View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Praying for Life - Dealing with a Dilemma

I went down to Planned Parenthood this morning for the pro-life prayer rally to be lead by Pastor Luke Robinson.

It was a cold, miserable day - 35 with mixed rain and snow, and a biting wind.

About 25 pro-lifers braved the weather to offer prayers and hymns, and to hear a few words from Pastor Robinson.

The last time we gathered there - when the weather was nicer - we had more than 100 people taking part in a prayer vigil. There were about 30 counter-protesters.

This time, the other side was represented by ...
(Hear any crickets?)

Pastor Robinson proclaimed "We are here, oh Lord, for every baby that is saved by people who stand (outside the clinics)."

He offered prayers not only for the victims of abortion - the women and the babies killed -but also the victims of violence, including those who died in the recent nursing home shooting, and the killing Friday of 13 people at a center for new immigrants in Binghamton.

He also prayed that the politicians who support abortion, the personnel in the clinics might themselves experience the mental anguish, the trouble sleep, the problems that some many women who have had abortions face so that they might begin to understand what they are doing and turn from the killing of babies.

And he asked God to shut down this Planned Parenthood clinic, and vowed that he would return to join us for a celebration when it does close.


I enjoyed the prayers. I was happy to say a rosary with some of the the other people there.

But I left saddened, and thinking.

I stopped taking pictures when a couple of the people brought out the aborted baby pictures. I prayed from that point on with my eyes closed or averted.

I don't like such images. They offend me on many levels.

The offend me because of the violence they reveal, the horrible things done to the poor babies.

They offend me because they are so horrible. I don't like graphic images (I've even been known to walk out of or turn off some movies).

But they also offend me because they are violent, and I don't want to be part of violence.

Yes, I know there are arguments for them. They do reveal what an abortion is like - and some people need images to help shock them into thinking about what is being done. People too often hide from reality, they seek to escape it - after all, isn't abortion on one level just another way to avoid dealing with a reality one does not want to face? So such graphic images may help to get some people to turn.

But in confronting, isn't there a danger that we are closing minds? Aren't we making it harder for others to convert?

As I watched vehicles go by, I thought about the children in some of them. As a parent I would have been angry had someone showed such things to my daughters when they were young.

And, sadly, when I have seen people display such images, there seems to be such anger on some of their faces.

Is this the most loving thing we can do?

I'm sure that there are people who will argue that it is. Sometimes you need to be hard to break through closed minds. We are trying to save lives and souls.

Indeed, I could easily fall into using such tactics myself -a part of myself that I don't like. I can come across as such an angry guy.

But I battle that tendency in myself, and I believe it is the wrong approach in the fight for life.

In my own stumbling way, I want to try to witness to God's love in all that I do and say.

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Blogger Barb, sfo said...

Lee, I'm with you on the graphic pictures.
My SFO fraternity used to accompany our spiritual assistant, Father Christian (great name, hm?), to an abortion mill once a month for a rosary together. He told us flat out that he goes every Saturday but when the trucks with the graphic pictures are there, he turns around and goes back to the church and prays there instead.
There were times when I brought some or all of my children with me, and it was a relief that we wouldn't have to encounter those. I don't want them to have to see that. I don't want to have to see that. I don't need those images to tell me how wrong abortion is. Yes, there may be some who do, but I think that those very extreme pictures do more overall harm than good.
God bless you for being there!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Jose said...


I know that the images are very strong. I have a hard time looking at them myself. It is hard for me to look at any image that shows blood and body parts (I couldn't watch a surgery either), let alone one that shows the result of such violence.

One question is if we are being subjective when saying that this images are not the right tool in the fight against abortion? Are we putting our own reactions to the images as a basis for how others will react to it?

A similar argument has been made about depicting our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. Some don't even like to see Him on the cross at all. There was a lot of debate about the Passion of the Christ movie for the amount of violence it portrayed. For some, it was what they needed to see the love God has for us. For others, including myself, it is a very hard thing to watch.

Barb is right. The images are not needed for the Pro-lifers to know how wrong it is. They are needed to show those who don't agree or who are oblivious as to what is taking place in an abortion clinic.

One of the reactions, as Lee said, might be anger. This could be the anger that should come up in anyone who is faced with a very grave injustice (as Jesus himself experienced anger and expressed it). The other reaction, and this could be the face you see on the people holding the pictures, is of extreme sadness that anyone could look at this pictures and not be moved to stop the violence.

The pro-abortion side has been very successful to hide what abortion is all about. I, with many others, didn't know where abortions where taking place until we got more involved. We know very well that the Devil likes it when evil is hidden from the Light of Truth.

In regards to the children, I can't say that I'm happy to have my children looking at those images. I know they have and I've talked to them about it. But at the same time, it is a truth that I don't want to hide from them if I'm going to ask them to pray against abortion.

Please, I'm not asking anyone to forget how they feel and stand with the images and hold them. I myself would choose a prayerful message or an image of our Lady instead of a graphic image. We need to find a common ground where the Truth is spoken no matter what and lives are saved despite our own broken efforts.

In the meantime, each one of us has to follow God as we feel called. We need to support each other and find a way of working together for the Glory of God and for the lives of the unborn.

Thank you so much for all you do and for all your help! I really appreciate it!

Thanks and God Bless,

10:34 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Jose - I know some people believe we need to use such images. I don't wish to argue with them, for they have a point: Sometimes it takes such images to "shock" people.

But as a Christian, and as a Franciscan, I am not comfortable with them. Does Christ want us to shock? That's not my understanding of Christ.

The Crucifixion is indeed bloody - though most depictions are not graphic. I had a hard time watching Gibson's Passion. But I chose to watch it. I was aware that it was graphic. I did not suddenly get it thrust in my face. If I had, I might never have watched it, or at least would have avoided it as long as possible.

Your children are lucky to have you to explain graphic abortion images. But the folks in the cars going by? Do they have someone who can explain? Or do they have someone who will plant in their children's minds that pro-lifer are violent?

To be honest, I have to consider carefully whether I can be involved in the future with actions where such images might be displayed. During 40 Days, at least when I was on, they were not there. But outside of 40 Days, this is now the second time people have dragged out such images. I almost walked out yesterday.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Mary Jost said...

I'm tired of defending the graphic signs, which we have used for the last 13 years out in front of Planned Parenthood, where they kill babies. They show the truth about abortion, after 36 years of mass murdering 50 million innocent, precious children why is this happening that we have to still make abortion comfortable to pro lifers? Children are not affected by the graphic signs but the parent or parents are who probably have been involved in abortion. How very hard it is for me, who has been out on the sidewalk for 13 years in front of Planned Parenthood, along with a small group of faithful pro lifers, to show them. It breaks my heart to see what these babies went through & that it was their very own mother & a so- called doctor who did this to them. It's only because I know that these precious babies, who lost their lives in such a violent way, are now saving other babies lives, that I can use them. "Abortion won't end until people see what abortion looks like", a quote from Fr. Frank Pavone, from Priest for Life. I also ordered brochures, from Priest for Life, talking about how these graphic signs saves lives & must be used. It is loving to show them & to tell the truth. I'm just so sad that the pro lifers are not ONE by now after 36 years of murdering babies. I said to one woman, who also objected to the signs, when she came to the sidewalk "that it isn't about us, it's about them". In my years in front of Planned Parenthood I know that these signs HAVE SAVED LIVES. The most critical people, of the ministry, are the ones who only come out when everything is clean & neat & comfortable. Please come back when they are killing the babies. Our ministry uses the graphic signs but you can come out, with signs that are non graphic, to be in front of Planned Parenthood, to witness & to help save lives. Just please, don't criticize the people who have been faithfully out there for years when nobody else wanted to be, taking all sorts of abuse, bad weather, enduring pain & misery at the abortion mill. Where is the LOVE from you?

7:37 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Mary - I said "I know some people believe we need to use such images. I don't wish to argue with them, for they have a point: Sometimes it takes such images to "shock" people."

So I am not saying pro-lifer should not use such images. I am not attacking you or cricizing you personally. But I am saying that that is not my way.

But Mary, I am an ally. I have been out there in the snow and the rain and the cold - at Planned Parenthood and elsewhere - yet you throw something at me like, "Where is the LOVE from you?"

I questioned tactics, not the people doing it. You criticize me.

I am sorry if I hurt you.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Let me add, Mary, thank you for your years of committed service.

6:19 AM  

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