A Missive on Choice and Control

Remove the beam from your own eye …

Matthew 7:5

Oh, yes: the Creator of the Universe has a sense of humor. There is no need for sitcoms or daytime talk shows in the heavenly realms because, well …

… we exist.

We — humans, that is — spend an extraordinary amount of time, pointing fingers at what other people are doing and have the gall to tell them what is right and true for them.

Really, now.

I wasn\’t going to get into the choice conversation, but I read something yesterday about the experience of a woman who had an abortion and it brought back to my memory a conversation I had with one of the students who was in the non-traditional program I worked for many years ago.

She talked about how she found herself in a situation — young, poor, and pregnant. Now, we could get into the whole \’she shouldn\’t have been having sex\’ discussion, but that\’s something entirely different. When you are young, poor, living in conditions that can\’t be described but once explained, once visualized for the horror and sadness and despair and ruin they are, you are all messed up. You might walk tall, head high, but inside you are a rotten mess of a person. There is no self-love. There is only survival. As relational beings, worth is defined by being wanted, desired, seen. When you are young and poor, the concept of being used is non-existent. You are using, they are using you, and the world keeps spinning.

She was young, poor, and pregnant, living with her mother and sister and perhaps several other relatives or near-relatives. Time robs me of the details, but suffice it to say that she could not bring a baby into that space. She favored her sister, who was older. Took her identification and went to a major city, not the one close to the one we lived in but the one farther away. She took the train, by herself I would guess, or maybe the bus.

She didn\’t tell us that.

She got to the city somehow, clutching her sister\’s identification, and walked into the clinic. They took the identification, gave her the paperwork. They put her in a room, told her to put on a gown. On the counter, she saw wrapped bundles of different sizes. They were still, like mummies.

What she carried was not yet in a state where it would be wrapped.

When the procedure was finished, they put her in another room. There were other girls, other women there, who\’d been where she\’d been, had done to them what she\’d had done. Some left bundles behind. Others, like her, left imagined bundles.

After a little while, she walked out the door and into the day, back to whatever mode of transport got her there, and came home.

I\’ve never forgotten her description of the bundles, of the shotgun-house-style clinic, where you walk in the front door and out the back.

The piece I read yesterday was similar and the author wrote something to the effect of that is something that never leaves you …

People on the \’pro-life\’ side of this conversation are waving their control cards, forgetting that the universe is contingent upon choice.

Now, don\’t get me wrong. I\’m not suggesting that abortion is \’the solution\’.

It\’s one of many.

Let me say again: the universe is contingent upon choice.

Unfortunately, when you are young and poor, the choices before you are not the same as the ones before the people shouting about life.

It\’s easy to say \’I would never …\’ when you are food-secure, housing-secure, financially-secure, have a support network, a good-paying job where you aren\’t trying to figure out which bill you can skip this month, or one more time without losing a vital service.

It\’s easy to say \’I would never …\’ when you\’ve never felt unworthy and alone and the only way to feel more than that is in the arms of someone who, if even for a moment, treats you like they see you, like they care for you, because in that moment, both of you need each other — right, wrong, or otherwise.

Yes, I would say that we all are pro-life, in the sense that we want to see ourselves, those we care about, and those we encounter each day survive.

That means we have to care about the Trevon Martins, about the Sandra Blands, about the unhomed people walking near the gas station market looking for a meal or a dollar, about the kids smoking meth to forget that their parents are smoking meth …

That means we have to care about healthcare for everyone, regardless of income, because no one should have to decide whether to eat today or get their medication filled.

That means we have to care about bullying, because even if you aren\’t young and poor, you might be so worn out and beat down that love is an action word that ends up in a situation that you never expected, even though you \’know better\’.

That means we have to care about war, because war is always anti-life. You can\’t have had a weapon in your hand and taken a life on the other side of the world and tell someone that they are wrong for not giving birth.

That means we can\’t judge. Sure, disagree all day long. But until you are willing to do something, to help educate boys and girls about self-care, self-love … until you are willing to be the one to love them, unconditionally, no matter what they look like, how clean they are, what language they speak, what dis/abilities they have, don\’t dare speak judgment.

We all have so-called dirty laundry, the things we hide, way in the back of the closets of our minds, that we pray no one finds out about. It could be theft, it could be poverty, it could be drugs or alcohol, it could be sex, it could be gossip, it could be slander, it could be … anything that we feel will bring shame to the fine, upstanding person we are today.

And above all, don\’t bring faith into the conversation, particularly in these United States. The country was not founded as a Christian nation and if it was, there isn\’t a single person who should be proud to say so. The history of this land is so bloody and full of lies and stealing that to suggest it was somehow ordained by the Creator is so horrible that I can\’t stand it.

Yet, those fine, upstanding folks who wrinkle their noses and flap their holy books at the idea of \’pro-choice\’ negate the slaughter of our American Indian brothers and sisters, negate the enslavement of our brothers and sisters from across the African diaspora, negate the continued marginalization of people groups in a place whose eastern gateway is guarded by a statue with words engraved on its base that are all about freedom.

Help me understand …

But you can\’t.

You can\’t explain how, for example, those same holy books were used to subjugate and bring fear into the hearts of enslaved peoples, or how those books sit in offices or meeting houses of groups that claim superiority of race (whatever that is, which again, is another story).

You can\’t explain how people can turn a blind eye to the \’sins\’ of religious priests who, for decades have harmed countless boys and girls and at the same time, open their mouths to judge a person for making a decision not to bring a life into the world that they can\’t care for, at a time when the shelves are bare of baby formula, when people can\’t afford to buy a home or rent an apartment.

But what of adoption? is the response, to which I reply, do you know what it takes to let something grow inside of you? Perhaps conception was through an act of violence or hate — what grows is more hate and harm. The residual pain and suffering inculcate that child. If by some miracle of fortitude or fright the mother delivers the babe into the hands of a desirous family, what will be wrought from the residual?

Several years ago, I wrote the following piece in response to a writing prompt:

Don’t get me wrong;

you is cute, but yo’ daddy took it, y’unnerstan’?

I ain’t got nuthin’ against you personally

but I jus’ can’t stand lookin’ at you ‘cuz you got his eyes.

For Trifextra, Week 57.

For some, life is perpetual pain and suffering and if you don\’t know, now you know, to quote Biggie.

But if that isn\’t your experience, send up a thousand praises.

There is also the issue of who gets adopted: so many Black and Brown children are left to grow up without that benefit. Families go to foreign lands to bring back European and Asian children — and I don\’t in any way suggest those children are unworthy! — yet here we are, back at the beginning, where people run from the horrors of the nation they\’ve created, ignoring the plight of hundreds of thousands of children right here, because they came from the \’wrong side of the tracks\’ or aren\’t the right \’look\’ (read: culture).

And the cycle of learned lack of self-love continues, perpetuates, festers.

Some of these same adoptive parents carry secrets of their own, like under the table adoptions, but that\’s okay, right?

I write this missive from a space where I\’ve chosen to be a Christ-follower. As I\’ve written before, I don\’t identify as \’Christian\’ unless forced to tick a box on a form somewhere, and even then, I think hard about the purpose of doing so.

I identify as a Christ-follower, because the personage of Christ is different than all this. The personage of Christ taught about choice, that no one is forced to do this or that but can make up their own mind to do either.

For all those who claim \’Christianity\’, might I suggest you read the Book. I mean, the whole of it — not just the parts you like, or the parts that you were told support your \’arguments\’, or the parts you\’ve heard at services through the years.

You might be surprised to find that it\’s full of choice instead of the control many have turned it into.

If you want to stand on one side or the other of this discussion, or any of the other discussions that are bound to come in the wake of this decision if it isn\’t rolled back, go ahead.

Just be prepared to stand before the Creator of the Universe and explain how you tried to force the speck of sawdust from someone else\’s eye while carrying a lifetime of giant wooden beams in your own.

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