Last Monday, I did something that I would never have had the opportunity to do back home in Singapore. I joined over 200,000 people in downtown Washington DC to march in protest against legalized abortion. This huge and very organized event takes place every year in January in the nation’s capital on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made it legal to procure abortions since 1973. Apparently, it is one of the largest protests in this place where protests are commonplace activities. Prior to the protest march per se, there was a Mass that was celebrated in the enormous Verizon centre in downtown Chinatown, and on the night before, in the Basilica right across the street from my residence, a pre-protest day Mass was also celebrated with thousands in attendance. I only managed to march for a small part of the route, and apparently, it was so huge a turnout, despite the freezing and wet weather, it took almost two hours for the crowd to finish walking by any one spot of Constitution Avenue to end up at the Capitol Hill.
|The official March for Life banner stretching across the entire width of Constitution Avenue|
What draws so many people, largely Catholics (with pockets of protesters from other denomination, to be sure) to this annual event, many coming by overnight buses and trains from states that are as far away from DC as Singapore is from Thailand and Vietnam? Mostly, it is our concerted belief that life is sacred, and that abortion is a heinous and murderous act, which must not be legalized. Did my stand on this issue only appear on my moral compass only because I am currently living in the country where since 1973, an approximate 54.5 million lives (try wrapping your head around that number) had been denied life legally? No. I have always held that life is sacred, and that abortion is evil in every way. It’s just that there has been no opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow pro-life brothers and sisters (at Hong Lim Green back home in Singapore?) to show how strongly we think about this. Yes, I have preached about this from the Ambo before, but I also do know that it can become very emotional for someone listening in the pew, especially if that person had undergone an abortion before. Besides, it is because this evil is so rampant and so easily procured that the moral issue is hardly given serious thought about by the people who seek this easy exit from a ‘problem pregnancy’. Yet, this must not silence us from preaching against this egregious act that it is. We need to name it for what it is, and murder is its name. Funding for healthcare that is channeled to abortions in this country is another crazy matter. How in the world does ‘murder’ come under ‘healthcare’?
The issue that is before us is much larger than we think. It has a lot to do with how people (young AND old) approach sex and how sacred a gift it is. Many, unfortunately, do not see it as a gift from God. In fact, it is one of the most precious gifts that God ever gave us because in giving it to us, he invited us to be part of the process of creation itself, something that only God has the right to do, and the ability to do as well. He wants to share life and to share the act of life with us. That is a privilege that we don’t even think much about. It was with deep insight that a spiritual writer once remarked that pornography is wrong simply because it puts on public display something that is Godly. What is happening at every sacred conjugal act is a couple is cooperating with God at the level of creation. God is displaying himself, and no one (biblically speaking) can see God and live. Remember Moses, and how his face was brilliantly white and dazzling after he met God? It was a figurative way of conveying that in such intimate moments of divine encounter, there is something that just needs to be wrapped in mystery and is not meant for public display, and certainly not for entertainment or worse, recreation. It is certainly not a right, but a gift. The marital bed is really an altar of sacrifice, where God is present because there is a total giving and a total receiving – of lives to one another, and to God as well. Imagine Simmons, Serta, or Omazz advertising for their mattresses this way – what prophetic teaching!
When we put aside these thoughts, and think that sex is a rite of passage to adulthood, we distort something beautiful. When we think that sex is recreation, we adulterate something sacred. And when we teach our children to be ‘protected’ or teach them ‘protected sex’, we are telling them that sex is dangerous, when in fact, it was (and still is) one of God’s most beautiful gifts that he bestows on humankind because it shares in his divine act of creation. God doesn’t give us dangerous things. We have made it dangerous, and have distorted it and disfigured it. The words “safe” and “sex” put together certainly connotes that it is not a gift, and certainly not something precious to be handled with care and respect. We have gone so far wrong in this that it seems a herculean task to undo it.
Yet, we still can rely on the grace of God that we have the hope of good parenting, which dares to be prophetic. I agree that it seems an uphill task for parents (especially Catholic ones) to speak a different language than what schools and educators tell our children about sex education. I will continue to pray for courage for both parents and children to not only speak the right thing, but to also dare to do the right thing, and yes, to also march to a different drumbeat of life, for life.