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Why Pro-Lifers Are So Annoying (And Why You Should Maybe Be One)

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Please stop sending me emails about it. I thought I unsubscribed already. I know how many abortions they -- wait, 300,000 in one year? And only 2,000 adoption referrals the same year? Okay, but where did you get that figure -- some crank's website, right? Oh, it was from the Fact Sheet that Planned Parenthood put out? Are you sure? ...Yeah, okay...maybe I'll come...

Grrr. I clicked unsubscribe, dang it.
...I'll be honest: Pro-Lifers annoy me sometimes. I usually feel about pro-life activity the way I feel about the Rosary: it's good, it's important, a lot of holy people love doing it, but just because I don't do it every day doesn't mean I'm not a Real Catholic.

I wish some Pro-Lifers didn't play fast and loose with their figures, or quote their enemies out of context. I wish some of them could afford websites that didn't make me want to gouge my eyes out in aesthetic horror, or proofreaders for their rambling, poorly-spelled emails. I wish some of them didn't post twenty articles to Facebook a day, all on the same subject, using an overabundance of capital letters.

(See? I can be a regular snob too, as well as a reverse snob. I contain multitudes.)

Anyway, for all of the above reasons, I was kind of surprised with myself when the email I got about 40 Days For Life somehow got me to register for a time slot in front of Glendale's Planned Parenthood.

Because, you know, it's not really my scene. I'm pretty content with just throwing out a stray Hail Mary for the cause now and then. I've been to these things before, because people have dragged me, but never on my own initiative.

Hello-o-o, little punishment.
My roommate agreed to come with me, and we were there in the sun for about an hour, holding signs and Rosaries and generally looking like a couple of suckers. It was just the two of us. Drivers gave us a few thumbs up and a few middle fingers, but most just looked away quickly. The middle fingers came mostly from guys my age—they must've been pretty concerned with their girlfriends' health, I guess. Well, they were concerned with something of their girlfriends'.

The schedule said there were people signed up before and after us, but nobody was there when we arrived and nobody took our place when we left. Same story the Saturday after that.

Meanwhile, patients (clients? customers?) came and went. The place was pretty busy for a Saturday morning.

Sorry to be saying this again. It's been said a gajillion times, and like me, you're probably tired of hearing about the fact that horrible things are being done in our city every day. Like me, you're probably kind of used to it.

My point is: getting used to evil is not good.

Pro-Lifers annoy me, sure; but, as my family will tell you, that's not terribly hard to do. Just chewing the wrong way might be enough.

And they might have terrible grammar (some of 'em), but while I'm sitting at home and looking at FAIL Blog, they're out fighting the good fight. And unfortunately for me, I'm pretty sure that excellent grammar doesn't count for much, Judgment-Day-wise. ("But Lord! When did I ever see thee dangle a preposition, or misplace a modifier, or misuse an apostrophe, and not correct thee?")

After the 40 days are up, I'll probably go back to not doing anything about it. Maybe that's all right, and maybe I really do have more important things to do. Some people have a particularly strong devotion to Mary; some people are called to dedicate themselves to pro-life work; and some people are called to be lazy slobs (I hope, I hope!). Just because something is good doesn't mean it's for everybody.

But as long as I'm out there—I'll be there next Saturday, Oct. 9th, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm—I hope you'll join me. If not Saturday, there are plenty of other empty slots, or slots filled with just one lone sucker.

And c'mon—we American Catholics have it pretty easy. Opportunities for getting honest-to-goodness reviled for what we believe aren't terribly easy to come by, these days. Not yet, anyway. So come get persecuted (a little) with me this Saturday. One or two people with signs just look like chumps. But a dozen people saying a rosary or singing a hymn? That'll really bug them.

You can reach me at joe.prever@gmail.com, or through my website.

Hope to see you there.

34 comments | Add one of your own.

  1. bill

    Don’t love the post very much…you are lukewarm in your decision to even do a little. If the was a rallying cry – it is pretty tepid. Your article got to the New Advent site somehow and I expected this to be something inspiring. Instread it is a declaration to doing a little more than hardly anything.

    We are called to be Saints – this is a call to me mediocrity…

    Reply

    1. J. Prever

      Bill,

      Thanks for your comments, and sorry to have disappointed.

      I admit to mediocrity in my spiritual life. But I also find that, if I set out to do huge, wonderful, epic things, I don’t do anything at all. But when I set out to do little tiny things — like maybe just an hour or so of pro-life work per week — then I can actually accomplish them.

      I hope God will continue expanding my heart. Just at the moment it’s a little shrivelled, but He does with it what He can.

      Joe

      Reply

  2. Reginaldus

    While I agree with “bill” (6:44pm) that your post was a bit of a let down and a bit of a call to mediocrity…I actually think that there is something profound hidden there.
    The way to win the battle is to persevere, to dig in, to hold out, and never to stop. A quick flash is nice; but the darkness that follows is all the bleaker for it. A small candle isn’t much; but it gives light for much longer.
    The battle for life is a long and arduous fight…we won’t win by always being “fun” or “peppy” or “go-get’um”; we will only conquer through persevering to the end. I think that this comes through well in your post — without being too critical of the more fiery witnesses in the pro-life movement.

    On a final note, meant as a bit of humor: You wrote, “They [pro-lifers] might have terrible grammar”… You also wrote, “Well, they [men harassing you from their cars] were concerned with something of their girlfriends’ [i.e. not their health].” The phrase “of their girlfriends’.” should be “of their girlfriends.” Girlfriends does not need to be made possessive (with an apostrophe), since there is already the preposition “of”…this little grammatical error indicates that there is yet hope for your future in the pro-life movement! :-)

    Reply

    1. J. Prever

      Reginaldus,

      True! I wish the spiritual life had more “flashes” in it, and that the battles we fight looked and felt as glorious and important as they really are.

      I’m still finding my place in this particular battle. At the moment, what I do is just about nothing, so I figure anything more than that is a step in the right direction.

      With respect to the grammatical portion of your post, it is my sad duty to inform you that your grasp of the use of the English possessive is incomplete. One says “a friend of mine” and not “a friend of me.” Similarly, one ought to say “something of their girlfriends’ ” and not “something of their girlfriend.”

      (See http://www.grammarmudge.cityslide.com/articles/article/426348/4944.htm)

      Nice try, though, buddy.

      Joe

      Reply

      1. J. Hanson

        I’ve cracked open my Garner’s “Modern American Usage” (2nd edition) to the entry under “Possessives” called “Double Possessives.” It says: “Some people erroneously stigmatize ‘a friend of mine’ or ‘an acquaintance of John’s', in which both an ‘of’ and a possessive form appear.” It goes on to explain that the “double genitive” has a sterling pedigree and appears in good writing even today. This usage of J. Prever’s seems acceptable, therefore.

        N.B. The fact that Atticus has not yet weighed in on this controversy with a dose of Garner makes me worried. Atticus, you haven’t fallen down an irrigation well over by La Grande Orange, have you? What else would allow me to resort to Garner before you?

        Reply

        1. Atticus

          Not to worry, dearest Hanson. I am alive and well — just engrossed in Bernstein’s “Do’s, Don’ts, and Maybes of English Usage,” which I found at the Book Gallery a few weeks ago.

          That said, I too checked my Garner’s Modern American Usage (3d ed.) and agree that the double genitive is perfectly acceptable.

          But I could see how someone might take issue with its usage here. Let’s return to the statement at issue:

          The middle fingers came mostly from guys my age—they must’ve been pretty concerned with their girlfriends’ health, I guess. Well, they were concerned with something of their girlfriends’.

          Now, unless I’m way off, Joe was trying to imply that these cads were more concerned with carnal knowledge than medical knowledge. So a case can be made that they were, indeed, more interested in something of their girlfriends than they were in something of their girlfriends’.

          Take this example from GMAU3:

          “The double genitive [i.e., double possessive] is required whenever a word indicating ownership is placed after of. For example, he found a bone of the dog’s and he found a bone of the dog mean different things . . . .” (Citation omitted.)

          In my reading, Joe’s phrasing here was meant to be closer to the latter example — that is, that these guys were more interested in something of their girlfriends than they were in something of their girlfriends’. I guess you could say that, in a sense, Joe’s bird-lovers were actually more interested in the bones of their girlfriends than they were in the bones of their girlfriends’. I could give more concrete illustrations, but this is a family blog.

          N.B. This is not to say that Joe’s usage isn’t acceptable; it clearly is. Perhaps it could have been more precise. But I’m not purporting to pass final judgment. This is just how I — poor scientist of the solecism that I am — read it.

          Denys?

          Reply

          1. J. Prever

            I suppose it depends on whether we’re talking about some extrinsic object belonging to the girlfriends in question, or something that’s actually a part of them.

            Naturally I meant the latter class, but with an ironic suggestion that the boyfriends in question consider the thing in question to be of to the former class.

            So you see, buried in my choice of usage was an implied commentary on the objectification of women. And the things that belong to them.

            Sorry. Enough. Yikes.

            Reply

      2. Reginaldus

        Joe, please do not feel that it is your “sad duty” to have informed me of the correctness of the double genitive (and the error of my ways). This proves that, in fact, there is hope for my future in the pro-life movement! Plus, my writing will be better for your correction — and my humility has grown!
        [fyi, for some reason the link to the grammar site doesn't seem to work]

        On a more serious note: I do hope that the earlier part of my comment was understood… I do not criticize your article or your work in the pro-life movement for not being more “flashy”, “peppy”, or “up-beat”; I think that your article is particularly valuable because it is realistic. Though we have occasional moments of joy and great success, the battle is generally long and arduous. What we need today is not sentimentalism, but realism…your article captured that very well!
        Peace and blessings to you in Christ!

        Reply

        1. Cordelia

          How abouts I trade in my’s “flashy” Suburban for that “really” ugly 12 passenger van with the red interior and I’ll give yous and Prever a ride to the abortion clinic this Saturday! ;)

          Reply

        2. J. Prever

          I was just pretending to be sad. I think I actually cackled a little.

          Thanks for clarifying re: the intent of your comment. I was probably not reading carefully enough. Humility all round.

          Reply

  3. Leila

    First, I totally “get” this post. It’s not about aspiring to mediocrity, it’s about reality, and real (pathetic) Catholics like me. Recognizing myself in this post has moved me to examine my conscience more than the many inspirational exhortations to action.

    Second, I was instantly concerned with the same point of grammar that the others mentioned. I have learned through this exchange that I was wrong. And I am happy that now I don’t have to cringe every time I recommend one of my favorite apologetical books, Any Friend of God’s is a Friend of Mine. Seriously, I feel so much better about that. No joke.

    Reply

    1. J. Prever

      Thanks, Leila! I’m glad to hear this resonated with you, even if it didn’t with everyone. And happy that Mr. Hanson’s given us both a name for this delightful usage. “Double genitive” has a nice ring to it.

      You might not have been joking about not having to cringe, but it still made me laugh.

      Reply

  4. Tim H

    I would like to give my reason for not being more active in the pro-life movement.

    I really think the pro-life movement is treating the symptom and not the disease. Contraception has turned sex into a recreational activity and the result is a culuture where sex is a right. Homosexuality, teen pregnacy, out of wedlock births, affairs, sexual addtion and abortion are the logical consequences.

    Insofar as the pro-life movement misses the mark with regards to the root cause of abortion – which is the casualization of sex due to contraception – it will succeed in only limited ways and on an individual by individual basis. I applauad every baby saved but wonder how many more can be saved if Chrisitans – expecially Catholics who should know better – set the example for the next generation with regards to the objectivly sinful nature of contraception.

    Reference http://tinyurl.com/24ndyrg

    -Tim-

    Reply

    1. Reginaldus

      Tim, In this regard you are very much in agreement with Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. See her speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994: http://www.priestsforlife.org/brochures/mtspeech.html.

      Still, the pro-life movement is able to unite many people — including protestants — when it focuses on abortion and not contraception; especially since even many good pro-lifers are at least moderately pro-contraception (e.g. Feminists for Life).

      Reply

      1. GABRIEL

        HEY REGINALDUS!

        Sorry for giving you a hard time the other day, with regards to the gender of GOD, if you remember from the Archangel-discussion, on one of the other catholic blogs.
        Unfortunately you were right with regards to the Church teachings in cathechism 239.
        Luckily the Church is wrong i this matter, and steps have been taken to correct it, and to erase this error in doctrine. So rest assured, GOD, like his son, is ofcourse a Man.
        IN ADDITION TO BEING GOD OFCOURSE.

        How the Chuch managed to get this wrong in cathechism 239 is beyond me, but I think maybe this was the exception that proves the rule that the Church does not err.

        So to sum it up for you; It goes like this:

        Jesus is a MAN, and to see the Son is to see the Father. Jesus is male.
        Hence the Father is just as MALE as his Son.

        to claim that GOD the FATHER is anything other than a FATHER and hence MALE, is still ofcourse blasphemy, but you are not to be held accountable for this, as it is the Church who somehow managed to make this mistake and not you.

        My guess is that the Church has somehow thought this was a tribute to GOD, because they did not know any better.

        Anyway, I am sorry for taking it out on you. And I am thankful for pointing out this error of Dogma on the Churches behalf to me, so that I can ensure the correct steps are taken to put it right.

        I know this may sound arrogant, but BELIEVE ME.
        It`s not.

        Love to you Reginaldus,

        from GABRIEL.

        Reply

  5. Kevo

    Mr. Prever,

    I enjoyed your post. I agree that the shared experience of many Catholics is one of dissolution or fatigue with the pro-life movement as a movement. Most Catholics that I know are firmly pro-life (and even contra-contraception), but they have no active connection with pro-life efforts.

    My perspective and attitude were changed recently as I began to understand how the pro-life movement may need to adjust its attitude–not in order to make itself more attractive to the mediocre masses nor to acquiesce to its detractors (and of course by ‘it’ I refer in reality to the heart of each of its members).

    I believe that many of our generation have lost their fervor for ‘an end to abortion’ since it was born out of the promise of political change, a promise that has gone unfulfilled for decades regardless of how great our numbers or how rock-solid our arguments have become. The attitude adjustment I see as necessary to reawaken ‘pro-life activity’ in the lives of the faithful may be summed up in the following points:
    1. If change is to come about, the direct cause will not be our efforts, but the strength and power of our God.
    2. We are not seeking to sway political opinion or win an ideological debate, we are seeking to change hearts, something which is beyond human power and to which we can only contribute by our faithful witness to the truth.

    So, while it goes against the American political myth, we must let go of our desire to go for the win. I participated in our local Life Chain yesterday afternoon and in the midst of my silent prayer I was toying with the idea that it is possible that the members of the pro-life movement may have been irretrievably lost in pride had we won the battle early on; that while God weeps at the unmitigated destruction of innocent life in our midst, he has a plan to strengthen the faithful in holiness and convert the hearts of many when we see that it is His arm that finally brought about the victory.

    In the political sphere most supporters of abortion are convinced that the pro-life movement is the manifestation of an ideological conviction and write off anything we say as such. The more we come to understand that our public manifestation should be our testament to the faithfulness of God rather than our insistence for political change, the closer we will come to letting go of some of our pride and to letting God do his thing.

    -K

    p.s. For encouraging reading, check out Cardinal DiNardo’s homily at this year’s Vigil for Life Mass in D.C.:
    http://www.usccb.org/prolife/dinardohomily012110.shtml (skip down to the paragraph that begins “Sisters and brothers, St. Agnes” for the good stuff).

    Reply

    1. J. Prever

      Thanks, Kevo, and I agree with what I see as your central point — that God, not us, changes hearts; and that this fact has to affect the attitude we have, especially when witnessing in public.

      Reply

  6. milesperhour

    J. Prever, as someone who also suffers from “self- appointed- grammar and- English- usage- monitor- to- the -world” syndrome, I love this post. And as a Catholic who wants to be a saint but finds it embarrassing, I love this post. Well done. Mother Theresa believed in doing the little things anyway, even if they weren’t going to save the world. (I think Someone did that already.) Carry on!
    PS- I don’t think this post would pass your grammar test, however, because I am giving up on grammar and experimenting with becoming a sanitation monitor to the world. Have you washed your hands? Hope so.

    Reply

  7. Alishia

    Actually, all this discussion about mediocrity reminds me of one of Sunday’s readings about the mustard seed. So be encouraged, Everyone! Nothing is impossible!

    Reply

  8. Tristan Alexander

    You are ALL for defending the unborn but once those kids are born, if they turn out to be gay you spread hate and lies about them untill the kill themslves! Or do you just want more kids so the pedo priest have new ones to molest?

    Reply

    1. Denys

      Ouch.

      Tristan, sorry you are so upset about something. I am sure it’s nothing that anyone here is responsible for, but that doesn’t ease your anger, I am sure.

      Clarification: we are ALL for defending the unborn AND for showing genuine love to ALL human beings. We at Catholic Phoenix bring the love.

      (There’s a part of me that wishes pedophile priests had been aborted…but of course a consistent ethic of life forces me to admit that that is an evil wish, and I cannot be proud of it at all. )

      Reply

  9. kirsten

    while we shoudl aspire to be saints, very few of us are inclined to rush out and dedicate our entire life to “doing God’s work”. we should be, of course, but frankly if we were so inspired? we wouldnt be spending that much time reading blogs….

    knowing that an hour or two can make a difference? thats… an approachable number for many people newly putting their feet to God’s path.

    all too often the idea of “perfection or its not worth anything” has derailed attempts to be sober, to be timely, to exercise, to study… its discouranging. better to tell people “do as much as you can, start small. do a little more each day, and eventually you will achieve…. rather than insisting that someone go from 0 to 60 right now

    Reply

  10. Bill

    Joe -

    To the extent that you are trying to do God’s work I applaud you and encourage you. Personally, I come from the Father Corapi school preaching which is: speak the truth, in season and out of season, but do it with love. On culture of life issues, there is not much use for watered down messages. It is what it is. My reaction to your post was that it was self indulgent – just my opinion. It is a spiritual battle out there, we pick up our crosses and we fight the good fight. So, while it might have hurt your feelings, I apologize for that. But in so many parts of out secular culture, Catholics have been permitted to make excuses for their atrocious and often willful refusal to proclaim the Truth / Gospel. This is not rocket science, 40 millions innocent lives have been murdered since 1973. If that does not motivate you, well, then you are not that interested Jesus.
    I am not breaking any new ground here but His sacred heart is being shattered.

    That said, we are brothers in Christ. I do not have all the answers and for all I know the Holy Spirit is using you so I wish you well in your own evangelism. For those who defended you here, take that zeal and defend the innocent as passionately…

    in God’s Peace

    Reply

  11. Jen

    Enjoyed your post and the posts that have followed. Have one thought to add – God’s work is often done in little ways – think Therese. That, and as my mother has often told me, you never know how some small thing you do or say will stick with another person, such that he remembers it for the rest of his life, and it changes him. Thus, being the one “lonely sucker” out there may have just the effect you wanted, even if at the time you don’t see it.

    Reply

  12. April

    I am a whole- lifer, not just a pro-lifer, as I suspect everyone here at CatholicPhoenix truly is! Now, I just wanted to add that the photo is just about as gruesome as I have seen in a long time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks, Editor Hanson! That’s the best accessory to a post ever!!!

    Reply

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