Look, about the subhead, “for Christians only.” If I wouldn’t have wanted everyone to feel welcome, I wouldn’t have arranged to pipe Pink Floyd music from the belfry. It was as much a feeble attempt at irony as a “Beware All Who Enter Here.” I’m a political Christian. I know who Jesus is. Knowing who is us and who is them, though, politically speaking, hasn’t gotten anything but harder.
Theocracy: Christians marching shoulder-to-shoulder at a pro-life rally may have certain political objectives in common, but establishing a theocracy in the USA shouldn’t be one of them. Most of us (them?) know this already, and if the rest of them (us?) could see a cartoon representation of such gatherings, with the staunchest and most inflexible eying one another suspiciously, the thought bubbles above their heads bearing unflattering caricatures of either Bloody Mary (if the head was submerged at baptism) or Oliver Cromwell (if the head was sprinkled), they’d know it, too.
Abortion: About those pro-life rallies. If the ACLU can go to bat for Fred “That’s Your Funeral” Phelps’ right to be an odious nuisance at public gatherings, it can jolly well go to bat for people who wait near the entrances of abortion clinics to make up the deficits in “informed consent” for women who are about to undergo a procedure some of them — notice I said some of them — will regret for the rest of their lives unless someone shows up at the eleventh hour to offer help and an alternative. It can jolly well go to bat for a group of nuns and stroller-pushing parents holding aloft, in front of the capitol building, posters of fetuses at various stages of development. Granted, some of those pictures are graphic and disturbing, and in contexts other than this one, perhaps even tasteless. Outlaw the display of disturbing and graphic images, though, and you’ve just stopped the beating heart of the entire enterprise of photojournalism. Photo. Journalists. Embedded. Cognitive. Dissonance. See “Middle Eastern Wars.”
On the other hand, all the grassroots rancor that exists between the passionate pro-lifers and the passionate pro-choicers should convince us that this country isn’t ready for a decision, one way or another, handed down from the Federal heights. There is a hue and cry raised, and there should be, when a person who possesses his own dog, as a woman possesses the fetus inside her own body, abuses that dog, who in turn is in possession of a nervous system as sensitive to noxious stimuli as the nervous systems of fetuses — or indeed, of embryos, depending on whose fetal pain research you believe. Conversely, there is no hue and cry raised, and there shouldn’t be, when a family brings a pet suffering the final stages of an incurable disease (or one they can’t afford to cure) to the vet to be put down as painlessly and humanely as possible. There are animal rights extremists, but most people seem to be able to agree on what is a reasonable level of respect for the life of a dog.
Oh, that the life and death decisions about every individual on the human life continuum — the embryos being considered for use in stem cell research, and the Terry Schiavos of the world, and the clients of Dr. Kevorkian — could be so straightforward! But they’re not, there it is. It’s hard to imagine what common ground between the abortion-pro and abortion-foe camps would even look like. That uncharted territory is nowhere near Washington DC, and until somebody discovers it, it isn’t a cop-out to remember that the Constitution gives States the right to make decisions about matters like these on their own. A poor woman living in South Dakota may have to get bus fare if she feels she needs an abortion, and a Catholic family living in upstate New York State may have to subsidize through taxes the abortions of welfare-recipients in New York City.