Saturday, June 9, 2012


I had a curious exchange after testifying before the House Health Policy Committee last Thursday.  A gentleman approached me (I believe one of the Congressmen who supported the anti-abortion omnibus of bills) and warned me about the anger I was expressing.  His tone was not reproachful but almost cautionary, as if he was more worried about me than others who might perceive my anger.

The conversation made me think about what emotions I was indeed feeling, and continue to feel days later.  I suppose he was right, that Rage is my primary emotion on this issue.  Rage at the disproportionate concern being expressed for the unformed unborn over the needs of existing children - hungry, homeless, undereducated, unwanted and unloved; over the physical, mental and spiritual health of pregnant women whose most private and personal selves are being violated largely by rich White men with a moral agenda; and over the ethical health of a society with no qualms about murdering innocent children overseas in our wars of conquest, murdering our environment for financial gain, and murdering the basic tenets of democracy and freedom through tyrannical law-making, fiscal slavery, hate and fear-mongering.

I also feel intense Sorrow.  I grieve for the countless women whose stories are going unheard, whose opinions are dismissed because they don't support the narrow theology of conservative lawmakers.  I am deeply saddened that every woman in our world still lives in abject fear of the violence of men, and the imposed will of men over their bodies.  I mourn the broad lack of compassion among my fellow men for our sisters, our wives and partners, our mothers and daughters.  And yes, I do feel sorrow that abortion must exist as an option at all.  But, the fact is that abortion has always and will always exist for certain circumstances, and so long as governments try to legislate morality and religious belief.

Confusion.  I remain mystified by the so-called "pro-life" position.  Listening to their rhetoric, the only logical conclusion is that their first and foremost objective is not the preservation of life, but the control and regulation of women's reproductive organs and their lives as sexual beings.  If you truly believe that human "life" begins at conception, then wouldn't you want to eliminate all unwanted pregnancies?  Then why would you not support mandatory sex education, the widespread availability of affordable birth control, extreme penalties for sexual violence against women, and the elimination of objectifying stereotypes that portray women as merely sex objects for the gratification of men?  If you truly value all human "life" then you must certainly oppose capital punishment.  You must certainly want society to impose more controls on handguns, whose primary purpose is shooting people.  And you must be a pacifist.  Unfortunately, I have met few "pro-life" individuals who also hold these other positions.

I am Afraid.  Yes, I am a minister.  Being a public figure is part of the job and I accept that responsibility willingly.  That doesn't make things any easier when a politician uses his position to berate me after misinterpreting my words and twisting their meaning.  That doesn't make things any easier when I see how people justify violence against others by their selective application of religious creeds and the permission they feel divinely derived.  And while the many martyrs to the causes of freedom and justice are my heroes, that does not mean that I necessarily wish to join their ranks.

But I am also Hopeful.  I have a vision of a future society where reason and conscience prevails.  I see a time when the measure of a person's success is not the acquisition of money and possessions, but the good deeds they perform.  I know that others share this vision and the desire to make it come about.  So I am not Lonely.  I am Committed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The War on Women Comes to Michigan

This morning, I drove to Lansing in the hopes of speaking in opposition to an anti-abortion omnibus of bills that are being rushed through the Michgian House.  They are House Bills 5711, 5712, and 5713, and Planned Parenthood is calling them "the biggest assault on women's health in our state's history."

The House Health Policy Committee met this morning to hear testimony and vote on recommending the bills for consideration by the House.  After the three sponsors' voices were heard, only three supporters and three opponents were allowed to speak (in spite of the fact that many dozens of others came to speak against the bills).  I was privileged to be selected as one of the speakers and I hope I did justice for my sister allies across the state.  Here is the text of my comments.
As a person of faith, I strongly oppose the proposed legislation for several reasons. There is no evidence to support the assertion that human personhood beginsat conception or even in the first trimester. Until the unborn child loses its prehensile tail and displays independent mental capacity, it is merely a potential human being. Until that time, the decision to continue or discontinue the pregnancy should lie with the mother who, in the end, is the person most affected by the decision, morally and medically.

At a time when millions of unwanted children are hungry and unable to get proper medical care, when millions of families are joining the ranks of the homeless while bankers profit off their misery, while we murder innocent children in endless wars in foreign lands while laying off teachers and closing schools, you have far more important work to do than further oppressing women and their doctors from making informed choices in the best interests of the woman.

And, to require a woman who is the victim of rape or incest to carry to term the enduring burden of that heinous violence is nothing short of cruel and abusive behavior. I cannot even begin to imagine how it feels for a stranger – or even worse, a trusted relative – to violate my most private and personal core being; and then to be prevented by my elected officials from getting the medical treatment I want from physicians willing to provide it? I cannot even begin to imagine the feeling of that invasion for nine long months, all the time risking my health and increasing my lifelong risk of a myriad of diseases? If you justify this proposed legislation on religious beliefs, only a convoluted interpretation of the scriptures of any religion would ascribe such a scenario as desirable by a loving god.

Until you pass laws making birth control widely available and comprehensive sex education mandatory, you have no moral right to legislate the consequences of their absence. If you truly care about children, then feed the boys and girls we already have. Give them the medical care they deserve. Provide them with schools and education so that they don’t ever need to make the decision regarding terminating a pregnancy. Find jobs for their parents, so their families can stay healthy and strong.

People of faith stand on the side of love. And loving means giving people the resources and the opportunity to make their own informed choices, not imposing government-sanctioned moral codes. People who believe that a fertilized egg has a soul have the option to reject abortion. Every woman deserves the opportunity to make that choice based on her own personal theology. This proposed legislation is a violation of our time-honored separation of church and state and I urge you to reject its continuation.
On of the legislators asked if I opposed the provisions of the bills supposedly aimed at improving the quality of women's health care provider sites.  I replied that safe and high quality abortion services should be available to all women in the state, regardless of where they live, their economic status, or color.  Another followed up, asking me if I thought his tax dollars should be allowed to pay for something he was morally opposed to.  I responded that my tax dollars are paying for murder in Afghanistan. 

Of course, in the end, supporters of the bills had more than enough support, and they will go before the House soon.  The War on Women has opened a new front in Michigan and the battle will be quickly lost if we do not mobilize quickly.