Sometimes, words can feel like swords.
That’s how I felt the other day while reading the newspaper. I was so excited to know that the story I’d heard might run had found light. I know a lot of the people involved in the story, which surrounds the fact that our local Catholic high school has been asked to carry the lead banner in the 2015 March for Life in D.C. in January.
I’d heard a few days after the fact that the story had been in. Leafing through past issues to find it, I saw the headline and photo and my heart leaped. I’ve been on those same steps before as a chaperone. I remember being with all of those young people and knowing that our presence counted; that the 25-hour bus ride and swollen feet were worth more than a couple days playing hooky.
I was delighted, too, to note the main subject of the piece: Julia Johnson, the sweet daughter of my beautiful friend Roberta, who left our world a couple years ago as the result of cancer. Roberta had been ardently pro-life from all angles — from the womb all the way to making sure her neighbors wouldn’t go hungry. Could there be any better pro-life student spokesperson than her own daughter?
But then, as I continued reading the first paragraph, my heart spiraled downward. “Julia Johnson has walked blocks and blocks each year in Washington, D.C., to support anti-abortion activism.”
Anti-abortion activism? I realize that some would say this is accurate — even some in the pro-life camp, as this writer does here. But it doesn’t seem quite right to me, and I’m questioning whether this is the way Julie Johnson thinks of what she will be doing in D.C. come January.
Pro-life, pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-birth, pro-lots-of-things, yes, but anti…four little letters that take the whole meaning of something and turn it on its head. Four letters that convey something so very different than what Julia and her mother would hold to be what they’re all about, I’m thinking.
Roberta was a person of great optimism. When I interviewed her on Catholic radio in her final year, she was so amazing in how she approached her illness. When people said they wanted to pray for a miracle, she poo-pooed that. She wanted things to go exactly as God had planned it, whatever that meant. It was amazing to be near her at that time and witness her vibrant, optimistic faith.
Thinking now about her vivacious personality, it’s possible Roberta would have been okay with “anti-abortion activism.” She did like to call things what they were. But I have a feeling, because she was all about life-all-the-way, across the spectrum, she’d prefer “pro-life.”
I want to make it clear that I value the written word and our community newspapers. I’ve also worked in that newsroom before and know it’s no easy task to pump out stories day after day under pressure. All in all, I’m grateful for the story and I think the reporter did a really great job on it. I just struggle with the negative connotations of “anti.”
But if we’re going to go with anti-abortion, I think it’s only fair to go with “anti-life” then, too, in describing those who hold opposing views to the marchers. And yet, that doesn’t seem fair either, does it? So how can we be judicious about this? Even the writer of the article linked above conceded that we haven’t found a perfect solution to this dilemma; it’s still a work in progress in terms of how to best name these opposing sides.
Just a couple days after I read this piece, I opened the paper and found this headline: “Roman Catholic bishops drop moves to accept gays.” There it is again. Words like swords. That’s one loaded headline. So loaded I don’t even know where to begin in my commentary of it.
That’s when I realize, I’m powerless over this machine. As long as the discrepancy between what we hold in our hearts and what others believe we believe exists, and as long as it’s purported the way the machine sees it even if we see it otherwise, we’re just going to have to suck it up.
The only weapons I have in the face of this conundrum is 1) a humble little blog, where I am allowed to have an opinion and share it, and maybe it will make a difference, but probably it won’t; and 2) prayer.
Words are important and they matter, a lot, but at the end of the day, as a woman of faith, I’m back knowing that the battle I’m fighting won’t be won by weapons or words or words-as-weapons. It will be won by love, one action at a time. That’s it. That’s the most I can do, the best thing I can do, the most powerful, mighty, honorable, brave, amazing thing I can do.
Just love. Few words, if any. Mostly just surrendering to Almighty God and saying, I’ll be your servant, but you’re in the lead. And then stepping in to continue to do what I can each day to love well, through word and deed.
Q4U: When have words felt defeating to you?