A Week of Renewal & Promise

What is this world coming to?

Death and destruction. War and terror. Burning, pillaging, genocide, ethnic cleansing. Hatred and injustice. Racism, homophobia, sexism. Poverty and illness. Shortage of food, dirty water, lack of medicine, expensive drugs.

The question above surfaces for many of us frequently. Although we may not be able to articulate such, it seems never far from memory, etched solidly in our unconscious. The world today does present challenges, there is no denying that. Where there is fear, however, there is opportunity. Where there exists atrocities and violence, there can be birthed peace and healing.  Behind all sin and shortcomings their exists a proportionate grace and invitation.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Yet, as this week alone reminded me, there is reason to celebrate the “proportionate grace and invitation” behind the doors of violence and injustice.

1) Martin Luther King, Jr. was honored on Monday. His witness to nonviolence and steadfast support of equal rights for all inspires us today. The Six Principles of Nonviolence is only one of his legacies: nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people, seeks to win friendship and understanding, seeks to defeat injustice not people, holds that suffering can educate and transform, chooses love instead of hate, and believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

2) Barack Obama was inaugurated the 44th President of the United States of America. While his legacy is yet to be determined, a new day has seemed to sweep across the country, valuing openness and respect, competence and integrity, unity and purpose. His presidency is no small feat. It’s one of those breakthrough moments, re-routing our collective expectation and energy for the future.

3) This Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the proclamation for Vatican II by John Paul XXIII. A renewed, excited, and enlivened Church emerged. It is still giving birth to many fruits, as it continues to open up faith, spirituality, and theology for many, providing access and invitation to being Church. No longer can we pit grace against human nature, religious against lay, or understand sacrifice as salvation – it’s instead provoked new questions, visions of a just Church and truly compassionate God.

The challenges are many and the load we bear is not light. The examples above demonstrate that these are burdens carried together, and although progress may not come as fast or furious as we would like, embodied leaders and movements of change do happen. This week is living proof. From this perspective, the world points to renewal and wholeness.

17 thoughts on “A Week of Renewal & Promise

  1. I would add that Friday the Mexico City Policy was revoked and the US now exports abortion to nations around the world. As one of the first acts of his administration this ought to put us all on notice that the pro-abortion agenda is a very high priority for our new President.

  2. Teresa, with all due respect, that is NOT what the lifting of the global gag rule does. My intent is not to make an argument for or against abortion, but simply to point out that the reversal of the Mexico City Policy simply means that funds can go to organizations that include abortion as an option when counseling women. That does not mean that the funds will go to either A) pay for abortions or B) serve as an “exportation” of abortion. I’m not saying that they may not be used for paying for abortions, because I am well aware that they may be used for that, but to assert that the repeal of the gag rule means that the United States is going to export abortions is off the mark.

  3. The Mexico City policy says that non-governmental organizations that receive federal money may “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations”. This has been lifted, these organizations may now perform and promote abortions with US taxpayer money. How is this not exporting abortion to other countries?

    We will now likely see US money going to “promote abortion” by trying to overturn laws in countries that forbid it’s practice, and abortions will be performed in many other parts of the world where it wasn’t before, or at least not with US money.

    This is not good and we ought to pray that the President has a change of heart and reverses this policy.

  4. Teresa83 – I respect your view on abortion. I would encourage all Christians, however, to put at the “pro life” issue in context. Historically conservative Catholics and Republicans have been the “moral police” in parading before America the evil and atrocities of abortion. Fine, I get this.

    Yet, conservative Catholics and Republicans turn against “pro-life” stands in almost every other area: human dignity as an immigration issue, an often expedient rush to war, lack of oversight for environment and ecology issues, standing against monies for abused and marginalized groups, soft gun control laws, and so forth. So while there is much to do about being pro-life and abortion, I would encourage folks to look at pro-life as being more than just physical birth but also quality of life. My hope is that all born into this world are welcomed by a safe, healthy, prosperious, peaceful, and loving nation.

  5. Ryan – The church leaves room for disagreement on those other issues, for instance there can be a just war, and there is a recognition that countries can control their borders, and while we are to be taking good care of our environment, we can disagree on how this is best accomplished. To sum it up; Some wars can be fought, some immigration policy can be implemented, however no abortion is ever justified.

    There is a loose alliance on the abortion issue with Catholics and Republicans but I think you’re mistaken to lump both groups together on the war, or anything else. The US Vice President who I think most would agree is a liberal Catholic voted for the war in Iraq, for the death penalty, for the Patriot Act, for abortion, and for embryonic research. I don’t think one can conclude that the liberal positions generally line up better with the Catholics on non-abortion related issues. IMHO abortion is so important to a segment of Catholics, that in our current climate, a candidate supporting abortion is automatically disqualified.

  6. The church may leave room for disagreement, or may not, but my conscience is formed both within the church and outside of such. History as shown as that Church can at times be unjust and unreasonable. Good people can disagree – this seems to be one of those situations.

    On a final note, while you may not agree with the Mexico City policy, I hope you will be open to the “totality of good” the Obama team hopes to foster and produce for the world. When all is said and done, I believe the Obama administration will do more good than harm, and after the last eight years of conservative, Republican rule, I am excited about the future.

  7. Ryan – I don’t think it’s true that this is a situation in which “good people can disagree” if we are talking about the immorality of abortion.

    I also don’t see much as far as the President Obama “totality of good” goes. It seems to me that so many of his “solutions” are death, things like: embryonic stem cell research, abortion, birth-control, infanticide, euthanasia, the death penalty. And just over a week into his presidency we see several of these things have already been signed or proposed. I don’t think that most people voted for him BECAUSE of these stances, and I hope he is made aware of this.

  8. I bet that is true, Theresa, that many people didn’t choose to vote for Obama because of his decisions like the mexico city policy. Because people were so drawn to him for his other beliefs, plans and the hope he instilled in people, we may have been tempted to minimize what we didnt like about his plans. I think I did that-I heard something that on top of not quite understanding it, I just didnt want to hear it.

    I’ve wondered about the language of ‘exportation of abortion’-what does that mean? My first thought was very literal, like we were going to send women to Mexico to get an abortion but that’s obviously not what we’re talking about. Is it exportation of funds to organizations that may support abortions?

  9. Lauren – We are not exporting women(yet) it is still harder to get an abortion in Mexico then it is here so your notion is improbable. However US taxpayer money will now go to Mexico to advocate for changes in their abortion laws.

    The Mexico City policy prohibited all non-government organizations that received US funds from promoting or performing abortions abroad. This ban has been lifted, thus we are exporting both the idea of abortion, and its practice through our funding.

  10. Teresa-
    The Mexico City policy prohibited all NGO’s that received US aid from MENTIONING abortion. That is NOT the same thing as organizations that either practice or promote abortion. And while I appreciate you thoughts on the issue and appreciate your passion, the reality is that, by far and large, these are NOT lobbying organizations nor are they organizations with a lobbying arm. The way politics works here in the United States is very different than how it works in other places, so to argue that we are working to change policy in other countries through the lifting of the global gag rule is incorrect. Many of these organizations are the only sources of women’s health, especially maternal health. In countries without adequate healthcare, it is often NGO’s that provide the vast majority of care and while that may include abortion if permitted by the country’s laws, they are also the major resource for women who would rather not die during childbirth. A ban on funding for abortions or for abortion advocacy would be very different than the Mexico City policy.

  11. Becky – NGO’s were free to provide heath care under the Mexico City Policy, they just couldn’t perform or promote abortion(though there were loopholes) if they took US Funds. Nobody was stopping them from providing health care.

    The lifting of this ban DOES allow these NGOs to promote abortion and try to overturn laws. International Planned Parenthood Federation is an NGO, which will had lost 20% of their funding under the Mexico City Policy, with the ban lifted they stand to get a HUGE increase in US Funds. IPPF as part of their mission statement advocates for the reform of laws pertaining to abortion, and “increasing the rights” to abortion. This most certainly will happen.

  12. As a clarification for everyone here, I’d like to share this great fact sheet from the Center for Reproductive Rights on what the Global Gag Rule/Mexico City Policy was:

    A few key points:
    1) Loss of US money in the past eight years has led to the closing of clinics that provide health services including STI screening and treatment, integrated health services to HIV/AIDS patients, and pre- and post-natal obstetric care
    2) While some organizations which will receive USAID funds may lobby to change laws on abortion rights in their country, NO US funds may be used for lobbying purposes

    Teresa, I do find it ironic though that you said to Lauren that we are “not exporting women (yet).” Pre Roe v. Wade, women actually did travel to Mexico seeking safer abortion services than they had in the US. If Roe was overturned, it’s likely that we would be exporting women again.

    Quite frankly, I’m pleased that this was one of the first things on President Obama’s agenda. As Ryan so eloquently stated, my conscience has been formed both within the Church and outside it as well. I guess that is what it is, and you are free to make your own judgments about it.

  13. JJ – Interesting that you site conscience formation from both inside and outside the church yet you only link to a site that is most definitely outside the church.

    The fact sheet is ridiculous; these NGOs could have continued to receive US funds and continued to treat the sick had they simply chosen to adhere to the Mexico City Policy. THIS WAS THEIR CHOICE. I think it says much about their priorities that they chose to close clinics rather then stop performing abortions. Isn’t it alarming to anyone that they would rather abort babies then treat the ill; couldn’t this increase in US funds be put to better use then to increase worldwide abortion?

    The most interesting thing I saw on that site actually helped debunk Becky’s claims about lobbying. Under “myth” is “Few organizations have a history of lobbying for change in the legal status of abortion.” Next under their “reality” section they actually lament that they haven’t been able to lobby against abortion restrictions in “at least 20 countries”. Presumably with the Mexico City Policy no longer standing in the way the lobbying will recommence.

    Interesting history lesson on women going to Mexico for safer abortions pre Roe vs Wade. Especially since it was at that point a state issue, and it would have been easier to get an abortion in California then in Mexico where it was illegal.

  14. Teresa – Why is it so interesting that I cite the Center for Reproductive Rights, especially when it proved one of your points – that USAID funds could go to organizations that lobby for abortion rights (although the USAID funding does not pay for such lobbying efforts)? Simply because it is not a Catholic organization?

    How is the fact sheet ridiculous? Do you deny that organizations lost funding due to the Global Gag Rule/Mexico City policy? Personally, I find it alarming that certain groups in the US think it is appropriate to deny women basic health care because they disagree with women even hearing about their legal rights. Again, this isn’t about the provision of abortion services, this is about talking about the possibility of access to abortion services.

    If you’re interested in the history of abortion rights in the United States, I would highly recommend the book Abortion and Life by (swoon) Jennifer Baumgardner.

  15. jj- you’re missing the point, NGOs chose to refuse the money, they could have continued to provide health care and continued to receive US funds, if they would have dropped abortion. Do you deny that NGOs lost money because of their decision? Is it wrong for me to assume that abortion is more important to them then health care?

    Yes I think it’s interesting that Becky and the site you linked to disagreed on lobbying, since that seemed central to her arguement I wonder if she’ll reconsider.

    I find it hard to believe that many women traveled to Mexico a country where abortion was illegal because abortion there was “safer”, I’d be interested in investigating that claim.

  16. Teresa, I don’t think I’m missing the point. “Dropping abortion” as you put it, IS denying women access to healthcare information. Women deserve access to a full range of information about their legal health care options, no matter where they live and no matter where they receive their care.

    I believe we’ve reached an impasse. I understand how you feel, but I vehemently disagree. I believe strongly that denying funds to organizations that provide women with their full range of legal options, or who are working to increase the health and safety of women, is illogical and immoral. And I am extremely grateful to President Obama for ending this atrocity.

    While you may find it hard to believe that women traveled to Mexico for abortion services pre-Roe, I would again encourage you to check out Jennifer Baumgardner’s book – a quick flip through my copy led me to a woman’s first-person account of the experience on page 45. Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade, referred women to safe abortions in Mexico while she was in law school: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,409103,00.html So, yes, that is a part of the history of this issue in the US.

    Best wishes, and God bless.

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