lot of volunteer work and found a great deal of satisfaction in my religion.
I was never an unquestioning fundy Christian who thought the Earth was 6000 years old and Noah totally hung out with some dinosaurs on the ark. Just the idea of pterodactyls crapping all over the Ark is enough to gross me into being an agnostic. I always thought religion should be a personal, private thing rather than something that one used as an excuse to make hateful laws or to not do a job. I wasn’t however, willing to write off the idea of this groovy guy named Jesus who stood up to the religious establishment as well as came to save souls. And I’m pretty sure mine needs something besides more shoes to fling.
My other problem will come when I start to address this with more devout believers in my life. I know what is coming. It is the same thing that would come from an anti who read this. They are going to ask me why I am mad at God, and then speculate that something really horrible recently happened to me. I am sure many antis would speculate, and secretly take pleasure, from the idea that some traumatic event had come into my life.
Sooooo many religious people think this is a chance to convert you or bring you back into the fold. This is another reason I have begun to question religion. The Jesus of the Bible took no pleasure in other people’s pain. He tried to make it better. At the same time, he never forced anybody to believe, tried to change laws or chased people down to give them his message. He just put it out there and anybody who wanted to believe did. He certainly never talked about abortion and those people who are quoting verses from the New Testament to justify being jerks are taking them totally out of context.
They can rattle on about the little children coming to Jesus all they want. It was always pretty damn clear to me that Jesus was talking about thinking, feeling, and autonomous humans. Otherwise, the Bible would be talking about a bunch of pregnant women standing around getting their bellies touched and fetuses spouting Godly wisdom from within the uterus. I’m sorry, I just can’t say “womb.” Antis have used it so much the word makes me vomit in my mouth, even though it was probably a better fit.
So what is my point? I guess I don’t have one. I know there is room for many people with many different beliefs under the reproductive rights movement. I wish there was that much room in my particular religion for people like me. There doesn’t seem to be, and so now I have to find some other spiritual home, which isn’t easy. For all those well-meaning or not-so-well-meaning folks out there who think I am just mad at God, I can assure you I am not.
I am mad at people who have used God as an excuse to terrorize women, break the law and try to force everybody else to practice their brand of religion. You have ruined the concept for me, and who knows how many other people. You have certainly wasted time waving signs and terrorizing vulnerable people when you could have been out actually helping people. You have probably ignored numerous women who have quietly gone about the business of terminating a pregnancy they would have preferred to carry to term because you were busy hounding women who wanted nothing more than to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy regardless of all the promises made.
I keep thinking that surely there is a place that I can tolerate and that can tolerate me that will give me the same spiritual satisfaction I used to find in my particular religion. Goodness knows how many women who walk into clinics every day are struggling to deal with the same feelings, probably far more magnified than I am. The ones I really feel sorry for are those herded into “post-abortion counseling,” more accurately described as the world’s biggest guilt trip, trying to find peace with a decision they made. And before any antis are geared up to saying I am admitting that PASS or whatever you have named it this year is real, I am not.
No, no, no I am not! I do think that some people struggle for years to make peace with their decision to terminate a pregnancy, and maybe some never find it. However, I think there are moments in all of our lives that we struggle to make peace with, and maybe never find it. I think that is the part of the lure of religion, the idea that there is something that can instantly make every hurt and regret all better even though there isn’t an instant cure.
So maybe my issue isn’t so much with my religion, but with the people who lie about what my religion really says. I’m pretty sure there is no verse that say “thou shalt go forth waving graphic, photo-shopped signs and luring women into thy building where thou may lie to them about fetal development in order to scareth them out of terminating a pregnancy.” Maybe I am worshiping the false god of abortion. Maybe I am possessed by demons. Maybe I have been yearning to worship Moloch all these years. Maybe there is a tyrannical god hovering above who takes pleasure in smiting wayward women with pregnancy as punishment. Maybe the fires of hell are licking at my heels. Maybe the souls of millions of fetuses are hanging out in heaven full of anger ready to tell me off (although that doesn’t sound like heaven for the fetus, does it?) Maybe, but I doubt it.
Just like maybe I am losing my religion, but I tend to think it is more that my religion lost me a long time ago and I am just now noticing.