There Is No Santa Claus, No Easter Bunny, and No Common Ground!
On the subject of Reproductive Freedom, there can be no common ground between the militant anti-abortion religious right, including the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and those of us who believe that people have the right to use any method of birth control they choice, up to and including safe, legal abortion.
While most of Catholics in this country and much of the rest of the world believe as I do, that girls, women and their sexual partners should have this right, the Roman Catholic hierarchy would rather women die of AIDS, and they and their children die of hunger, rather than a sexual partner use condoms or themselves use artificial methods of birth control or be able to attain a safe, legal abortion.
There is even more below the fold!
Certainly we can find common ground with all people of good will of whatever faith who seek to reduce poverty in the world. But RCC bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the Pope, while talking the talk, have never walked the walk. We all know that uncontrolled human reproduction in a world with limited and ever shrinking resources eventually, inevitably, leads to human misery, especially for women and their children, the RCC and many of the other militant misogynist religious groups around the world apparently would have us all die rather than permit their followers to use effective birth control methods.
We can find common ground in our support of health care for the poor and underprivileged. Certainly we can find common ground with them in supporting our government’s responsibility to provide aid to those less fortunate than most of us in this country. But there is no common ground between those of us who feel that every girl or woman, who needs birth control or abortion care and can’t afford them, should not have to choose between accessing these services and feeding her family and the antiabortion, anti-birth control religious militants, including the RCC, that oppose all these efforts.
The RCC has a century’s long history of creating second class citizens of its female members. While its bishops and popes (like many of their antiabortion religious allies) now pretend that this is all about "protecting women," anyone looking at this history with an open mind knows that this has been, for at least 150 years, a never ending effort by mostly sexless old men (who often have forsaken their own vows of chastity as younger priests) to control women’s sexuality.
Unlike in much of Central and South America, Africa and parts of Asia, the RCC and their religious allies in Europe and the United States have not been nearly so successful in controlling their members use of birth control and abortion. Although they have done their best to do this. In the United States, they were successful in limiting birth control options for much of the 20th century. And while Roe v. Wade was an amazing event that legalized abortion care all over this country in 1973, it didn’t take long for the opponents of reproductive freedom to fight back. Initially, this happened in a tiny number of communities in this country. One or two young Catholic men began to show up at health facilities providing abortion care, sometimes accompanied by their priest. And in 1976, RCC member Rep. Henry Hyde was able to get the so-called Hyde Amendment passed that limited federal funding for abortion care. And the efforts of antiabortion religious militants became ever more vocal and violent. In 1977, two abortion providing medical facilities suffered attempted arson attacks in Oregon and New York. After Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, such attacks increased, and when Reagan, who as governor in 1977 had signed the bill eliminating California’s antiabortion laws, made a statement to an antiabortion crowd in Washington D.C. in January, 1984 that he would consider granting a presidential pardon to persons convicted of attacking abortion care facilities and their staff and doctors, the violence escalated to a remarkable degree.
While the RCC and its evangelical fundamentalist religious allies on the abortion issue shed crocodile tears and say that they regret any violence at hospitals and clinics and doctors offices, their messages of "abortion is murder," and "worse than the rape of children" and the constant encouragement of their young people to harass the women and families who seek help at these facilities, has sent a sometimes covert, often overt, message to the most violently inclined among their followers, that it is A-OK to attack doctors and staff members. Even to kill them.
This has resulted in a score or more of murderous attacks since 1991. As I have written before in another essay:
Militant religious fundamentalism, whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or of some splinter sect origin, presents the greatest threat to peace and security in the world today. Religious fundamentalists seem to share certain widely recognized characteristics and attitudes. They are certain that they, and only they, possess "The Truth." They all cite an external source for that "Truth": religious dogma, the Bible or similar "sacred texts," or a charismatic leader. They adhere to a good vs. evil belief system, all black or all white with no shades of gray, an "us versus them" mindset. All share in the ideal of a "traditional family" with the husband at the head of the household maintaining absolute dominance over his wife - or wives as the case may be - and their offspring. Fundamentalists usually express a justification for violence to oppose what they perceive as evil or to support what they "know" to be the good and true. They reject efforts to accommodate to inevitable social change and moral ambiguity. Most in our country are rabidly anti-communist, anti-abortion and homophobic, although "secular humanism" is rapidly replacing communism in their unholy trinity. Most are anti-intellectual, anti-science, prejudiced against minorities and even their co-religionists of slightly differing cant. (Fundamentalist Baptists know Catholics are going to hell and fundamentalist Catholics are certain that all Protestants are. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And all seem more than a little glad of it.) They are authoritarian, self-righteous, and zealously oppose any critical or analytical thinking which might alter their attitudes since reasonable doubt and a healthy skepticism are among their greatest sins. A visceral intolerance of female sexuality and an insistence on the subservient role for women are almost universal articles of faith among fundamentalists. Most view pregnancy as a blessing for the good wife or as God’s punishment of female licentiousness for those girls and women who don’t view a particular pregnancy as a benediction. Rigid heterosexuality and a double standard for male heterosexual conduct are seen as the only valid norms.
But it is only when religious fundamentalism is wedded to a militant and tyrannical agenda used by a ruthlessly ambitious political figure or party (Say the modern Republican Party and it’s own "sainted Ronnie Reagan" and the two Bushite presidents) that it becomes truly dangerous to dissenting individuals and to the society within which it might flourish. At the present time, most of the world’s religious fundamentalists say they are appalled by and deplore the violence perpetrated by small contingents in every major religion. But the fiery rhetoric of even those who say they deplore the violence, when it is combined with an ambiguous and covertly or overtly supportive reaction to the violence by government officials and law enforcement personnel, serves only to reinforce the violent behavior of unstable and emotionally immature individuals within the ranks of militant fundamentalism.
This is not meant to be an attack on all religion. Most of my beloved family members are devout Christians of one flavor or another. And I believe that any religion that can induce an active, selfless, inspirational and redemptive love in an otherwise slothful, self-centered and uncaring humanity is a thing to be encouraged and supported. And I know their faith does that for my family members and for perhaps most of the world’s religious peoples.
But if it is read as a rebuke of militant, exclusivist, hostile, and violent or violence promoting religious bigots (Operation Rescue, The Army of God and scores of other groups and fundamentalist churches) who have just enough religion to kindle sectarian hatreds, but whose faith is not nearly sufficient to quicken love and respect for others simply because of their humanity, this is exactly how I meant it.
For hundreds of years there has been a struggle between those who promote true reverence - which I believe is characterized by reason, tolerance, freedom, a firm belief in the basic human dignity of the individual, and the courage to promote these ideals – and the countless militant religious fundamentalists who proclaim a slavish devotion to a particular religious dogma and live lives committed to intolerance of the religious beliefs of others.
Militant fundamentalists too often have demonstrated, over hundreds of years, a willingness to "kill or convert", and sometimes do both, to those who subscribe to differing belief systems.
I am not at all sure this struggle can be won in my lifetime. I know only that it must continue.