Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obama and Abortion

Tomorrow hundreds of protesters will be at to Notre Dame University to protest President Obama's being invited to give the commencement address, and also for his being given an honorary degree. The reason is, of course, is that Obama is pro-choice and Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, is supposed to be against such things. But the University is, thankfully, too smart to get sucked into that little quagmire. Obama is going to do his thing. The protesters are going to do theirs.

Now I could go in a lot of directions with this one people. But I will choose one so as to keep this post short (in keeping with my goal to not turn off those folks who don't like to look at anything longer than 4 or 5 paragraphs).

My point is this: why has abortion become the defacto moral litmus test for Catholics and other like minded religious folk? Why not, say, capital punishment, or maybe ...uh...war. These are also against "Church teaching". I can't tell you how many so called "pro-life" people I have have talked to who are ready to "flip the switch" themselves when it comes to killing the "bad adults". I guess it is really not just about Church teaching after all. And how about poverty? Why are all these so called religious folks not getting all outraged at the great gulf between the rich and poor in this country. Jesus seemed to talk about this issue a lot, as I recall. Sure, abortion on demand was not really an issue is his time, but what if it was? Would he be standing on line at an abortion clinic? I think not. He would certainly have been against abortion, as it is an act of violence. But I believe he would have taught that there are greater acts of violence as well. If he were around today I think abortion would probably be about #6 on his to do list. Maybe lower.

But to get back to my question: Why is abortion the big hot button issue? Let me suggest one possible reason: It's easy. I mean lets face it, it's pretty damn easy to be against abortion. You don't really have to do anything other than be indignant. If you are really motivated you can write your congressperson or go stand outside a graduation ceremony at Notre Dame. But for the most part all you really need to do to prove your morality is to be outraged. And you can do that in the comfort of your own home, after supper while waiting for your favorite tv show to come on.

I do not mean to impugn the good faith of people who feel really drawn to the pro-life cause as a moral imperative for themselves. To each his (or her) own. I can respect that. There are very good people for whom this is an important issue. But lets face facts: if you were to choose poverty (which is responsible for a lot more death), a much bigger task would be on your hands. After exploring it, you might have to look at the way you yourself live. You might have to make some lifestyle changes, you might need increase your giving, volunteer at a soup kitchen, even change your job. You might have to really work.

Whose got time for that?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger turns 90 tomorrow. There is going to be a big celebration at Madison Square Garden. Performers include Bruce Springsteen, Wilco, Billy Bragg and many more. I wish I could have gotten it together to go. Pete is certainly a kindred spirit as far as this writer is concerned. I saw him once in 2003 at a small congegational church is Greenwich NY and talked with him briefly. I remember asking him who he was reading lately and he mentioned Barbara Kingsolver and Arundhati Roy. He definitely had what I want to call an "earthy, spiritual vibe". I don't know that he professes any religious belief and I could care less actually. Many of the best people I know are non-religious.

I was listening to public radio earlier today and there was a call in portion where folks could share their "Pete stories". There was one that really grabbed me. A few years back someone was going to see Pete at some smallish music hall. He wanted to get there early to ensure a decent seat. As he was in line waiting for the door to open he looked over his sholulder. There was Pete Seeger standing in line behind him. Pete Seeger was waiting in line to get into his own show! This typifies what many know to be the man. Humble, unpretentious, and radically egalitarian. He believes he is no better than anyone else and that he should get no special treatment. I have heard that this even goes as far as Pete insisting that his name appears on posters and tickets in the same size as all others on the bill, even if they are virtually unknown.

How cool is that? How refreshing!

It seems so much of our society is geared toward self-promotion. Everyone is quite concerned with insuring that they get their "credit, where credit is due". I am often the worst offender, I must admit.

Thank God for guys like Pete Seeger, someone of great achievement who does not feel the need to be constantly reminding everyone of the fact.

He was very reluctant, by the way, to take part in the big party tomorrow at MSG. There is a cool story behind why he agreed to let it go forward, but I'll let you dig that one up yourself.

This reminds me of another guy of great achievement who likes to keep it simple. The Dalai Lama. This coming Wednesday, on May 6th, I am going the see him at the Palace Theatre in nearby Albany NY. Here is a man who is the head of very complex, ritualized, world religion. But for all of this, here is how he breaks it down:

"There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. The philosophy is kindness".

Basic. Simple. One might even say quite "Seeger-like". Can you dig?

Now, if you got a few minutes, tell me what you believe. What is your "religion"? (or "philosophy" if you prefer that word).

As Frasier Crane would say....I'm listening.