Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Suffer and Hope! - Responding to the Better Than Brigade

Normally, I'm a-political. As far as I'm concerned, politics exist mostly to fix things: each party insists he can make life the way it should be or at least better than it is. Except we're human and we’ve never been all that good at fixing things. Eve was convinced she could fix her lack of wisdom by eating the forbidden fruit. Since that day, we human beings have been busy fixing whatever we can get our hands on.

I have long loved fixing things. One of the first things I fixed was an old TV. It was so old it had tubes and a bad black & white picture. It lived in the basement of my foster-father’s (the Victorian relict) home. He literally loved that old TV, preferred it to the one in the living room with its clear, colour picture and cable connection and cool cartoons and MTV. He scoured old repair shops to buy tubes and replacement parts whenever necessary. I often watched him work on it, even accompanied him as he went in search of what he needed. Then one day, I decided to open the back of the TV - just to look. I wanted to fix it too. On another day, I removed a tube and then replaced it. On yet another day, I fiddled with some other bit of wiring. And on one final day, I removed several tubes and replaced them in random order. My plan was to put them back correctly but I didn't remember where they had been originally so I closed the back and hoped for the best. I hovered around the next time he turned it on and watched as it emitted a noisy phoof!, a crackle of sparks and a puff of smoke. I had killed it. He tried fixing it and I hoped he’d succeed but it was beyond repair. Finally, he gave it to the owner of one of the repair shops and wiped tears from his eyes as it was taken away.

It would be grand if I could say I learned my lesson. I didn't. I fixed clocks, a walkman (at the beach, which was really stupid – no schematic and lots of sand), lamps, toys - all sorts of electrical and mechanical items. I fixed clothing and food and, for years, I worked on fixing myself. I’ve even tried to fix other people: there was the boyfriend I invited to dinner which was actually a set up to be criticized for several hours by me and my best friend; others have experienced my attempts to fix them too. Occasionally, my ministrations worked. Too often, they failed. Still, to this day, I honestly can’t say I’ve totally stopped trying to fix things or people (including myself).

At some point, I did begin to realize that I’m horribly inept at fixing things. I also came to see that I wasn't the only one with that problem. This desire to fix is a human condition. We perceive a problem and rush to fix it. Many of the horrors throughout history involve smart people fixing problems.

There are real problems that need to be healed. We are really broken and have real wounds. This is truly a fallen world. But we don’t know how to fix those problems. We’re inept whether we like it or not. We actually tend to make matters worse, often much worse. We forget we are not God. We don’t know much about how things ought to be. And we really don’t know what we’re doing.

Who amongst us would have saved the world by dying on a cross? And not saved us in sensible fashion, making everything clear and easy and genuinely safe? But rather saved us by giving us the choice to become like God through accepting something that isn't at all clear or easy or safe (at least not our definition of safe which includes not scary), accepting the cross? Who amongst us wants the cross? Who believes it actually does save? Isn't that one of the hardest things to believe?

My health has taken a very serious turn this past week or so. I’ve entered a new phase in being ill, have been out on disability since Monday. I can’t imagine getting better. The pain is bad - even 1000 mg of Vicodin four times a day isn't enough to ease the ache in my joints and blood vessels and abdomen. I certainly don't want this and I do hope the cadre of doctors treating me finds answers soon because I really, really want them to fix me. But this is what I have been given. This is my salvation. Even if it ends tomorrow, today, this is my salvation. And not only mine but hopefully, God is using it to help heal China and to care for a friend who is serving in Iraq. Still, it’s very, very difficult to imagine that my pain is somehow useful. I can’t hover and watch. All I can do suffer and hope.

That would be a great campaign slogan: Suffer and hope! But politicians don't run on such promises and we don't want them to. We want them to fix things even though, if we are honest, we know they can't – they’re at least as inept as I am. (God has done well not making me a politician.) And we do our best to believe they will. Even though we know party X is no better than party Y because both are made up of humans, we still put our hopes in X or Y. But that's also human - we hunger for a saviour. And even Catholics and other Christians forget that we have a Saviour and that he is the only one who can really fix things and us. And of course, if we're really honest, sometimes we don't forget it at all, we just reject the cross. Worse still, sometimes we actively embrace destruction for ourselves and others because we imagine that doing so will fix things.

Of course this piece is not just the musings of a fevered Catholic – I haven’t the energy for that. Rejecting the cross and embracing destruction are never private actions. They have repercussions, just as fixing my foster-father’s TV did. And sometimes those repercussions are huge. Sometimes they are so huge an a-political Catholic must speak out. Abortion is one of those times.

Some Catholics support Barack Obama and/or other candidates who endorse and work for abortion. It makes no sense. Many of those candidates honestly seem to believe that abortion is a way to fix things and many of their Catholic supporters honestly seem to believe the same thing. I’ve been engaged in a bit of an exchange with supporters of one such candidate and they do seem to be genuinely full of good intentions and desires. But it makes no sense for people who believe that God became an infant to support killing infants. Well actually, it does make sense if I remember it is horribly difficult to accept the cross. For a woman, there are times, when pregnancy is terrifying. When I was a teenager, I was once afraid I was pregnant. I remember the abject terror. That terror was as much the cross as anything I’m experiencing today.

Those who are anti-abortion tend to write and speak about abortion mostly from the perspective of saving babies. That’s exactly as it should be. An unborn baby cannot be his own advocate, cannot help himself. Anytime we let our voices be used on an unborn baby’s behalf we do a good thing. And we must do our best to protect babies.

Still, there are also foolish young girls as well as young girls who are victims of child abuse. There are terrified young women and older women. There are pressured women and women who are convinced the child they carry is a mistake who will ruin their lives, who is better off dead than living the kind of life they can offer, the kind of life society can offer. There are all sorts of girls and women facing the cross. And perhaps we who are anti-abortion forget their sufferings must also be remembered because it’s genuine suffering. Facing the cross is excruciating. It’s f---ing hard to face the cross. We can’t change it. We can’t fix it but only because the cross is not broken – it’s just horribly difficult. But no matter how difficult, the cross is the one thing that fixes every brokenness.

So its time to ask God to add Catholics who support abortion to the list of uses for this illness. And I’d like to ask you all to join me in prayer and asking God to use your sufferings for the same purpose. Catholics who support abortion are in desperate need of healing. We know that abortion cannot fix any problem, but instead murders babies and is the destruction of those who participate in it. And while the babies are with God, those who participant in it are choosing hell and leading others astray by preaching the message that it is good for Catholics to support abortion because abortion will fix this experience of the cross. It is a lie and we all know it. It is intolerable. It is a brokenness that cries out to be repaired and only God can do it. But we can participate. We can suffer and hope on behalf of those who will not.

(Those who are not Catholics also need our prayers. Still Catholics who support/engage in abortion are brothers and sisters who desperately need the prayers of their family.)