“I Grow Weary of Those Who Ask Us to Slow Down”

What follows is adapted from a 2015 Leaven for the Loaf post.  I’m tempted to say this is not a drill.  Peaceful pro-life witness is not Activism Lite, and I have an uneasy feeling that 2017 is going to underscore that with an angry red slash.

I hope I’m wrong about the angry red thing. I know I’m right about the Activism Lite part.

Recall what peaceful witness called for in 1963, in the face of angry and sometimes violent resistance that had deep political and social roots. Recall Dr. King’s words from those days: I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down.

Photo of head and shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr., credited to the Nobel Committee and accessed via Wikimedia Commons
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964. Photo credit: Nobel Committee/Wikimedia Commons

In 1963, a few months before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, he and many other civil rights activists converged on Birmingham, Alabama to challenge racial segregation. Their campaign was marked by intensive planning and discipline, because the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was intent not only on its message but on delivering it the right way. Volunteers for the Birmingham campaign were screened and trained, as King recounted in Why We Can’t Wait. He noted, “Every volunteer was required to sign a Commitment Card.”

To what did the Birmingham activists commit?

I hereby pledge myself – my person and body – to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain of the demonstration.

King added, “We made it clear that we would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating” during the campaign. That took guts. It meant putting aside the natural right of self-defense during the demonstration, even as they faced people who had no qualms about using violence, including bombs.

I want to take the Birmingham commitment to heart.

Anyone can sign a piece of paper (or in this age, click on “I agree”) signifying a commitment. So why bother? Because nonviolence during a public demonstration isn’t something to take for granted. Public affirmation reinforces personal commitment. Public affirmation is part of accountability to the larger community. It draws a clear line between those peaceful demonstrators and any people willing to resort to violence to impede them.

I have neighbors who take umbrage at the assertion that today’s pro-life movement is part of the civil rights movement that came to flower at that March on Washington in ’63. In reply, I can only avow that life is the fundamental civil and human right. Abortion takes lives, and there are businesses that profit from it. Let peaceful public witness to that continue.

I haven’t endured the physical abuse to which the Birmingham demonstrators were subjected. Their example is awesome even today. They faced police dogs and fire hoses, and still made a commitment to nonviolent public witness and action. The best way for me to honor their memory is to emulate them, even though I’ve faced nothing worse so far than name-calling.

Recall that the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham were far from passive. There was urgency in their goal of justice and reconciliation. From a 1963 UPI report on the Birmingham demonstrations: “King reacted strongly, however, to a statement by Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggesting that the all-out integration drive here was ill-timed. ‘I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down,’ King told a reporter. ‘I begin to feel that the moderates in America are our worst enemy.’”

The events and words of 1963 aren’t frozen in place, devoid of application to our own times. View them not as an archaeologist views a dig, but as a traveler views a map: take this path, not that one. I could do worse than follow the people who signed those cards in Birmingham.

The next hundred days

Donald Trump is president-elect. All of New Hampshire’s Members of Congress and U.S. Senators next term will be pro-abortion women. In a contest between two men who have voted repeatedly to send public money to abortion providers, the New Hampshire governor’s race went to the candidate with one fewer PP contract nod to his credit.

No whining. There’s work to be done.

Politicians are deciding which policies they want to push hardest in their first days and months in office. The first hundred days set the tone for the rest of the term.

The politicians have to wait until they’re formally sworn in. Voters don’t. For us, the first hundred days start now.

Since culture precedes politics:

Spend time with family. Don’t let politics steal your joy.

Spend time with friends with a sense of humor.

Pray if you are so inclined, and include regular time for prayer in community. Literally put this on your calendar now, before the November and December holidays crowd everything out. Pray for civil recognition of the innate right to life of each human being. Pray for discernment. Pray in thanksgiving. Pray for elected officials. Pray to keep the long view in mind.

If you’re already volunteering or working for a pro-life agency or project, re-commit for 2017 – and tell others about your work.

And then:

Put the Governor’s office on speed-dial (603-271-2121). Chris Sununu will be sworn in as governor January 5.

Go to your town clerk’s office and become an independent voter. Make your involvement with political parties situational and tactical. A party with a pro-life platform does not necessarily have a full slate of pro-life candidates.

Swear off donations to political parties. Donate to individual campaigns or pro-life PACs instead. If a party solicits your support, ask politely if they can guarantee that your money will never be used to elect a pro-abortion politician. (That’s a trick question.)

Make a list of your elected representatives for 2017, state and federal, with contact information. For starters, here’s a link to the new New Hampshire House roster.

Become familiar with the nh.gov website, especially the pages for the General Court (legislature), Executive Council, and Governor. Learn how to read the legislative and Council calendars.

Once the legislative session begins in early January, stay informed on life-issue bills being considered. On the state level, I hope you’ll find this blog to be one trustworthy resource.

Make one trip to the State House just to take a tour. Soak up the atmosphere. It’s your State House.

Learn the basics of testifying before the legislature. The Diocese of Manchester is one resource.

When politicians say “women’s health” when they mean “funding abortion providers”, call them out. Every. Single. Time

U.S. Senators and Members of Congress take office January 3. On that day, email or write Carol Shea-Porter, Ann Kuster, Jeanne Shaheen, and Maggie Hassan with your good wishes. Identify yourself as a pro-life New Hampshire voter.

The week of January 22 (anniversary of Roe v. Wade), go to your federal representatives’ local offices and introduce yourself to the staff. Deliver a short, upbeat pro-life message.

Send President Trump a pro-life message on Inauguration Day via email or phone.

Personally invite someone you know to join you when you attend a hearing or a rally or when you stop by a politician’s office.

Tell your own story. You have one: caring for a fragile loved one, experiencing a challenging pregnancy, witnessing on the sidewalk, living with a disabling condition, any number of things. Share what you know. Get comfortable doing that. Then be willing to tell your story to legislators and policymakers.

Commit to public witness.

  • Be part of New Hampshire’s march for life on January 14. Watch nhrtl.org for more details. There will be events that day beginning as early as 9 a.m. If you can do only one thing, go for the midday march that begins at the State House. Bring your kids, and bundle up.
  • Attend the March for Life in Washington on January 27. If you can’t afford the trip, donate a dollar or two to someone who’s going,  as a token of solidarity and encouragement.
  • Participate in a prayer vigil outside an abortion facility.  If you can make a weekly or monthly commitment, so much the better. See nhrtl.org for a list of ongoing events statewide with contact information.

“Like” and follow Manchester, New Hampshire’s 40 Days for Life Facebook page. 

Arrange a carpool to Concord the day of a hearing on a life-issue bill. Hearing dates will be announced beginning in January.

If you are a health care professional, prepare to testify to public officials in defense of the right to life. I assure you that your colleagues with different views are already active.

Attend conferences like the one recently sponsored by the Diocese of Manchester on “Understanding Human Trafficking and What You Can Do.”

If your health care provider isn’t standing up for the right to life for each human being regardless of age, health, or condition of dependency, find another provider for 2017. Let the old one know why you’re leaving.

If you’re upset about any aspect of this election or someone’s reaction to it, get over it.  Every moment spent in recrimination is a moment wasted.

Be charitable, decisive, and relentless.

In political terms, be pro-life like it’s your job – because it is.

Edited to update links.

A thought about activism & elections

Knowing that many of this blog’s readers are pro-life activists – whether within the family, the culture, or the political sphere – I leave you with this on Election Day. It’s a call to the long view, by Thomas Merton from Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times. I posted it earlier this week on one of my other blogs, and I found the quote in a post by Frank Weathers at Patheos.

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything….

The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration and confusion.

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it before hand.


Granite State pro-life round-up: where do we go from here?

Leaven for the Loaf is now four years old. To mark that milestone, I asked some New Hampshire pro-life veterans for their ideas about ways to move toward a more life-affirming culture in the Granite State.  My thanks go to each contributor for participating in this informal online symposium.      ~~~ Ellen Kolb

What are the most constructive things an individual can do to build a culture of life in New Hampshire? Bonus question: What book or online resource belongs on every pro-life resource list?

Jane Cormier: Change the dialogue

I believe the most important thing a person can do to assist in the Life movement here in New Hampshire is to become active in some local group, even if it is in a small way. By becoming active, we can participate in changing the dialogue within the discussion of life. More people participating in this debate will strengthen the Life movement.

As for recommended reading, I find a book entitled On Message by Mark Crutcher is a very effective and easy-to-read manual answering questions related to supporting Life.

Jane Cormier is president of New Hampshire Right to Life. She served as a New Hampshire state representative 2012 – 2014.

Kathleen Souza: “Persuade church officials that their leadership is essential”

Persuade Church officials that their leadership is essential.  Their silence and apathy have slowed pro-life progress in New Hampshire. People of faith often sense that abortion is not a paramount issue and feel no responsibility to be involved, or to even vote pro-life.

Serving in the legislature has offered a great opportunity to bring forward pro-life legislation.  However,  church-going people, well-known practicing Catholics included, routinely render these efforts futile. If the lives – and deaths – of New Hampshire’s preborn children were made a priority in our churches, I really believe our culture would change.

[I’ve] been involved since January 22, 1973, when the news broke that the country we are responsible for would sanction abortion.

Kathy Souza is a six-term New Hampshire state representative from Manchester. She has been a member of New Hampshire Right to Life since 1973. 

Nancy Elliott: “Euthanasia is the new front on life”

Euthanasia is the new front on life.  There are those who seek to shorten the life span of those who are elderly, disabled or deformed.  It is imperative that we get our message out to the public that these are people who are not necessarily dying. Assisted suicide laws are open to elder abuse, especially if the senior has money, and abuse of people with disabilities, as the vast majority of people at the point these laws apply have a disability). These laws also lead to people throwing their lives away when an incorrect diagnosis is made, which is estimated at 20% of the time.  When people see all the facts they usually reject this scheme.

The second recommendation I have is to keep this issue bipartisan. This is not a Republican or Democrat or Libertarian issue. This is a human issue and we need to keep it that way.  Do not let politicians hijack this issue for their own political gain.
I recommend the book Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide by Alex Schadenberg.  It is an easy read with statistics on what happens where euthanasia is legal.
 Nancy Elliott is Team Leader USA with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International. She is a former New Hampshire state representative from Merrimack.

Darlene Pawlik: “Each of us has a sphere of influence”

I can think of two important things any New Hampshire citizen might do to advance the culture of life. One is to either run or support another full spectrum pro-life person in their race to the House or Senate. In a massive cooperative effort, we could see real change. The law is a teacher. If the law permits behavior, it seems acceptable. This is how culture changes. We need more people who recognize our God-given rights creating our laws and supporting those already there.

The other is to be responsive to their individual calling within their sphere of influence to be kind, helpful, and honor all lives loudly. Each of us has a sphere of influence. Whether it is school- age children and their parents or elderly or business people and acquaintances, we can be outspoken about how help may be had and provide it whenever possible.
Recommended book: Siege by Mark Crutcher.
Darlene Pawlik has for more than twenty years been an outspoken advocate for human rights, especially for the most vulnerable in society. She is vice-president of Save the 1. She blogs at thedarlingprincess.com.

Shannon McGinley: “There are many parts to the body”

It depends on the season of your life: run for state office, contact legislators, live out the Culture of Life in your daily life as a mother. There are many parts to the body: political, educational, compassionate care, legal, activism (sidewalk counseling).

Two books that laid the foundation for me: Abortion: Questions and Answers by Jack Willke, and Pro-life Answers to Pro-choice Questions by Randy Alcorn.

Shannon McGinley is a longtime volunteer and philanthropist in the New Hampshire pro-life community. She and her husband Doug have five sons.

Phyllis Woods: Educate “about the sacred, unique, and absolute value of all human life”

To advance the culture of life status in our state and nation, our biggest challenge remains changing hearts and minds. This begins by educating ourselves and then others about the sacred, unique, and absolute value of all human life. This first step must be rooted in a spiritual and biblical foundation. Fr. John Powell wrote in his book Abortion and the Silent Holocaust about questioning the German people after the Jewish Holocaust. He asked them, “Did you know? Did you care? Did you do anything?” Today we know about the horror of abortion and if we truly care we must do something – anything we can. Otherwise we will one day have to answer these questions before God.

If you believe each person really has an inalienable right to life, then silence and inaction in the face of 52 million abortions is inexcusable as scripture tells us. Everyone can do something: donate to a pro-life organization, join a March for Life, write to a newspaper, volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, testify in support of pro-life legislation, work for or support pro-life candidates, or run for office yourself if able.  At the very least, and perhaps most important, you can pray to end abortion.

To read: Abortion: the Silent Holocaust was written in 1981 and was probably the most influential in clicking me into gear to be a prolife activist. I would also suggest Personhood by Daniel Becker.

Phyllis Woods is a former state representative from Dover and was sponsor of several pro-life bills, including New Hampshire’s first parental notification law.

Sister Mary Rose Reddy: a book suggestion

To read: I highly recommend Architects of the Culture of Death by DeMarco and Wiker. It is very informative and definitely a page turner.

Sister Mary Rose Reddy, DMML is Director of Family Faith Formation at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and St. Leo parishes in Rochester.

Last call to register for Manchester pro-life seminar

generic calendarManchester-area pro-lifers, the annual pro-life seminar hosted by the Knights of Columbus is coming up fast. Sunday afternoon, April 17 (yes, the middle of the month is upon us!), the church hall at St. Joseph Cathedral is the place to be. Pre-registration is needed by Wednesday, April 13. You’ll find more information at the Facebook page for this event. I’ve been going to these seminars for several years now, and I always learn something new. It’s great to touch base with local activists, too.

I’ll be there with a Leaven for the Loaf display where you can sign up for the occasional email newsletter, make suggestions for upcoming posts, or just say hello. While I’m there – hint, hint – I’ll be happy to accept sponsorships for my participation in the upcoming Walk for Life to benefit CareNet of Manchester and Nashua. Remember, my goal is $400 to mark four years of blogging. Thank you!

graphic by thefriendsoflife.org
graphic by thefriendsoflife.org