Pre-election Reflections of a Pro-life 'Progressive'
There is an effort to paint those who adhere to orthodox Christianity as "regressive", when in fact they are the true progressives of our age.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - I write this reflection with less than two weeks to go in what most people are now calling “one of the most important elections in American history”. Of course why the person uses that phrase is quickly revealed if you allow them to continue to speak. And, their next comments, no matter which candidate they support or oppose, are usually given with a passion and a concern which I have not experienced since the old Nixon years.I am old enough to remember that period. I write as a 53 yr old former hippie, who, in the late sixties and early seventies, had some “questionable associations”, like Senator Barack Obama. In fact, two of the guys who graduated from High School before me actually became members of the “Weather Underground”, the radical wing of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). It was their descent into the lunatic fringe of what we called ‘the movement” that helped to bring me to a major turning point. It,along with the disillusionment I experienced when I joined the March on Washington to end the War in Vietnam and witnessed the violence between the demonstrators and the police, ended my interest in what was called the “radical agenda". Those early experiences also led me on a “spiritual journey”. I was deeply concerned about what I believed was an unjust war in Southeast Asia and worried about an American culture which I believed was giving itself over to the pursuit of material goods over our first obligations to serve one another as neighbors.
Fortunately, the seed of faith which had been planted in me when my parents led me to the waters of Baptism as a child, had taken deep root. The One who came to reside within me would not leave me alone to wander too far from the path that leads to life. I searched for answers to sincere existential questions. That search included the then almost obligatory hitchhiking journey across country to California, trying to find answers to why we literally and figuratively kept killing each other. Eventually, I came home. Home for me was the place where heaven touches earth and lifts it higher, the true counter cultural witness of every age, the Church founded by the Incarnate Word sent by the Father, Jesus Christ the Savior. The early Church fathers wrote that the Church was birthed from the blood and water which flowed from His wounded side on the second tree on Calvary’s Hill. There, on Calvary, the “Second Adam” did for all of us what we could not do for ourselves. There on that Altar of loving self sacrifice the Lord loosed us from the effects of the wrong choice our first parents had made at the first tree. There creation began anew. He then rose from the tomb, defeating the final enemy death and commissioned the Church to continue His redemptive mission until he returns to complete the work of making all things new. In that Church I found the “grace”, the divine energy of His Holy Spirit, which enabled me to honestly acknowledge the corruption of the world within me even while I contended with the corruption of the world around me. There I found – and still find – trustworthy principles on how to build a better world. All these years later, I am still trying to change the world, to move us all forward on the path to progress.
That is why I argue that I am truly a “progressive”. Oh, I know, some of my readers will now wince, given what that term has come to be associated with. But, bear with me. I do not want to be called a “conservative”. Much of what is corrupt in the current culture I do not want to conserve. I reject the term “liberal” since it is now associated with a definition of “freedom” and “privacy” which actually tries to defend reaching into the first home of the whole human race, the womb, and dismembering fellow human persons who are not wanted and then further insists that this evil act be enforced as a “right” with the Police Power of the State. I cannot understand how anyone who considered themselves a part of the old “counter culture”, like me, can now defend an all out War on the womb, an assault on our littlest neighbors. That is not liberal, it is evil. So, I am staking out a new ground, taking back a term which I insist is best applied to those who are motivated in their missionary work in the social order by the classically Christian vision of the human person, the family and the social order. I am a progressive.
In this election the cry of the American electorate is for “change”. As both major candidates try to position themselves as the agent of that change in these last few days Christians need a vision for the long haul, no matter who wins this election. Progressive" is an adjective, meaning "moving forward; advancing." Catholics and other Christians are the true “progressives” of this age. We have lived through word games for the last few decades of political discourse. For example, I have been actively involved in promoting legal recognition of the inalienable right to life at every age and stage for every human person for decades. I opposed the killing of innocent children in the womb, which is always and everywhere wrong because it is the taking of innocent life. I opposed euthanasia, no matter how it is disguised, because it is never compassionate to kill someone who is suffering. Instead, we need to care for them and ease their pain.
These positions have led to my being labeled a "conservative” at times. I opposed Capital Punishment because I agree with the Catholic Catechism and the “Gospel of Life” that it is no longer justifiable because bloodless means are available to punish the malefactor, to defend society and to serve the common good. I opposed the initial foray into Iraq as morally wrong, unable to be justified under any effort at applying the "Just War" Theory. However, I am also now deeply concerned for what could occur in the aftermath of a precipitous withdrawal. I insist that we have obligations in solidarity to the poor and I have called for economic reforms, including the establishing of a just family wage. I believe that the market economy must always first be at the service of the person, the family and the common good. In my espousing all of these positions, some who agreed with my unqualifiedly pro-life bona fides have sometimes tried to dismiss me as a "liberal". Others have used the term "leftist" in response to some of my writing. I insist it is time to move beyond "liberal" and "conservative". All faithful Catholics who seek to apply the full palate of Catholic Social teaching are not "left" or "right", "liberal" or "conservative" but simply faithful Catholics.
The misuse of the word "progressive" these days as a description for those who support a return to the barbaric practices of cultures past which practiced unlimited abortion, infant exposure, and sexual license masquerading as liberty, is one more example of what the late, great C.S. Lewis in his "Studies in Words" called "verbicide."
There is an effort to paint those who adhere to orthodox Christianity as "regressive", when in fact they are the true progressives. It has been the contributions of Christian thought throughout modern history, such as its’ insistence on the inherent and inviolable dignity and worth of every human person, that have helped to produce authentic social progress. It has been the truths proclaimed by the Catholic Church that have exposed errant philosophies that have enslaved whole Nations. It has been a Christian world view and anthropology that have helped to promote true human and cultural liberation. The hostility we currently face as Catholics is not an unfamiliar one. We need to see it within the light of two thousand years of Christian history. I do not care how "advanced" some of our contemporaries think they have become, or how "modern" the "current" issues purport to be, we humans do not really change all that much, at least without grace.
The struggle we are engaged in today still concerns a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human flourishing and social and political progress. Contemporary revolutionaries, who like to call themselves "progressive" are often anything but. They want to turn the clock back. It is the Christian vision of faithful, monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person; indeed the very insistence that there are objective truths that can be known and unalienable rights that are endowed on all men and women such as the right to life, which have guided true social progress by freeing people from the bondage of disordered appetites and unshackling them from the tyrannies rooted in sin. It has been Christian contributions to political, social and philosophical thought that have helped to overcome the slaveries that have arisen from errant ideologies and superstitions that have treated people as property to be used and manipulated rather than gifts to be received which have helped to return our Nation to a true and just economic and political order. It is the Church which has spoken truth to power, condemning the lies that elevate power and function over the primacy of the person, suppressing the deeper and higher values that civilize and set people and Nations free.
Authentic Christians insist that true freedom be exercised with reference to an objective moral code, a law that is higher than the emperor, the sifting sands of public opinion or even the Supreme Court. This moral code is written on all hearts, revealed in a "Natural Law" which can be known by all men and women. Authentic Christians must insist that choice, rightly exercised, means choosing what is right, and further that the freedom to exercise that choice brings with it an obligation to the poor and those who have no voice but our own because we are “our brothers (and sisters) keeper. No matter what the results of this 2008 US Presidential election, one thing is for certain. This former hippie is dedicated to building a new movement grounded on the the classical Christian vision of the human person, the family, authentic freedom and commmited to building a truly just social and economic order. This will be a movement for true 'progress’; a movement which resists the efforts of either the right or the left to co-opt it. A movement which will be unapologetically dedicated to promoting the truth of the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death as the ground of every other psoition and resisting the siren song of those who fail to hear the cry of the babies in the womb.I hope you will join this effort.