Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the Bishops of the Catholic Church in America have called us to a day of penance. I think I shocked the 6:30 a.m. Mass crowd a bit this morning when I started my homily by saying, "I know whom we are to blame for abortion."
"And Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Elmo and the Count."
"And those parents in their Suburbans with the little yellow signs that said, 'Baby on Board,' and who told their precious cargo, 'Honey, you can become anything you want: an astronaut, a doctor, a geologist, why, even President of the United States.'"
You see, Mr. Rogers (and the folks who placed him on TV all those years) told our children that they were good - even special. Big Bird and his pals told kids that we are all good, and special. And those parents - along with the teachers of their children - made sure that "never was heard a discouraging word" by those kids.
Of course, all of this runs contrary to what God has revealed in the Scriptures - that uncomfortable mirror that God holds up to us that says, "no, you're really screwed up - a sinner, even - just like Sarah and Jacob, David, Simon/Peter, and Saul/Paul." Those crazy scriptures in which Jesus doesn't say, "you can be anything you want," but instead, "apart from me you can do nothing," and "the greatest among you will be the servant of all." In other words, "YOUR LIFE IS NOT ABOUT YOU."
Downward mobility is hardly sought after in our narcissistic culture. And that's what we have, according to Jean Twenge, Ph.D., author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before. She has surveyed the results of standard personality tests over the last 50 years and discovered that we have built the self-esteem of our children to the extent that now two-thirds of college students score above average for narcissism. Self-esteem is everywhere. Twenge writes,
"The choices of the individual are now held so paramount that the most common advice given to teenagers is "Just be yourself." (That that long ago, it was more likely to be "Be polite.") Filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks) says, "My generation believes we can do almost anything. My characters are free: no social mores keep them in check." Or take Melissa, 20, who says, "I couldn't care less how I am viewed by society. I live my life according to the morals, views, and standards that I create." This is the social trend-so strong it's really a revolution - that ties all of the generational changes together in a neat, tight bundle: do what makes you happy, and don't worry about what other people think. It is enormously different from the cultural ethos of previous decades, and it is a philosophy that GenMe takes entirely for granted. "As long as I believe in myself, I really do not care what others think," says Rachel, 21.
I presume that these young people didn't come up with this philosophy on their own. It's how we raised them, so it's also what we, the older generation, believe.
You can see how "pro-choice" becomes such an attractive option - it's practically the dogma of at least two generations. It makes no different what the choice is about, I should be entirely free to make whatever choice seems best to me.
On a different tack, I have heard many pro-choice people argue that if abortion were made illegal, women would be "forced" to obtain abortions illegally, in back alleys, like the bad old days.
I think there is some real wisdom in what they are saying. In fact, they're right. That's why I believe simply working to make abortion illegal is problematic. Yes, lives would be saved, so by all means, we have to work to make abortion illegal. But more importantly, we have to work to change the way we think, the way we view one another, and the way we treat one another. Otherwise, a ban on abortion would be similar to Prohibition. A law that makes some of us feel good and righteous, but ultimately fails miserably because it doesn't address the reason why people want to drink, or the reason why people (not just women) want abortions.
It's a very complex, multi-faceted issue, that lay apostles need to address. Jean Twenge has hit upon something important. We need to address our hyper-sexualization of the human person. Something's desperately wrong if my precious child in school cannot be hugged and comforted by a teacher (especially a male one) when he or she falls and skins a knee. Something's wrong if co-habitation is an everyday event on prime-time TV (and we think homosexuals asking for "equal marital rights" are destroying marriage!?) Something's wrong if a teacher cannot discipline a child without wondering if her helicopter parents will call in the evening to complain about how unfair and cruel the teacher is. I just read in the article associated with my post on the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic that the majority of abortions in this country are performed on blacks and Hispanics. Why? Because they care less about life? No, because a poor, single mother sees it as her only choice. Abortion is linked to poverty, to our lack of sexual morality produced by our need to be titillated almost constantly (sex sells, after all - and lowers morals while raising libido), to our ethos of I > U.
If we want to look at the villains behind abortion, we might as well start by looking in the mirror. Society won't change until we change first, and demonstrate that a life in Christ is worth living. It is a life in which we admit our need for conversion, dependence upon Jesus and the guidance of His Church, and that the path to real joy and peace in this life as well as the next is found in serving others, and loving them as ourselves.