making it up as we go along?

This entry was posted by on Tuesday, 29 May, 2018 at

I guess I should begin with a warning. This is a personal reflection on public events, an attempt to make some sense of the complicated feelings that have been swirling in me since the results of the abortion referendum came to light last weekend. I’ve been aware of a deep disquiet in my spirit, of feeling profoundly sad and troubled, both by the result and by some of the reactions to it.

I’ve also been reluctant to speak about it, because the issues are complex, and the stories are heartbreaking, and the feelings run so deep and strong on all sides. But I’ve been aware of a need, at least for me, to think more deeply about my complicated feelings. And I find I can’t just think about this one issue without thinking about wider questions – about our culture at this moment in history, about the future of western civilisation, about what it means to be human…!

So I guess I’m saying if you want something short and snappy and tweetable, you won’t find it here. This may be a little rambling, and personal, and philosophical, and long! But maybe a few of you will find it helpful. And if it makes you mad, please feel free to share your thoughts below. At times like this we all need to listen more than we speak.

Where to begin? The first thing I’m really aware of as I listen to the conversation is this – people on this island are really, really angry with the Church. As someone who loves Jesus and his Church, this makes me sad. But I think it needs to be faced. Because a lot of the anger is understandable, and justified, and even righteous.

There are so many issues we could talk about here, from the sexual abuse scandals and cover-ups, to the children taken from their mothers without consent, to babies and children buried in umarked graves. And… while all of that was going on, the Church had the audacity to be lecturing people on sexual morality and making them feel bad for their own choices and mistakes. And… while the lecturing voices were all male, those who suffered most were often the women.

John Boyne’s recent novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, begins with a brutal scene – a young woman is brought to the front of a church in rural Ireland by the priest, and in front of her entire community of friends and family, she is denounced as a whore. She is unmarried and pregnant. Her family have reported her to the priest, and her packed bag is waiting for her at home. The priest asks the father of the child to identify himself – if he steps forward he can confess his sins and get on with his life. But for the young woman there is no possibility of grace. She is to leave the parish and never return. It’s a fictional account, but as I read it I found myself thinking – things like this happened, on this island, not that long ago. If we don’t face that, in all it’s ugliness, we can’t begin to understand the anger under the surface of these revolutions in our culture. People are saying “enough is enough.”

And there’s nothing to be said in defence of any of it. There’s nothing to be said except, in all sincerity, Jesus wept. Jesus weeps. And Jesus is angry. His words are as strong and blunt as any people are speaking today – you hypocrites, you blind guides, you brood of vipers. You keep the outside clean, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence. You are like white-washed tombs, which are beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead.

We have to feel the weight of that anger. The only possible response is to hold our hands up in sorrow, in humility, in repentance. And we can’t hide behind the idea that this is a Catholic problem – we have had more than our share of hypocrisy and graceless religion in our Protestant churches, and the anger is there in our communities too. If the debate is coming to Northern Ireland next, as many are predicting, we’ll see that soon enough.

These are not wounds that can be healed lightly. Rebuilding trust will take years. Generations. And it won’t be done with words and apologies and public statements (though those have their place). But through ordinary local churches, communities of faithful followers of Jesus, living the gospel with integrity among their neighbours, so the beauty of Jesus is seen and heard again.

Along with the anger, there’s a second note I can hear in this conversation. And that is optimism. There’s this wave of positive feeling that had people dancing in the streets, cheering people arriving in airports, announcing a new day and a new dawn. And I have to be honest – the optimism troubles me.

The talk was all about progress and being progressive. The choice was between being part of something old, and traditional, and backward, and patriarchal, and oppressive. Or being part of something young, modern, progressive, optimistic, liberating. It’s a powerful and effective narrative.

But increasingly the language of progressivism makes me queasy. It raises the biggest of questions about what, exactly, we are making progress towards. Leo Tolstoy wrote about a time in his life, as a member of the intellectual elite in Russia, when “progress” was his watchword:

Then I thought that this word meant something. Its utter meaninglessness I then could not understand. Here I was tormented, like every living soul, with the question, “How can I better my life?” and I answer, “Live in accordance with progress.” But this is exactly the answer of a man borne along by wind and tide in a boat. He puts the to him all-important question, “What direction must I steer for my safety?” and he receives in answer, “Oh, we are borne along somewither!”

Our generation has this deep desire to throw off the suffocating weight of “traditional morality.” But the question is, what exactly are we replacing it with? And the more I wonder about that, the more I start to suspect that we are, quite literally, making it up as we go along. We have no idea where we are going, or who is steering the ship, but we are optimistic that we are making progress.

Where does the optimism come from? It seems to be rooted in a confidence that “the people” can be trusted to choose what is good and right, once they are liberated from the oppressive control of tradition and religion. People are essentially good and we can trust their moral compass to guide us to some beautiful shore.

I don’t share this optimism. I think “we the people” are capable of astonishing kindness and generosity and goodness. And also capable of being self-deceived. We hide our darkest motivations and impulses behind our shiniest ones. And I fear that is a big part of the story of this referendum. On the surface, the Yes campaign was all about compassion for women, and justice, and equality, and freedom. And who can argue with beautiful ideas like that? I don’t mean to sound cynical either – I think all those beautiful motivations were really there.

But I also think there are other, less beautiful motivations. That have more to do with selfishness, and convenience, and avoiding discomfort. So much of the focus of the public debate was on the heart-breaking stories – of rape, and mother’s lives at risk, and fatal abnormalities in the child. But I don’t think anyone really believes Ireland is now going to develop abortion laws which only cover that tiny minority of cases. As a “modern, progressive, enlightened nation,” Ireland will go the same way as the other “progressive” nations. Abortion will be available as a lifestyle choice when the child is not wanted.

By calling it a lifestyle choice I don’t mean to suggest it is not often a painful, even excruciating choice. Or that the issues involved in the choice may not be complex. But still, it is a choice. And this is where I think some of our darker motivations get revealed.

Anna Quindlen’s novel Miller’s Valley tells the story of a young girl called Mimi, growing up in a traditional, rural community. Many of the women in her life don’t have many choices. Her mother is a smart woman who became a nurse because it wasn’t an option for her to become a doctor. Many of her friends are following the predictable path of college followed by early marriage and babies, and maybe a job in the local diner. Mimi is super-smart, and fascinated by science. She wants something more from life. And then disaster strikes. She gets pregnant. And so the novel presents her choice to go to the city for an abortion as the brave choice, the liberating choice.

But I found the way it described her thought-process very revealing. She says she never thought of what was in her womb as a person. She thought of it more as an anchor, a terrible weight that would drag her down, along with all her dreams for her future. Now I don’t think it’s hard to empathise with why she felt that way. But I still find the logic deeply disturbing. She doesn’t want the kind of future life she feels this child will bring, so she chooses not to think of it as a person, which allows her to make the choice she wants to make with a clear conscience. But the same logic would appall us if we applied it to other situations. A toddler with an autism diagnosis, a spouse with a degenerative illness, an elderly parent with dementia – all of them could be seen as “an anchor” on our future life, limiting our options and threatening some of our dreams. But we don’t follow the same path of logic, of thinking of them as “not a person” in order to justify ending their life, and thus releasing ourselves from the anchor.

I know I have desires and impulses and instincts which are good, and beautiful. And others which are dark and twisted and selfish, and which I do my best to keep hidden even from myself. So I don’t trust the herd instinct of “the people” to lead us infallibly to the beautiful shore.  I think the wind and tide of our current cultural mood is just as likely to lead us into shark-infested waters or submerged rocks. I think we need some Wisdom from outside ourselves, something given to us, something handed down.

So I’m not optimistic. But that doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful. I don’t actually think it was ever possible, or  even desirable, to enforce Christian values on the rest of our culture through the blunt instrument of the law.  We may be moving back towards the situation of the first generations of Christians, who were a small minority in a pagan culture that either ignored them or tried to kill them. But they were always people of hope. They understood their calling, not in terms of voting Christian values into law, but as living out the beautiful vision of God’s kingdom as an alternative culture, a city on a hill.

In the urban centres of the Roman empire it was common practice for unwanted babies to be left on the rubbish dumps outside the city. They were left to die, because they were physically sick or disabled, or illegitimate, or unwanted. Often it was because they were girls. The early Christians could do little to stop this practice in the wider culture – but they chose in their own lives to swim against the tide and tell a different story. They created a culture of life in the midst of a culture of death. They acted out their belief that every human person is made in God’s image and precious. They made costly and courageous choices. When it was possible they rescued the children from the rubbish dumps and raised them as their own.

I’m sure it didn’t seem like much. But they believed that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. They believed that all this darkness is a small and passing thing. They were people of hope. They planted their little seeds. They planted their flag of resistance and resurrection on the rubbish dumps of the culture. They shone like stars in the night sky, and many were drawn to their light. Let’s go and do likewise.



20 Responses to “making it up as we go along?”

  1. Have literally just gone through the same process of trying to fathom all of this through my personal circumstances, and by writing a blog post! Very interesting to read similar thinking. thanks for writing!

  2. Lynda

    John Mark thank you for doing something rare in this conversation in sharing thoughts that are considered and compassionate and non tribal. Thank you for not using the reductive and unhelpful terms pro life or pro choice with their assumptions and assusations and thank you for recognising the complexities on all sides. I believe in reducing abortion as much as possible and I also believe sometimes abortion is the better choice. I believe some decisions can never be fully right or fully wrong. I believe as humans we must live with this disruption and tension. I believe the legislation of a country does not best represent its true heart or intentions. I believe labels and claims are less important that the work we do to actually achieve those aims. I believe every person lives with the consequences of every choice they make and that condemnation serves no one except the ego of those condemning. I believe we must listen a whole lot more to each and every story we can no matter what it represents and judge a whole lot less. I believe we need to employ less simplistic terms and affiliations such as pro choice and pro life and face the hard complexities of these issues and our own ignorance and hypocrisies as part of that. I believe there is no pro forma for mercy and compassion and it looks different in each case. I believe most people want to do the right thing and I believe we need to trust that in each other even if we see it to be misguided. I believe we will still get it wrong and should never give up asking hard questions and facing our own demons. I believe God is love and where there’s more love shown towards every aspect of creation is the only measure of progress we have. I believe this work of loving all well is the hardest of all.

  3. David

    Thoughtful as always

  4. Gibby

    A reasonable and compassionate bit of thought processing. I was starting to get a bit disappointed when you talked only about anger, and really refreshed when you recognised that its largely driven by joy, compassion and positivity (how ever misguided in your view). Sometimes i feel that when church people watch the wider community go against what they believe is right – they look inward and say, ‘what we are we doing wrong? how are we failing to get the message across?’ when sometimes the truth is, people just don’t agree, they know the message, they understand the argument, they know you’re mostly decent people, but our understanding of ethics and morality has moved on, and the church, as it has over the centuries (in my view) will resist that change, and then accept a version of it, and then claim they invented it.

    “Making it up as we go along” ? well yeah, wasn’t it ever thus?

    I feel you’ve cherry picked your idealistic story about early christians being lovely and doing lovely moral things all the time. The history of Christianity is at best chequered, surely you’d concede. Understanding of moral thought evolves over time and through culture, debate and reasoning. We’re always making it up as we go, trying our best to apply the golden rule to difficult questions of competing rights and obligations. Progress is not always in the right direction , and its for every generation to re-assess.

    My grandfather were firebrand Brethren preachers who’s nod to ‘progress’ was to allow a TV in the house (hiding it from the elders of course who’d be scandalised), then my mums bit of progress was to have wee drop of wine now and again (hiding it from her dad of course, who’d be scandalised)… my straight-laced dad now helps out at a LGBT community group and changes his Facebook profile to a rainbow flag for gay pride day !!! 🙂

    we’re all making it up as we go along

  5. Bronagh Synnott

    The church’s influence in Ireland is like a bad hangover. I’m sure that if the church didn’t simultaneously condemn abortion and yet crucify (oh the irony) single pregnant would-be mothers as whores/ unfit / etc or announce that children of families that don’t fit the expected societal mould are ‘born losers’, then you may find yourself a part of a nation of people who reflected rather than genuflected, but as it stands – this is what we have. Pragmatism prevails because living love never ever did. I voted yes, because pragmatism is the solution that forces those who profess love for all to show it. If you really care for people, start with those in the situation of an unplanned pregnancy and live it out, right beside them, for it all. Because right now, the church in Ireland (arrogant, cold, crystallised) bares no reflection to the bride of Christ. Having studied catholic theology for a couple of years and been alongside their hope for the future, I stand fervently by that yes vote.

  6. Rhodri

    Thank you.

  7. Lynda

    I feel a frustration too at how debates like this encourage people to energetically throw themselves into something they very often have no influence or power over. (If you were not someone who was voting) There are a thousand ways to excercise your belief in being ‘pro life’ or supporting life giving practises every day but these are often the choices we refuse to engage with or willfully ignore as we actually would have to change our own personal behaviours then and that’s hard work. To be wilfully ignorant or to ignore the practises of cheap production of goods when the daily consequences are the pollution and depletion of resources of communities in poverty,resulting in the illness and death of people including children is not engaging in ‘pro life’ work. To exhalt out right to excess and choice of food when it’s production causes the local population to suffer by destroying their Eco systems and land and thereby destroying their own food sources is not pro life work. The one does not negate the other but whereas we maybe can’t personally influence law in another part of the country we can make a difference in how we shop and what we demand and by saying no to things we have become entitled to but that rob from the poorest and most vulnerable. If you want to be demonstrate a commitment to human life today in a way that will actually make a difference,start with your groceries. This is the work we all can engage with right now but it’s arguably harder.

  8. Christine Cairns

    I really appreciate your thoughts on this, and those of many of the posts. The debate on abortion is really important, and I also understand that people feel extremely strongly about it on both sides, for good reason. For me, that is somewhat separate to how I would vote in a referendum on the issue. For me the starting point is that I am responsible for my own actions, choices and decisions in life, that’s what I will be held accountable for. There are many things which are legal which I choose not to do. Secondly, I have long found that when these issues are entangled in politics, the deep emotional feelings that they invoke cause people to make (in my view) unfathomable political choices, such as admitting that they share many of the political values of a certain party, but are unable to vote for them because of the party’s stance on same sex marriage, or more extreme, choosing to vote for a dangerous misogynistic lunatic because they find themselves unable to vote for the opposition because of their view on abortion. What does that achieve? You touched on it when you said that you don’t think it possible or desirable to enforce Christian values on the rest of our culture through the blunt instrument of the law. I agree with that. A certain politician expressed how I feel more eloquently than I can. “I’m a liberal to my fingertips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me. There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the Gospel.” For these reasons, in this, and in the recent Australian referendum, I would have voted yes.

  9. canal ways

    I’m so disheartened by everything, there is so much going on here apart from the specific issue of abortion. I couldn’t think straight last week because it was on my mind.
    There is a guy I talk to in the pub and I’ve never had problem with him before and I noticed a tweet he’d put up calling people who vote no are ‘Nazis’. So now I’m annoyed with him…because he’s calling me a Nazi.
    And I’ve seen others going on about pro-life church people being hypocrites and how they’ve no moral authority given their history of abuse. It’s hard when I see how we try our best to help people around Galway and embody a pro-life, Christ like way. I’m tired of the sneering at religion.
    One group of people who I think this must be hard for are the childless couples and people who would liked to have been parents. The No abortion side are always making a point about how babies are a gift while the Yes pro choice side are always making a point about how it should be their choice. There are so many people in Ireland who’ve never had the gift or never had the choice and they’ve been listening to this going on for months, walking past posters.I’m tired of it all.

  10. Ryan

    Interestingly Lynda, to shop in the way you have stated is a lot more expensive than the alternative therefore isolating people with less income which then starts the cycle over again. I agree this would be the best way if it was affordable for all.
    On some of the other comments, I agree that we all have to give an answer for our actions and that by allowing choice, it means people will have to do that. However, when it comes to the voiceless and those who cannot defend themselves, as Christians, we do have a mandate to do that. That goes for the unborn, the woman pregnant out of wedlock and other examples mentioned above. Quite often, this will mean going against the status quo.

  11. Lynda

    Valid comment Ryan and partly my point,the closer we are to an issue and the more agency we have to act within it the more complex and grey it becomes as there’s no simple right and wrong any more but a lot of complex choices which all have their own consequences. Which is why we find these decisions and actions harder to execute as they are rarely wholly good or wholly bad. I find on the abortion issue the more it looks black and white probably the further away the person is from the day to day living within it and it’s personal challenges and considerations.

  12. jaybercrow

    Thanks so much to all of you who have taken time to comment here. All of you have made me pause and think, and I’m grateful for your gracious tone and theoughtful comments, even where we see things differently. I won’t try and respond to every comment, but I’m grateful for all of you. I will share a few of my responses to some of you…

  13. jaybercrow

    Lynda – thanks for all your beautifully expressed thoughts. I liked your “I believe” creed! I especially appreciate what you say about how easy it is for any of us to take a position on a big moral issue like this which doesn’t directly impact us, but we can be unwilling to make choices that are consistently “pro-life” when those choices are personally costly for us.

    A friend told me about a pastor who refused to preach against abortion in his church until they had taken steps as a community to provide an alternative – real help and support for women dealing with crisis preganacies, and people willing to foster and adopt unwanted babies. I find that really challenging.

    I think it’s fair to say I’m not as optimistic as you are about most people’s intentions being good most of the time. And while I agree wholeheartedly that love is the key, I also think “love” as a bare abstract noun is much to vague as a measure of progress, and can be used to justify nearly anything. I think love needs embodied and incarnated in some kind of story (about God, the world etc).

    I’ve been chewing over your thoughts about how things can look black and white from a distance, but generally look much more complex and muddy and grey when we are up close. I think that’s so true. But I wonder if we can draw two quite different conclusions (both valid!). One conclusion is that we should hesitate to speak or pronounce judgment on things that don’t impact us directly and which we have no experience of. But the other is that sometimes we can see things more clearly when we are not too close to them? I’d love to talk with you more about that one! Thanks again for taking time to share your thoughts.

  14. jaybercrow

    Christine – Sorry you felt nervous about sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate you and your comment, and I think you express really well a view that deserves to be more widely appreciated. It would help in a lot of the current culture war debates if we could all make a distinction between (a) what I believe to be morally right and (b) what I believe should be legislated by government. I have a lot of sympathy for the kind of political liberalism you describe, and I like that quotation a lot (is that Tim Farron?). It resonates with my theological understanding that the kingdom of God is something that changes society from below (by changing hearts and lives and relationships and communities…) rather than being imposed from above.

    But… I have to confess I struggle with the application of that framework to the abortion issue. It seems like liberalism should allow people to make their own choices as long as they don’t harm others – especially if those others are weak and vulnerable and without a voice. And I’ve never been able to shake off the conviction that abortion harms the weakest and most vulnerable and most voiceless members of our society. At that point surely true liberalism steps in to protect the weak from the strong?

    Having said all that, I also think we as Christians need to face reality when the wider culture has not been persuaded and doesn’t agree. And that being the case, our calling is not to rant and rave and shout about the sky falling down, but get on with living out what we believe and loving our neighbours. These are just a few of my thoughts. What do you think? (I’d much rather have this discussion over a pint!)

  15. jaybercrow

    Bronagh – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you express some of that righteous anger against the hypocrisy of the church very powerfully. I also really liked this line: “If you really care for people, start with those in the situation of an unplanned pregnancy and live it out, right beside them.”

    I read something yesterday that I found really striking. This quotation (from Frederica Mathewes-Green) has apprently been widely used by people on both sides of the debate: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

    If that’s true, then the urgent task for all of us must be to create communities of grace within which no woman ever feels desperate enough, or alone enough, or ashamed enough, to feel she has to make that awful choice. Is there some hope that people who voted differently can still agree and work together towards that goal? What do you think Bronagh?

  16. jaybercrow

    Gibby – thanks for the food for thought. I think you’ve mellowed in your posting tone from your QMonkey days!

    And yes, of course I recognise the history of the church has been chequered. I think I spent more time in my piece on the horrors than the bright spots? I don’t feel I was cherry-picking so much as giving one clear example from history of a time when Christians got this right, as an example we could be inspired by. I feel the balance in public conversations about the church is currently much more towards the worst stories though, in a distorted way, no?

    And you ask if we haven’t always made it up as we go along? That’s the million dollar question I guess. I do think there’s something new going on in (post)modern, post-Christian, progressive times. In other generations/centuries, of course there was a wild variety of views about ethics and morality. But there was a strong consensus that there existed such a thing as the Good, the Right, the True – and that our moral health or progress was measured by how much we were moving towards that goal. And that wasn’t just in the Judeo-Christian version of things, but in Platonic-Aristotelian, Confucian, Hindu, Stoic ethics as well.

    It seems like in our time we are engaging in a big mad experiment to see what happens if you trash the idea of the Good as something that actually exists, something given, something from outside ourselves. But keep talking about things like Justice and Equality and Compassion – all of which are left-over fragments of traditional morality, but now stripped of their context and coherence. They become abstract nouns which can be defined according to the whim of the mood of the current generation. We don’t believe in the Good but we are optimistic that we are moving closer towards it…

    Tolstoy summed it up as a belief in “particles and progress” – claiming on the one hand that we are nothing but particles that happen to have come together in a particular formation for a little while. But also insisting that when my lump of particles and your lump of particles work together with other lumps… we can all make great progress towards some good destination and make things better and better. I do think this strange combination of ideas is a new thing in the current age. But I’m guessing you would say we have always been making it up as we go along… but now we have become self-aware or honest enough to admit that’s what we are doing?

  17. Lynda

    I agree John Mark. Poets and prophets have often afforded us a wider perspective which is all the richer for their positioning outside the tribe. However, unlike your admirable pastor, I feel there’s a deliberate turning away from the complexities and a wilful ignorance because the recognition of nuance doesn’t allow for the same sweeping personal and moral outrage and the outrage seems to be very important aspect of engagement in this case.

    But I’m also curious as to the reasoning behind much of the outrage and defeatist lament. If it claims to be about the supposed effect now on the practise of abortion in Ireland then that concern is misplaced. Legislation never has and never will be the primary determining factor in a countries abortion rates. Current and past practise demonstrates that countries with some of the most stringent abortion laws have some of the highest rates of abortion and counties like Switzerland with some of the most open laws have some of the lowest abortion rates in Europe. This is not to say open laws reduce abortion but legislation is much less influential than socio economic factors and pro active state supported and funded education. The main influencing factor on abortion rates is medically based sex eduction and access to contraception. (Especially poignant for Ireland) What happened with the referendum didn’t really negatively impact the systems that have the most long term sway in reducing abortion rates. This is where the real work is for those serious about reducing cases. So what’s the outrage serving and saying? As someone on the moral maze last night said, ‘We need to express our outrage to show which tribe we belong to.’ Is this what much of the lament is about? Is it about the message such legislation now seems to send and a need to distance ourselves to preserve an identity we have allowed to become too intertwined with things outside ourselves? Is it because we have lazily outsourced the internal heartwork of morality and the eternal quest for the good to laws and legislation which now feel like they are failing us and we don’t have the confidence or moral muscle to go it alone or accept our own complicity?

  18. jaybercrow

    Thanks Lynda. I’m really appreciating your voice in this conversation. I think all of the questions you ask there are important, and uncomfortable! I’m finding them helpful to chew on…

    I do wonder though if we also need to allow for the fact that some of the lament comes from a good and healthy place? For those who believe every unborn child is a human person, it is genuinely and deeply troubling to see people dancing in the streets.

  19. jaybercrow

    Just wanted to add in this post from my friend Lee (she gave her permission to add it here)…

    “This is a very hard topic. Filled with emotions from both sides. It’s a hard conversation to have because of the emotions from those fiercely protective of life , to the ones who have had abortions and are regretful , to those who like the author says have experienced shame and abandonment for carrying a child out of wedlock, to those who see abortion as a right . I think my heart hurts more for those who for whatever reason , even ignorance , felt abortion was the only way. I feel we ( me) need to show compassion and mercy to those. They don’t need us beating them up over an action /decision that can not be changed now. Let’s not fail the next woman in this position. Let’s not make her feel that abortion is the only way forward. I am gutted that people in the past have been rejected by churches and so they equate anti abortion laws to the severity and ruthlessness of the church and therefore want to run a mile in the opposite direction.
    I’d like to think the collective church and society have come a long way since then and will now give desperate women the support they need to bring the baby into this world and be the mother or offer the baby for adoption. We have to do better.”

  20. Lynda

    Of course John mark, don’t let me be misunderstood. The lament of the loss of any life is a righteous one and one we should be engaging with long before and long after any referendum across all corners of the globe. I just don’t feel the same lament at the removal of legislation which primarily had the appearance of being anti abortion (even with the legal caveat of ‘not here but go next door’) while the traditional posture of the country was not only indifference to abortion but has been actively involved in processes which have been know to increase abortion rates ie shame culture, teaching negative views of women and their sexuality, patriarchy, inadequate and religious based sex education etc. Like someone driving round with a righteous bumper sticker, feeling that it’s presence alone is enough to place them on the side of the ‘right’, while within the car itself there is domestic abuse and shouting and shaming and all sorts of behaviour . I’m not grieved to lose the sticker and what could have been used as excuse for good and still hope that real transformative steps inside can be happen. But this is often the slower quieter work of policy workers and teachers and nurses and administration staff and honest and good prophets and priests and politicians . I don’t share the emotions of the celebrants ( though I sympathise somewhat with those maybe not taking part so much in celebration but in exhalation with the removal of something they personally have been hurt by ) For me abortion is never a good thing. In all cases it’s reactionary and tied up with shame or panic or worry or sickness or fear or death or isolation or poverty. These are not good or life giving things but sadly part of the human experience. But I do think while it will never be good in some cases it’s the right thing and I wonder am I allowed the murky distinction sometimes between something not being good and also being right? Because in my own perpetual discomfort with all such realities sometimes it’s the only ground I can find to stand on.

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