when you say to me pro-life

by Preston

Author’s note: this post originally ran on my own blog on November 4th, last year, and the kind editors of Deeper Story are letting in run again because of the business of the holidays.

I

When you say to me pro-life.

I’m in her backyard again, the one with the magnolia tree that hung so low that one winter, the branches dipped into the pool. We are in a time long enough ago that it is a blurred image. Our feet dangle in the pool midsummer like those low handing winter branches; we count the stars overhead, blessing given to Abraham, find the number too many to name, find the circle of our eyes too narrow to see the whole, find the whole that in this moment seems to be without us, without God.

Texas requires parental consent. I think her step-mother. I don’t think her father ever knew.

Come over? I can’t—come over?

We were friends once, perhaps even then. We were friends looking up into the stars that we could not count three days after she terminated a pregnancy that, if our math was correct, was conceived eight weeks previous. We had made the calculations. We have numbered our fingers, then a crumpled sheet of notepaper between us, and again, when we doubted, on the Playbill from a performance of The Tempest she had seen at the end of May.

I knew the father, but I can’t remember his face now. I’m not sure he was ever told.

It took ten minutes.

Ten minutes.

I didn’t know ten minutes could mean all that.

II

Tuesday, in America, we queue in tidy lines and decide the next four years of our civic future.

There have been a lot of issues with the issues thrown around. Abortion has been one of them. And regardless of how idealized we conceive our candidates, it is prudent to note that much concerning abortion will not change under either candidate. Roe v. Wade is long from, if ever, being overturned.

But, more than that, our rhetoric won’t change.

Banners that read abortion is murder will still have the invisible asterisk beside the last word, the exemption clause observed by many in the pro-life movement, that if the mother has been raped or is the victim of incest, abortion is understandable.

These are the same people, usually, who advocate capital punishment. Life for life.

Then there’s the other side.

These are the same people, usually, who argue that a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy but do not see conflict with laws that recognize the murder of a mother and her unborn child as a double homicide.

These are the same people, usually, who advocate euthanasia. Right to end life.

And somewhere in the tangle, phrases like pro-life and pro-choice slip through the cracks of our broken words.

III

He didn’t know.

I’ve just remembered.

She never told him.

Ten minutes.

We had made the calculations.

Ten minutes could mean all that.

She cried on my shoulder for a half hour.

If you had been there, I wonder what you would have seen? I wonder if you would have thought her to feel guilty? I wonder if you would have thought her to be suddenly penitent for what she had done?

What if I told you that she wasn’t?

What if I told you that she wept because of the mess of it all, that she didn’t believe it had been life within her, that to this day, she still doesn’t?

What would you make of the way I held her? The way her hair smelled of sea-foam and lilies? What would you make of the moment I told her she was still loved, still cared for, still accepted?

What would you make of how I believed in that moment, I was most like Christ to her?

What would you make of how I believe this was being pro-life? Caring for the life in my own arms?

This was Christ. In that moment.

Ten minutes could mean all that.

IV

I am pro-life.

Without—I’m trying to become—qualification.

I believe abortion is the failure of good.

I believe euthanasia is the failure of good.

I believe capital punishment is the failure of good.

I believe war is the failure of good.

I believe the taking of a life, any life, is against the ethic that Christ reveals to us in the Gospels, that Paul expounds upon in his letters, that is prefigured by the gravity with which the Father regards the killing of an innocent in the Old Testament.

I believe the early church showed this sort of non-violence. I believe they saved babies from infanticide and cared for the elderly and infirm and refused to go to war because they were pro-life.

And I believe these things without asterisks. I believe them without exceptions. I believe them without equivocation.

But.

I am pro-life.

Which means I have held a would-have-been-mother after she aborted her child. Which means I have prayed for the one in a coma. Which means I have prayed for the one he told me of on death row. Which means I have prayed for the soldiers to come home.

Which means that I am against abstinence-only education in public schools, because abstinence without the context of Faith makes no sense, makes no legitimate claims, makes no moral case. Without God, two become one flesh is meaningless. In a nation of separated church and state, abstinence-only is an impractical gesture toward an empty claim. Condoms or not, kids in high school are still going to have sex. With better access to condoms, though they are no guarantee, they could reduce the amount of abortions among teenage girls.

Which means I am advocate for stricter gun control.

Which means I believe war must be the last option, if ever an option.

Which means that I applaud many Christian feminist ideals like paid paternity leave and children being placed with the parent most suited to care for them.

I am pro-life.

I believe the women who choose to abort are women that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

I believe the doctors who choose to euthanise are doctors that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

I believe the executioners who choose to execute are executioners that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

I believe the soldiers who choose to defend by lethal force are soldiers that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

And I will bring them to my dining room table, I will feed them, cry over them, listen to them, love them, strip to the waist and wash their feet.

You will not find me holding the protest signs. You will not find me shouting in the streets.

But you shall find me weeping when someone says war is the only option, drop bombs from the drones and find me unable to speak when it’s only a fetus, my right to choose.

Because it’s all I can give.

Because ten minutes can mean all of that.

V

I wanted to be so much clearer with these words. I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to say that the ethics of being pro-life mean perspective for the whole of life.

Others have said something similar, something better.

We need to start welcoming young mothers with loud children into our services better. We need to not glare at them when their children cry. We need to not gawk when they breastfeed in public.

We need to start welcoming older people and the infirm in our congregations, making sure they are looked after, connected to, respected.

Somehow, this is about being pro-life, too.

This is about changing how people think. How they live.

VI

This thing of darkness I Acknowledge mine

VII

When you say to me pro-life.

I am there, again, holding her close, letting her cry.

I am letting her let all of it out.

I am saying nothing about how I feel about abortion, because to say pro-life is to say it for the lost child and the young woman I now hold.

I hold her, for she is life, too.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.

She is the only life I have any power to save now.

And, even then, we do not believe that we are the ones who save.

When you say to me pro-life.

I am holding her, under the stars promised to Abraham with one twinkling light now gone dim, and we are caught in the void of an impossible, tangled mess of shattered hopes and crag-rock uncertainties, a circle that at times seems to be without us, without God.

Ten minutes can mean all that.

13 Responses to “when you say to me pro-life”

  1. Melissa December 16, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Thank you you for this. These words and the tension that you convey are what I have tried to to say but couldn’t seem to convey clearly.

    • Amanda December 16, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Truth!

  2. Rebekah Richardson December 16, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    I hardly have words.
    So beautiful, honest, and convicting.

  3. beth December 16, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    beautifully written and beautifully heartbreaking.

  4. Lindsay December 16, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    This puts words to so many seemingly contradictory feelings I have around these “issues”. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Tsh Oxenreider December 16, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Massive thumbs up here, Preston. Thank you for these words that describe what I fail to so often.

  6. Kendall December 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Preston, thank you for this post. It so beautifully articulates the complexity of being “pro-life”. These are all things I have felt for some time, but didn’t know how to say.

  7. Jess Wolstenholm December 16, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    I read this in my email. The email doesn’t show the author’s name. I pictured a woman sharing these beautiful words. You can’t imagine my surprise {and delight} to see your face and read your bio Preston. Somehow even more powerful coming from a masculine heart. Thank you.

    • Laura December 17, 2013 at 3:55 am #

      I completely agree, Miriam. I was so struck by these words of truth but somehow even more impressed when I saw Preston’s picture and realized it had not been written by a woman.

  8. Miriam December 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Beautiful. Simple beautiful, and so well put! Thank you!

  9. Diana Trautwein December 23, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Oh, so well done, Preston. Thank you, thank you.

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