Pathetically ignorant

Have you ever talked to a nun? Spare me your thwacked-with-ruler stories from Catholic schoolrooms of yesteryear. No, what I’m asking is if, as an adult, you’ve had any sort of meaningful interaction with a woman in a habit. It’s not commonplace, since their numbers are dwindling, and while we’re busy checking Twitter and making our own seltzer, they’re squirreled away feeding the poor and praying for us. However, if you had ever, say, shared a moment with a nun, I think you’d be unlikely to post something like this.

Put your personal beliefs in your back pocket for a second. Toss out your partisan reactions (for good, because they’re bullying propaganda and you’re better than that). Understand that most thoughtful people think a woman’s use of contraceptive drugs, abortifacients, and essentially all things concerning her baby-making innards is between her, her doctor, and (for some) her God. Lord, how I wish this was never made a political issue, and left to the good sense of our well-trained doctors and the informed women they have the privilege to treat. I’m also not thrilled with how it’s been hijacked as a moral issue, because, well, I don’t think anyone deserves that sort of judgment apart from her Maker. And though not entirely relevant to this collection of paragraphs, these choices need to remain available to all women, because political people have no medical chops and should never be given this sort of power over our baby-making innards.

And now that you know where this writer (and many good, non-Catholics) stand on things related to women and their attendant bells and whistles, and that this discussion isn’t to shout at you about right and wrong, then let’s go back to those sweet ladies in the convent, those Brides of Jesus, the women devoted to their Faith and service in a manner that should garner your respect, if not floor you with awe. Certainly, if you had spent an afternoon with a nun, you couldn’t possibly think something like this—much less post it on Facebook:

“This is a frivolous damn suit and the sooner they are smacked upside the head by Sotomayor, the better and cheaper for all of us! How ridiculously stupid this suit is and a giant waste of time!!!! The lawyers for these pathetically ignorant people should be run into one of those old Colorado mineshafts…”

And that was one of the calmer comments on Rachel Maddow’s site. These “pathetically ignorant people” are our society’s defenders of Faith. Their complete dismissal as Republican pawns pains me physically. These are nuns, who apart from some ancient ruler-thwacking stories of old, are kind-hearted ladies committed to a life of prayer and good deeds. Let’s give them a moment, shall we?

Imagine your most deeply held belief: that all humans should have enough to eat, or that we must be responsible custodians of the planet, or that all children deserve protection. Whatever unshakable right you imagined, whatever I-will-stand-up-to-Goliath issue has you sandwich boarding all over town, or just quietly championing in your thoughts, then imagine the passion a nun would bring to the cause. Nuns devote their entire lives to these issues… and lately their most public concern is the protection of all children. Inconveniently, they include potential babies in that category. Please allow them this deeply held philosophical and religious belief. And instead of making arguments against them—just for one moment– aim for understanding.

What if you believed this to your very core: that small clusters of potential-people cells were sentient, God-given gifts of Life, sacred and defenseless? Try it on for a second. If you cannot entertain this notion for even the slimmest moment, then click back over to Rachel Maddow and join the fray. But if you could place yourself in those gum-soled shoes for a second, then imagine if you could then take a pen to paper and potentially sign away The Life of a Child, no matter how indirectly. Would it matter one little smidge that the form is… short? They are championing the weakest amongst us in the name of God. It’s their job, their calling, their conviction, their passion. They are unable to back down because they cannot endorse death. That’s how it feels to them.

Are they right? Wrong? Are they “ridiculously stupid” political creatures out to undermine access to health care for the very underprivileged people they devote their lives to help? I was so relieved when Justice Sotomayor called for a breather on this. We are Americans. We do not ask Americans to abandon consistently held religious beliefs, or even require that they skirt around them with semantics. Certainly we can figure out how to provide these drugs and services without involving conscientiously opposing Americans. Maybe we could also figure out how to tolerate, nay honor, each other’s religious beliefs without scorn (or fines).

Are you as terrified as I am that this story is so quiet? Are our media outlets (if not our government leaders) bullying nuns? Or am I a “pathetically ignorant” religious sap who doesn’t see this as an obvious, anti-Obamacare ruse? Is there no place in our society for people genuinely, religiously, and passionately protective of life after conception? Who are we when we say we are American? We should all take a beat to think about a decision that could result in penalizing our fellow citizens for their religious convictions, since this is exactly what we said we’d never, ever do.

I implored Steve, a longtime newsman, to explain why no one is talking about this– why on New Year’s Day, the only thing I could read about was Penny’s pink dress (even if she did look really, really pretty). His answer:

Sensible people have sensible conversations (I’m told) and the media thrives on controversy. So, CNN needs to have a “Pro-Nun” person on and a “Fuck The Nuns” person on. False equivalence rules the day.

I suppose neither makes for must see TV. And it is much more difficult to argue with a nun on national television about her Faith, than to tweet a snarky remark about how nuns (ironically) fill out all sorts of burdensome forms to be tax exempt. Meanwhile, the real issue–that these women cannot, ever, or in any manner, sanction the death of a child—is too unpopular a belief, and certainly too uncomfortable for cocktail conversation.

To be clear, this is neither an endorsement nor indictment of the ACA. This isn’t a thesis on when Life begins, and when we should begin protecting it. This isn’t meant to elicit comparisons with Jehovah’s witnesses who would refuse their shelf-stockers a blood transfusion, or Jews who wouldn’t want their secretaries to eat pork. Ugh, please do better than this, Internet. The nuns aren’t imposing their religious beliefs on anyone. They are only, quite bravely, standing up for Life as they define it. And Justice Sotomayor wants us to discuss that, and consider what precedent it might set to ignore them.

So let’s do that.

Since you can practically trip over free condoms in college, I'm not really sure why we need to force nuns to pay for these.

Women who take these are “pathetically ignorant” of the order of the days, I suppose.

26 responses

  1. Thanks for defending the nuns from liberal arrogance.

    But the objection of religion is about more than just the lives of unborn children. It’s about the general philosophy of our society and the careless attitude it has towards life in general. This may sound strange to most people, but sex purely for pleasure is actually unhealthy and irresponsible. There’s a general theme to religion, which is that you can either worship the body or worship the mind. One of those is evil and leads to death. The other is good and leads perhaps (in theory) to an escape from the physical plane.

    Our society is obsessed with sex, and the religious are about the only ones stopping the dam from breaking, while liberals are running around trying to turn the entire world into one giant orgy.

    Personally, I think if a woman wants control over her own body, then she should be able to formulate her own birth control pills from common, everyday ingredients in her own laboratory. She should also be able to perform abortions on herself (even though it’s dangerous). She should be free to use her own money for all of this, and it should all be legal because she’s doing it to herself. But she shouldn’t expect other people to pay for her morally-corrupt behavior.

    By the way, everyone knows that birth control is not 100% reliable right?

    • See paragraph one about bullying propaganda. I think this is why no one discusses this stuff. I’ll defend the nuns to the end, but not to annoy orgy-organizing liberals.

    • Matthew, you ROCK. I’ll gladly join you in praying for our society’s return to sanity.

      I celebrate the orgy organizers right to free will, free speech and happiness. I won’t fund it, and no one should ask nor expect me to.

  2. Deeply held beliefs should always be respected, no matter how little we understand them. When those beliefs are used to hurt others, however, society has to say something. One could argue that the Rachel Maddow folks have deeply held beliefs that they are using to hurt people. Nice shout out for civil discourse.

  3. Beautifully done Britt. I have long thought that it is the things we believe in that forms our sense of “self” — but that it is the higher order things that we believe in to the point where we ‘act’ out of those beliefs — that form our “character”. If ignorant others try to bully or legislate “character” away from people — we destroy the higher order selves we as human beings aspire to, and rarely attain. Thank you for your voice and your clarity and your commitment to your beliefs on this Brit.

  4. Wow, Britt! This is why I enjoy reading your blog. One day you’re stealing Tupperware, the next, well…this. My aunt, Sister Claudian, is a nun and I have had many interesting conversations with her over the years. And while they were always lively and with wildy differing positions, they always ended with a hug. The key is that she has always been willing to share her opinion and listen to others’; and that, I think, is the bottom line of what you and others here are suggesting needs to happen. Labeling and sweeping generalizations (and ridiculous and offensive assertions about women performing self-abortions) accomplish nothing but alienating people and squashing meaningful conversation. Thanks for shining a bright light on the ignorance surrounding us.

    • Thanks, Jim! I was scared to post this… and risk exposing the wild and wacky opinions that can be floated anonymously on the internet. Matthew up there also thinks I should have had the courage to die from breast cancer instead of exposing my naked body to surgeons, but a very large majority of kind people want a good discussion (and for me to live, which is also sort of nice).

      • You can put my check mark in the want-you-to-live column. I only had to be around you for a few hours on Cape Cod to figure that part out. I won’t speak to the nakedness with surgeons thing (been there, done that), but I do want to know under which rock I was hiding during the liberal orgy portion of my life. Lastly, I am glad I didn’t hear him personally question your courage – I might have gone religious on him 🙂

  5. Actually, yes. In Milan, during a subway strike. I stood in a long line waiting for a taxi (I mean long, like outside of some store on the eve of Black Friday). In front of me was a nun. We talked for more than an hour, she in good Italian, mine in a bastard version sprinkled with Spanish, French and Latin. When the moment came, and a cab was right in front of her she asked which way I was going. I told her. She said it was a pity; she was going the opposite way, then offered me the cab.

    More to the point, I like what you’ve written here very very much. Our current world views “diversity” in huge swaths of generalizations based on the obvious. It seems to like the flatness of oversimplification, and conclusions drawn without subtlety or respect for individual beliefs. I really love the energy in your writing, as well.

    • Thank you for this story, Martha… and for these very kind words. I think we’re all tired of these generalizations and want to get back to the simple, human one-on-one when we find a common language, and kindness. xoxo

  6. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this…
    Wouldn’t our society be so much better if we all just practiced civility? Be polite. Be open-minded. Put yourself in the other’s shoes. You can disagree without disrespect. More encouragement is needed to stay present with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements.

    • Wow… thanks Chris! I think we all, deep down, can summon understanding. The Internet allows us to be nasty for a laugh or for likes, but it only polarizes us more. Beyond flattered that you read this. Xoxo

  7. I wish more arguments were conversations that inspired thoughtful contemplation and more speakers dared to wade into a space of vulnerability before passing judgment.

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