I was in the San Francisco Bay area this past weekend, epicenter of the culture war, for the Walk for Life West Coast. I reflected on the question “Why are Pro-life events Catholic?” leading up to the big gathering. I have to say I came back full of joy and hope after spending an afternoon with tens of thousands of other pro-lifers marching in what seemed to be an unending parade up Market St., which crosses through the heart of SF’s commercial center. While shoppers lined up on the sidewalks for deals from Old Navy and GAP, they were greeted with messages like “Smile, your mom chose life” and “Women deserve better than abortion”. I do believe these demonstrations nudge the cultural psyche toward making taking life unthinkable.
There are also many priests and religious present, as are signs bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe along with crosses and bible verses. Some groups recite the Hail Mary and others pray aloud more freestyle. Does the religious aspect compromise the credibility of the demonstration? In a secular culture, I’m inclined to think that it may, but having witnessed the event first hand I’m not so sure I’d be right.
It was the small but loud counter protestors who ascribed to the movement of young pro-life men and women as being the subject of patriarchy. Angrily they chanted slogans over megaphone and raised their middle fingers at us. Anybody seeing the joy of the Walk can easily decide which path is more naturally satisfying. Pure and rugged secularism is angry, because joy and freedom sooth the soul, of which these folks don’t believe.
I was encouraged by the diversity of the speakers at the rally, including a mainstream media commentator, a baptist preacher, with a benediction given by an Anglican bishop. Especially welcome was the presence of an organization called Secular Pro-life which solely advocates pro-life based on science! Their sign was simple: “Dismemberment is wrong!” A moral, but universally sensible, message. The week before was the commemoration of the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King, a baptist Preacher, who led marches arm in arm with people of goodwill, among them Catholic clergy and religious. This led to an end to a segregationist culture which valued people differently based on the colour of their skin.
Rather than downplaying the religious message within the pro-life movement, we should lead people to see the true universality of the pro-life message so that regardless of creed, all can both fully express their identity and join the fight to advance the cause of the most defenseless in our society.
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