50 Ways You Can Help Heal Our Divided Country

Since the election, what I’ve been trying to say was love each other, love each other, and love each other. From the reactions I got, it seems some people weren’t able to hear anything but attack. Over and again I was told how divisive I am.1 It seems that for some of us, unity is the currently the supreme value.

So I’ve been praying about what it means to be unifying. I think many people–on both sides–believe it means to shut up about what you don’t like and accept the status quo, but in a Church that has always fought for justice I just can’t see how that could be right. When people are afraid and enraged and feel attacked for voting their consciences, the appropriate response can’t just be to yell at everyone to shut up.

Seen in a high school government classroom the week after the election. Ain't that the truth?
Seen in a high school government classroom the week after the election. Ain’t that the truth?

Unity doesn’t mean that we all believe the exact same thing. It means that we listen and respect and try to understand each other. It means that we use appropriate channels to voice our concerns, including peaceful protest. It means that we acknowledge people’s fear even if we then try to show them that it’s unfounded. It means we work to defend each other, even if we don’t have a dog in this particular fight.

But opportunities to do all this seem to be evading us. So for those of you who, with me, are trying to understand and love people on both sides, I thought a list of concrete things to do might be helpful. They may not all be up your alley, but they’re worth considering.

Respect—specific actions you can take to respect people who differ from you.

  1. Assume that people mean well. Don’t read between the lines to discover an attack where one wasn’t intended.
  2. Stop with the hateful rhetoric. Call out prejudice, but don’t refer to people as fascists and crybabies unless they are heavily influenced by Mussolini or literal infants in tears.
  3. When using words like racist, do the best you can to label actions, not people. For one, it’s a dangerous thing to define someone by one element of his character. For another, it’s not fruitful to slam the door in his face. Take issue with language or behavior and you might still be able to have a conversation.
  4. Don’t hold people to a higher standard than the one you set for yourself. If you expect others to understand that not all Trump supporters are bigots, you need to acknowledge that not all protestors are rioting, and vice versa.
  5. kinderRemember that every person you criticize—friend, family member, stranger on the internet, even politician—is a real person, beloved by God, with wounds and suffering that have formed her. Be kind.
  6. Make a list of all the things you respect about the party you don’t belong to. (If you’re an independent, make two lists.) Once you get going (including intentions and conviction), you might find there’s more there than you expected.
  7. Encourage people you see who are trying to understand how the other side thinks. Believe me, when you start to affirm something that’s different from what the majority of your friends believe, you’re going to suffer for it. A little encouragement goes a long way.
  8. Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Ask yourself: if I were gay or rural poor or pro-life or undocumented or a victim of sexual assault or underemployed, how would I feel? Is it possible to believe as this person believes without being a racist/baby-murderer/snowflake/xenophobe? Then give him the benefit of the doubt. Assume he’s not terrible and act on that assumption.
  9. Remember that the point of all this isn’t winning but love.
    Information—the sources you listen to and the way you share them.
  10. Read books that weren’t written for you, and follow news sources that don’t skew your way. Share their work, even if with a caveat. I don’t agree with everything in any of these articles, but I think they’re all worth a read.
    1. I found this article particularly helpful in understanding the Trump voters who weren’t motivated by pro-life convictions.2
    2. This one (despite its profanity) similarly gives an explanation of the desperation of many people living in rural poverty.
    3. These quotations from individual Trump voters shed light on how multifaceted that group is.
    4. This man–no Trump supporter–writes in a very thorough way about how he believes the accusations of racism are beyond excessive. This one is really fascinating.
    5. On the flip side, this post outlines some of the serious concerns the left has following this election.
    6. Elizabeth Warren’s letter might also raise eyebrows among Trump supporters who expected him to drain the swamp as he promised.
    7. It helps to read what those in the middle are saying as well.
    8. This post on how to be an anti-racist ally might make you very uncomfortable. It’s still worth your time.
  11. Be very deliberate about your comments on social media. (Seriously, click over there. Half of what I’m trying to say here I already said better there.)
  12. Don’t share stories you haven’t fact-checked. May I recommend www.snopes.com to start?
  13. If you listen to the radio, alternate between SiriusXM Patriot and Progress. If television, add some Fox to your diet of MSNBC. Subscribe to the Washington Post and the Washington Times–real print subscriptions that support responsible journalism in an age of clickbait. Try not to hate your opposition but actually to listen.
  14. thinkIf you love Trump, make a post on social media in which you acknowledge some of the concerns you have about him. If you don’t, share a list of positive things you could see coming out of his presidency.
  15. Continue to speak out against injustice, but make sure you also decry injustice coming from your side. You might think that everybody knows that when you defend immigrants you clearly oppose riots, but people these days are struggling to ascribe any positive attributes to the opposition. Make it easier by saying the obvious aloud.
  16. Go find some of those friends you unfollowed during election season–the ones who are good and intelligent if a bit overly-vocal about politics–and read what they’ve shared. Then reach out to them to start a conversation.
  17. Research—if you’re genuinely afraid of the consequences a Trump presidency will have on your life, find the particular laws and executive orders you’re concerned about and learn what it would take to reverse them. In many instances, the process would be impossible or at least so complicated as to push it after mid-term elections.
  18. When your heartfelt attempts to be just and compassionate are met with rage or disdain, consider taking a break from fighting the good fight to read some happy news and remember that there really are millions of marvelous people in this world.
  19. Get off social media for a week and just live your life.
    Conversation—the way you view and interact with people you know.
  20. Go to coffee with a friend from the other side of the political spectrum. It might be best for you to set a time limit on political talk, giving yourself half an hour or so to work through the very real differences between you before switching to less incendiary topics.
  21. If you know somebody who’s afraid following this election, reach out and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
  22. When an online interaction is getting heated or you’re talking past each other, invite your interlocutor to meet in person to continue the conversation. It’s harder to hate each other in person.
  23. Be aware that you use words that set off red flags for other people or just seem meaningless (privilege, subsidiarity). Try to use language that we all share.
  24. Sirach 20:1Remember that not every battle is yours to fight. There are times when you have to stand your ground and other times when you can change the subject or keep scrolling.
  25. Don’t defend the indefensible. Just because you approve of a particular politician doesn’t mean you have to take his side on every issue. We are fighting for truth and goodness here, not for a political candidate or ideology. Admit it when your side is wrong.
  26. Reach out to people you know who voted differently from you and ask them, “Please help me understand.” Listen. Repeat it back to them. Do not argue. Don’t even share your perspective unless they ask. Just try to understand.
  27. When conversations get too heated, pull back and ask people to help you find common ground. We may not agree that a certain appointee is a racist, but we can agree that racism is wrong. We can agree that people ought to feel safe. We can agree that people ought to listen to each other. There’s far more that unites us than that divides us.
    Action—choices you can make to benefit the broader community.
  28. Take a look at the appointments being made by our president-elect. If any of them concern you, call your representatives to voice that concern. If any of them reassure you, do the same.
  29. Consider wearing a safety pin, even if you’re not a liberal. This is a signal that you are a safe person to ask for help and that you’re willing to step in if you see injustice. If people view it as a political statement, explain that you are opposed to cruelty regardless of its cause.
  30. Don’t wear a safety pin if you’re not willing to put yourself at risk.3
  31. Pray daily for our current president, our president-elect, and every person whose political persuasions rub you the wrong way.
  32. Encourage your elected officials to pursue genuine dialogue. This article suggests that Catholics who have worked in ecumenism could lead the conversation.
  33. Pick an institution you struggle to understand and respect (a crisis pregnancy center, a mosque, the National Organization for Women, a Baptist church, the VFW, Greenpeace, the NAACP, the NRA) and stop by for a visit. Ask if they have a representative you can ask some questions of. Don’t try to change their minds, just to understand. And maybe bring cookies.
  34. Take your kids to visit a nursing home. It may not do anything politically, but works of mercy always serve the common good.
  35. Look for beautiful things to refresh you. Read a lovely or painful or entertaining book. Man cannot live on rage and controversy alone.
  36. Support local businesses and get to know the people who run them.
  37. When you’re upset on behalf of a particular group, instead of being angry, do something specific to serve that group. If you’re concerned about immigrants, donate to an organization that serves them or volunteer to teach ESL at your church or community center. If you’re worried about affordable housing for the poor, get involved in Habitat for Humanity or sign up to tutor people working toward their GED.
  38. Tell people you love why you love them. Especially the ones who make that hard.
  39. Make eye contact with strangers and smile at them. This is a particularly easy time to do that, as all this week you can tell people happy Thanksgiving and I can’t think that anybody will be offended.
  40. Stop by your neighbors’ houses with cookies/an invitation to dinner/an offer to rake their leaves.
  41. Tell immigrants and refugees who you know personally that you’re glad they’re here.
  42. When someone is afraid or angry or otherwise upset, offer to pray with her right there.
  43. Go home for the holidays and love your family. Even the difficult ones.
  44. Spend time in silence every day.
  45. Write a prayer of thanksgiving for the existence of those on the other side of the spectrum from you. Be specific about their good intentions and all that you’ve learned from them (or from trying to speak to them).
  46. Before posting online, reading an article that challenges your view, or speaking to a person you disagree with, offer this prayer:

    Holy Spirit, speak in me and through me. May my stony heart be broken open to love and may I speak the truth the world longs to hear.

  47. Teach your children to love people who are different from them–by talking about it and by demonstrating it. If you don’t have friends who are a different race, try attending a different church (or the same church at a different time) for a few weeks to integrate your Sunday morning. If you don’t have friends who are a different religion, you might consider calling a local place of worship and explaining that you’re trying to help your children learn to love different people and you’re wondering if they might have a family that would like to meet for a playdate.
  48. Though I don't recommend doing it with graffiti.
    Though I don’t recommend doing it with graffiti.

    Find an entirely nonpartisan charity, one that feeds kids or builds handicapped-accessible playgrounds or helps single parents go back to school or shelters abused women or something, and make a donation.

  49. If you see someone who’s being treated cruelly for any reason, step in. This comic shows a peaceful way to defuse a situation.
  50. Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.

My friends, unity is a beautiful thing, but it is not the most beautiful thing. Truth and justice are far more important, even at the expense of unity. But we can serve truth and justice with kindness and compassion, seeking to listen and understand, respecting people even if we can’t accept their beliefs. Unity is not achieved by people shutting their mouths for fear or shame but by people honestly seeking to love and understand each other. Instead of letting the devil convince us that the other is the enemy, let’s stage a revolution of kindness and make this terrible election season the spark that lit the world on fire with love.


(One way to start being unifying would be to make only constructive comments on this post rather than insulting me in all caps. Just a thought.)

  1. Even when I posted an article in which a Clinton supporter said (with all evidence of sincerity) that she believes Trump supporters to be “good-hearted, well-intentioned, loving, tolerant, inclusive, and American.” []
  2. I already understood those. The right to life is the most important right we have and I had no problem respecting those who voted on that issue in this particular election. []
  3. Note: I don’t agree with everything that author says, just thought it was a good read. []

Not Babies Throwing Tantrums: Respecting People’s Fear

The trouble with being a Catholic is that we don’t generally do extremes. We tend to try to walk right down the center, holding seeming opposites in tension in what’s called the “both-and” of Catholicism. This is particularly complicated in our polarized American culture and many of us have been struggling this week to figure out how to rejoice over some hope of pro-life legislation being passed while mourning the pain and fear of so many marginalized groups in this country.

I’ve made no secret of my deep concerns about the rhetoric and character of our president-elect; at the same time, being a believing Catholic means that many of the issues that matter most to me align with his current party. So this week has been a tough one, trying to challenge the victors and console their opponents while also reminding both sides not to vilify one another. I’ve already written to liberals encouraging them to consider that most who voted for Trump did so not because of the racist and misogynistic and otherwise hateful things he’s said but in spite of them.1

Now, my conservative friends, I need to talk to you. Or rather, to the handful of you who are complaining so loudly about “crybabies” throwing ”temper tantrums.” To those who are raging that people just need to accept the results of the election and “get over it.” To those who laugh at trigger warnings and safe spaces, and feel the need to ridicule people’s pain and fear.

This is not mercy.

This is not love.

This will not heal.

And those of you who are so loudly asserting your tolerance are refusing to hear the suffering of people of color, abuse victims, Muslims, the disabled, women, GLBTQ folks, and every other community denigrated in recent months by our president-elect and his supporters. But perhaps you will listen to me, a white, pro-life Christian who’s never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate.

Your brothers and sisters are terrified.

It doesn’t actually matter if you think their fears are legitimate. When a kind and merciful person encounters someone paralyzed by fear, the proper response is never to ridicule him for being illogical or reactionary.

If your sister came to your house hyperventilating because her ex was trying to kill her, you wouldn’t tell her to shut up and quit whining, even if her ex was an amazing man. You would hold her and love her and tell her you’d protect her and then try to figure out why she was so afraid. Only then would you talk her down and point out why her fears are—perhaps—unfounded.

Now let’s say your sister had a past history of abuse. You’d be even more empathetic, wouldn’t you? You’d listen and love and ask her how you could help her to feel safe.

And if she’d been abused and her abuser had just been acquitted and her restraining order canceled, you’d do something tangible to protect her.

At least I hope you would.

Because when people are afraid, good people don’t ridicule them.

This is where we are right now. Millions of people who have been abused and see the face of their abuser on the most powerful man in the world are begging desperately for help. Mockery is an inhuman response.

When people are afraid, it’s because there’s something wrong. Maybe there’s a real danger and maybe they’ve been told there’s one and maybe they’re having a mental breakdown. But none of those things is solved by telling them to suck it up.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-1-09-17-amYou don’t have to believe that there is a real danger to your friends and neighbors and strangers in order to listen with compassion. You don’t have to accept the assertions that this presidency will pose a danger to their livelihoods and very lives. Even if you don’t believe them, you can still listen and love and ask how to help.

But it might be easier knowing that these people are not crybabies. Perhaps they will be fine, but they have legitimate reason to fear.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to this country as children and here legally now under DACA are afraid of being deported. You may disagree that they should be here. They are still afraid.

Seriously ill people who had been unable to obtain affordable health insurance because of pre-existing conditions are afraid that they won’t be able to pay for life-saving treatments. You may have had a negative experience with the Affordable Care Act. They are still afraid.

Gay and lesbian couples who are legally married and have children together are afraid that their families will be split up, that they will no longer be able to share legal guardianship of their children or receive their partner’s health benefits or appear in public together without risk of harassment or assault. You may not believe that their union is truly a marriage. They are still afraid.

Survivors of sexual assault are afraid that a country that elects as president man who brags about assaulting women will refuse to believe them when they share their stories of assault. You may believe that Mr. Trump was all talk on that tape. They are still afraid.

Muslims are afraid that they will be forced to register as Muslims and then will be systematically discriminated against as a result of this registry. You may not see the link between this and Nazi Germany. They are still afraid.

Transgender individuals who obtain hormones through insurance (hormones that keep them from committing suicide) are afraid that insurance will no longer cover these medications. You may disagree that they need them. They are still afraid.

Black Americans are afraid that in a country that elected a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, they are not safe in their communities or even their homes. You may know a thousand people who voted for Trump and would never use the N-word. They are still afraid.

Marginalized people of all sorts have heard report after report of hate speech and hate crimes and are afraid that they will also be targeted. You may believe many of these events to be fabricated; you may have similar concerns over accounts of attacks on Trump supporters. They are still afraid.

Tell that to the March for Life. We lost that battle 40 years ago and we're still out marching. Maybe we should just get over it. #sarcasm
A good example of rhetoric that is not helpful.

People are protesting in the streets. I suppose some might just be pitching a fit because they don’t like losing. Others feel a deep fear for themselves or those they love. Many believe—and God help us, I pray that they’re wrong—that President Elect Trump is as dangerous a man as Adolf Hitler was. If you learned of Germans in 1933 who took to the streets to protest Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, you would applaud them. You don’t have to agree with the protestors to respect the fact that many of them believe they are acting to prevent grievous human rights abuses.2

You may argue that true mercy wouldn’t allow people to rest in an unfounded fear, and I agree. But consider this: the fact that you haven’t experienced violence and discrimination and other threats simply because of who you are might make you the wrong person to determine what fears are unfounded. And even if you are the right person, you must do it gently and compassionately. Listen. Empathize. Seriously consider the suffering of the other. Only then can you very gently begin to explain certain areas in which a person is safer than she may feel.

But please don’t sit behind your computer complaining about entitled millennials throwing tantrums. Other people’s pain and fear deserve your respect, even if you don’t understand them. And when you listen with respect, you may find that you come to understand.


Edit: This post is about people who are afraid, not people who are enraged or violent. That’s why I spoke only about fear and specifically expressed my rejection of violence.

We’ve been having some trouble in the comments section since I started talking about controversial topics. Maybe before you post something, take a look at this post on how to be kind online.

  1. Somehow, the only negative responses I got on that post were from those I was trying to defend. Can’t win for losing, I suppose. []
  2. Should people be looting and getting violent and burning things? Obviously not. That doesn’t make everyone a violent entitled child. []

Moving Forward after This Election

So many of us are discouraged today. So many are heartbroken. So many are afraid for their futures and the futures of their children. A few are jubilant, but I expect many more are experiencing a relief mingled with disgust. This was an ugly election in which most people felt angry at “having” to choose between these two options.

Let me say first of all that I’m sorry. If you’re afraid you’ll be deported, I’m so sorry. If you’re worried your family will be split up, I’m so sorry. If you feel that your fellow citizens have voted against you as a person of color or a woman or a member of the LGBT community, or any other marginalized group, I’m so, so sorry. You matter. You matter to me and to millions of Americans. I hope that soon you will feel safe and loved and welcome in your home.

I also hope that you will join me in fighting against hatred. There’s a temptation now to retreat behind the walls we’ve erected around our political camps. But one thing that has always made America great is that Americans are able to move past differences after an election and work together.

adams-jeffersonI remember my mother telling me, with powerful emotion in her voice, “When Thomas Jefferson was elected and John Adams yielded the presidency to him, it was the first time in the history of the world that power was transferred from one party to another without a drop of blood being shed. It is an incredible thing to belong to that country.”1

Please, friends, let’s make our founding fathers proud. I don’t expect that we’ll riot or revolt, but we can do nearly as much damage by entrenching ourselves in anger and resentment. All over Facebook I’m seeing, “If you voted for Trump, make sure to explain to your lgbt+, female, black, latino/a, Muslim friends why they don’t matter to you.” Or “If you voted third party or didn’t vote, please unfriend me. I will not forget.” A large portion of our country believes that their friends and neighbors voted deliberately for bigotry and misogyny, and I don’t think that’s quite fair. Your friends and neighbors may have voted for a man who is bigoted and misogynistic, but so many of them did it while holding their noses, even weeping at what they felt they must do.

This whole Facebook page expresses it well.

Many of them were voting for the lives of children, believing as they2 do that unborn human beings are people and people deserve to live. Many were voting for the freedom to live a faith that Secretary Clinton has openly threatened. Others were voting for their livelihoods, with uncertain jobs and the cost of living on the rise; any change, they thought, must be better.

I can’t say I totally understand them. I refused to vote for him and I refused to vote for her. I found both of them morally abhorrent. And I understand the instinct to characterize his platform as one of hatred and xenophobia, but not everybody who voted for him was intending to vote for that. Many are so scared of life as they’re living it now that they were unable to see the threat to immigrants and people of color and women and, well, the whole planet. I have a hard time understanding that, but I also don’t personally feel threatened by the state of things in this country.

This is the trouble: we don’t understand each other. Being angry and depressed won’t fix that. But trying to love people we disagree with–even people whose choices threaten our very lives–that is the greatest act of defiance against a campaign of hatred.

2014-07-18-14-46-40-2America is already great. We’re great because we band together after tragedies and natural disasters. We’re great because we support each other in spite of our differences. We’re great because we celebrate the freedom to protest. We’re great because when we disagree, we still work together. Let’s honor those whose vision gave us this great country by loving each other in the midst of feelings of anger and betrayal and terror.

Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall on, you must understand that there are people who are unlike you who are terribly afraid. So whatever you feel today, fury or despondency or relief or elation, make this promise: I will not define people by their ideologies. I will love.

Then make a concrete resolution to reach out to people who may be feeling particularly attacked or endangered because of last night’s decision. Make a donation to a group that serves refugees,speak out against domestic violence, commiserate with a friend, volunteer to tutor ESL, invite an immigrant family over for Thanksgiving, keep an eye out for sexual predators when you’re at a bar, befriend a person of color who seems nervous in an all-white situation. Just find someone who isn’t like you and learn how to be an ally.

The thought of saying President Trump makes me feel ill, much though I may understand that it’s not actually the end of the world. But loathing the people who elected him doesn’t fix that. The hashtag all along has been #loveTrumpshate. Let’s live that.

  1. Maybe she said in the modern world? Still, a big deal. []
  2. we []

How Not To Be a Jerk Online in 6 Simple Steps

I'm with you, wide-eyed dog. I'm with you.
I’m with you, wide-eyed dog. I’m with you.

It is an ugly time to go online. Now, I hate conflict of any sort, but online conflict is the worst. Somehow because you’re not directly in front of a person, they seem to be able to ignore your humanity, and often their own. I hate this so much that last week I was about to submit a post to a website where I regularly contribute when I discovered that another author had written a post making the opposite point–on the same site. Rather than seem to be attacking a total stranger, I tabled my post, wrote in for an extension, and stayed up until 3am the next night to get it all done. Conflict successfully avoided!

The next day, I wrote a post decrying Donald Trump. Good job avoiding controversy and online drama, Meg.

Good job avoiding controversy and online drama, Meg.

In the aftermath, which hasn’t been quite as unpleasant as I expected, I’ve had the opportunity to watch people rage and condescend and talk over each other ad infinitum. I’ve been lurking in the comments sections on people’s Facebook posts, where I’ve watched people who actually know each other treat each other like garbage in the name of politicians who they themselves don’t even like. I’ve been called a dishonest crook (which is, by the way, a ridiculous insult and entirely off topic) for being a Democrat, which anyone with Google or any reading comprehension skills can see that I’m not.1

And this, friends, is from self-proclaimed Christians. This is from people I otherwise respect. These are comments directed not at strangers but at neighbors and family members and co-workers.

This profanes the name of Jesus.

I can understand where you're coming from if you, like me, feel this way about this election. But you're not a toddler.
I can understand where you’re coming from if you, like me, feel this way about this election. But you’re not a toddler.

It profanes his name quite literally at times. I saw a good priest called a “Catholic” (in quotation marks) because he suggested a third party candidate. One woman shared her experience of sexual assault and was told, “Any Bible believer who does not vote for the Republican candidate is a hypocrite,” to which the response, of course, was “Jesus was a liberal!”2

It’s appalling. I would think any person of good will would see that. But since many of us seem to have forgotten how to treat each other like human beings when we’re not looking each other in the eye, I thought it might be helpful to have some guidelines for discerning how to reply to people’s controversial opinions online.

1. Read. Please don’t respond to a post without reading the article and all the comments that precede yours.3 I can’t tell you how much unnecessary strife I’ve seen because people are making arguments that have clearly been settled by the linked article or because they’re responding to the quotation shared by the poster without reading the context. Before you comment, make sure you know what you’re responding to.

kinder2. Reread. Part of why arguments online are almost always fruitless and divisive is that people misread each other. There’s no tone or body language to help us interpret people’s words and so we often put the worst possible spin on things. Before you assume someone is being callous or dismissive or rude, reread their comment. Try it in different tones of voice and with different emphases. Is there any way of reading it that can be viewed as less offensive? Assume that was their intent and respond as though they were unclear, not uncharitable. My friend’s husband frequently reminds her: “Never attribute malice or contempt to what can be explained by ignorance or incompetence”–or by pain or confusion or any number of other motivations we can’t possibly know.

3. Respect. Remind yourself that this is a human being you’re talking to, a person desperately loved by God, a soul whom you hope to spend eternity with. This is not an ideology or a platform or a robot, this is a soul. And even if you know this person well, you don’t know everything about him. Don’t say things you don’t want repeated at your funeral. Don’t level accusations you aren’t certain about. If you wouldn’t say it to his face, don’t type it.

4. Rephrase. Don’t just write something angry or controversial and post it immediately. Stop and look it over again. Ask yourself if the language you use is unnecessarily combative. Can you make your point without calling her Killary or him an ass? Because nasty language doesn’t further dialogue. Are you speaking courteously? Do you show respect for the intelligence and goodwill of the people with whom you’re debating? Do you need those extra question marks??? Maybe you could add a friendly emoticon or a kind note like, “Thanks for your question!” or, “I really appreciate your response.” Consider how someone else might read your response and rephrase it to be as charitable as possible.4 I find it helpful to ask myself if I want this to be the last thing I ever say to this person. If I’d be ashamed to have spoken that way, it needs some tweaking.

think5. Reconsider. Are you adding anything to the conversation? Are you clarifying any points or just hurling accusations? Is the person you’re addressing willing to listen? Or are you just increasing the strife and division in the world? When I’ve got a tough comment to write or email to send, I generally write it in a draft, then leave it for a few hours. If it still seems like a reasonable response when things have settled, when I’m less frustrated and have prayed about it, I send it. If not, I figure that by this point nobody was expecting a response anyway. It’s also worth considering that some conversations do need to happen but should happen in a private message, not a public forum where people are being scandalized or contributing divisive commentary. If it’s sensitive, keep it private.

6. Remember:

  • This is not that important. With very rare exception, nobody’s salvation hangs in the balance; if it does, get the heck off the internet and have that conversation in person!
  • You don’t have to win. At a certain point, it might be best to remove yourself from the conversation.
  • Backing off doesn’t mean you’ve lost.5
  • It’s okay to change your mind.
  • The greatest victory a Christian can celebrate is sincere repentance for wrongdoing; now might be a good time to look back over your recent conversations and ask forgiveness.
  • There is nothing more important than prayer. Not argument, not research, not clever phrasing. Pray more than you type and you should be okay.

I’m certainly not the poster child for how to argue well online; my approach is usually to pen some scathing retort worthy of an Austenian heroine and then refuse to post it because I’m terrified of your reaction. But I think that by being deliberate and prayerful, treating our online interactions as human interactions, and assuming people’s intentions are good, we can fight for charity in this broken world of ours. Will you join me?

  1. Not a Republican either. []
  2. Both obviously untrue, at least in the way they meant the words. []
  3. I suppose if you’re commenting on a public figure’s post and it has hundreds of comments you don’t have to read them all. But really, what are you trying to accomplish in that case? Nobody else is reading them either. []
  4. Pro tip: sarcasm is generally a bad idea when you’re online and people’s hackles are already up. []
  5. I recently ended a comment this way: “And now, friend, I will excuse myself from this conversation. Thank you for your respectful tone. God bless you!” []

Never Trump–Because Apparently It Doesn’t Go without Saying

I didn’t think I was going to have to say anything. Obviously his candidacy was a joke.

And then it wasn’t.

But nobody could possibly support him.

And then they did.

But the Republican Party would never choose him.

Until they did.

But people couldn’t possibly overlook his narcissism, racism, misogyny, and inability to speak coherently. They couldn’t possibly ignore the fact that he’s a terrible businessman. The only thing he’s good at he’s not even good at! They couldn’t look past the fact that he has neither experience nor knowledge nor, apparently, the ability to listen to advisers. And then this–no decent human being, presented with incontrovertible evidence of this creep’s arrogant disregard for the personhood of half the human race, his approval of sexual assault, and his inability to muster any semblance of remorse, nobody could make excuses for that.


molochI didn’t think I had to say anything. My kind of people know that this guy is horrendous. The people who read my blog also loathe everything he stands for. Maybe they’re willing to look the other way for the sake of Supreme Court justices, believing (naively, I feel) that this is the one area where an entirely unprincipled man will be faithful to his word. Give an unhinged narcissist the nuclear codes–after all, he might have a shot at chipping slowly away at Roe. Put Kim Jong Un, Putin, and Trump in charge at the same time–what could go wrong?

Nobody could think this was a good idea. Nobody could trust this man. If nothing else, nobody could possibly want to listen to him yell redundant, meaningless sentences desperately in need of a thesaurus for the next four years.

Somehow, this sorry excuse for a man is still in the running for the highest office in the land. His supporters say he’s running for president; listening to him, I expect he thinks he’s running for tyrant.

The wretchedness of Trump’s character is not only disqualifying, I am convinced that it is a danger to the nation and the world. –Rod Dreher

Sometimes it seems that everything this man says is morally abhorrent. Really–read this overview and ask yourself if a person with this kind of highlight reel could possibly be a good president.

punish-abortionDonald Trump is not pro-life. He’s not. He mocks the handicapped, suicidal veterans, and POWs. He thinks Planned Parenthood has done great things. He advocates war crimes. He’s not even anti-abortion. He’s so unfamiliar with the anti-abortion position that he actually suggested jail time for women who have had abortions. With his philandering and misogyny, it’s hard to see how one could not understand that men like Donald Trump are the reason abortion exists.

With Trump, all pro-lifers have are promises from a man who prides himself on breaking promises and whose behavior betrays the very thing pro-lifers fight for. –Rebecca Cusey

A friend of mine attempted to defend Trump by pointing to his daughter’s respect for him and saying that he must be a good father. I don’t care what she says. I don’t care how marvelous he was every single time he was with her. Owning strip clubs makes you a bad father. Being a serial adulterer makes you a bad father. Treating women like objects for your sexual gratification makes you a bad father. And it will make him a bad president.1

The Deseret News (owned by the LDS Church) came out in no uncertain terms against Trump, and not just because of his indecency:

Trump’s banter belies a willingness to use and discard other human beings at will. That characteristic is the essence of a despot.

Many Evangelicals had already denounced Donald before this most recent evidence of his complete unsuitability for the office of president. Very few Catholics I know had brought themselves to support him, and many of those are now withdrawing even such half-hearted support. Thank God even some Republican politicians are finding the courage to withdraw their ill-conceived endorsements. I pray that enough Americans follow suit.

Oh, Hillary is bad. I’m not saying Hillary isn’t bad. I’m not saying you should vote for her. I don’t think I could.2 But Trump is all the things Hillary is, plus mentally unstable and completely incapable of respecting anyone. He is the absolute worst person I could possibly imagine as president. Hillary is a known evil, four (or eight) more years of the same but worse. Trump is a maniac. How do you prepare for the rule of an unprincipled maniac?

But Clinton’s faults, deep as they are, are the faults of a normal politician. Trump’s are in another category. Having a bad, crazy man like Trump in the White House would be a disaster for the entire nation, and even the world. The further we go into this campaign, the harder it is to believe that the US faces equal danger from these two. –Rod Dreher

Character matters, particularly when the despicable character in question has shown evidence of absolutely no moral convictions.

What remains is this question: Can Donald Trump actually execute the basic duties of the presidency? Is there any way that his administration won’t be a flaming train wreck from the start? Is there any possibility that he’ll be levelheaded in a crisis — be it another 9/11 or financial meltdown, or any of the lesser-but-still-severe challenges that presidents reliably face? –Ross Douthat

I have been praying against Trump for months. I have hope now that the pressure on him will be so intense that he will withdraw his candidacy. If he doesn’t, I will continue to do what I can to speak out against him. I will pray for his conversion, for Clinton’s conversion, and for the conversion of our nation. And I will vote against him. It will likely be an uncounted absentee vote for a hopeless third party candidate–Evan McMullin seems as good a choice as any–but it will not be a vote for Donald Trump.3 You will vote how you like and I will love you regardless.

Lord have mercy.


I would like to keep the comments closed because people on the internet are mean and I am a coward, but I know that my regular readers are charitable and insightful. So while I don’t plan to reply to comments, I’ll leave them open until I have reason not to.

  1. Yes, I’ve heard of Bill Clinton. He’s not running. []
  2. I tried to once, in the Democratic primary in 2008. With Obama’s record on voting to deny medical help to babies born alive during abortions, I thought she was a lesser evil. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Hillary. So I voted for John Edwards, who I knew had already suspended his candidacy. They say you can’t throw away your vote, but I’m pretty sure I did. []
  3. There’s nothing wrong with a “worthless” vote. []

100 Ways to Be Pro-Life

I am pro-life. I’m not just pro-birth or anti-abortion. I’m pro-life. That means I’m pro-babies and pro-elderly and pro-immigrant and pro-disabled and pro-peace. I’m anti-poverty and anti-discrimination and anti-hatred. I vote against abortion and against capital punishment and against toxic waste. I offer help to pregnant women, single mothers, overworked fathers, depressed teenagers, homeless veterans, middle-class suburbanites, undocumented immigrants, uneducated children, struggling students, lonely old men, and frightened refugees. I don’t think your life is worth any more because you’re white or American or intelligent or born. I don’t think it’s enough to be pro-life and not do anything about it. And while we may each be drawn to focus on a different pro-life issue, I’m not convinced that you can really be pro-life if you’re not whole-life–conception to natural death, no exceptions.

We can’t all pray outside clinics or write legislation or teach the next generation to value the dignity of each life. But we can all fight for life. We can love the lives around us and reach out to those far away. We can sacrifice for those who need it and refuse to be silenced. We can question and weep and rage and pray. We can fight.

  1. Adopt a cute little baby.
  2. Adopt a belligerent teenager.
  3. Adopt a child with a cleft palate, spina bifida, or multiple sclerosis.
  4. Thank a birth mother.
  5. Be a foster parent.
  6. Take a meal to a family that’s struggling.
  7. Start awkward conversations about hard issues.
  8. Take a pay cut to do something meaningful.
  9. Stop by your local crisis pregnancy center. Do whatever they need done.
  10. Write to your Grandmother.
  11. Have a picnic in the park for the homeless.
  12. Where's the supportThrow a baby shower for a teen mother.
  13. Offer to babysit for that frazzled couple you know–for free.
  14. Read up on immigration reform.
  15. Don’t buy clothes made in sweatshops.
  16. Show your children pictures of unborn babies.
  17. Spiritually adopt a prisoner on death row.
  18. Love your children.
  19. Love other people’s children.
  20. Share this article about what a blessing an autistic child can be.
  21. When a couple suffers a miscarriage, mourn with them.
  22. Get involved with your local Catholic Worker House.
  23. Buy generics–give the difference to Catholic Relief Services.
  24. Recognize that mental illness is an illness.
  25. Go through your closet once a year–give anything you haven’t worn to the St. Vincent de Paul society.
  26. Stop judging people because their ancestors immigrated after yours did.
  27. Support businesses that are taking a risk in order to fight for our first amendment rights.
  28. Give up your seat to an elderly/handicapped/pregnant/world-weary person.
  29. Give blood.
  30. Give a kidney.
  31. Give bottles of water to day laborers waiting for work.
  32. When an unmarried woman tells you she’s pregnant, figure out a way to tell her how proud you are. If your life is transparent, telling her she’s your hero won’t make her think extramarital sex is okay in your book.
  33. Read Dead Man Walking and all the footnotes.1
  34. Invite a woman dealing with a crisis pregnancy to live in your home.
  35. Grandmother JPTake your baby to a nursing home and hand her around.
  36. Advocate for women’s health without advocating for killing unborn women.
  37. Buy a homeless man dinner.
  38. Watch this movie and tell me if it’s as cute as the trailers made it look.
  39. Watch Bella in a group and then discuss. Is abortion ever necessary? Would you have gone to the clinic with her?
  40. Watch Million Dollar Baby in a group and then discuss.2 Was there another way out? What value does suffering have?
  41. Teach your kids to tithe from their allowances; meet quarterly to pick a charity to give to.
  42. Study Just War Theory before you support a war.
  43. Study Just War Theory before you support pulling out.
  44. Have babies.
  45. Smile at them in public.
  46. Smile at them in private.
  47. Write your senator.
  48. Thank your priest after he preaches on any controversial topic.
  49. Give to people who need it–no questions asked.
  50. Give until it hurts.
    I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc. is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say that they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditures excludes them.–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  51. Pay a fair wage.
  52. Tell your local crisis pregnancy center you’ll babysit for their clients–free.
  53. Tell your story.
  54. Andrea BocelliInvite your aging parents to live with you.
  55. Keep blessing bags in your car for the homeless.
  56. Talk–gently–about abortion with those who support it.
  57. Love post-abortive women (and men) extra hard.
  58. PRAY!
  59. Thank a veteran.
  60. Stand up to a bully.
  61. Don’t waste food/clothing/energy/an opportunity to help.
  62. Stay informed.
  63. Choose to believe that people generally have good intentions.
  64. Give your time, talent, and treasure to a soup kitchen, a battered women’s shelter, an assisted living facility, Habitat for Humanity, legal aid, prison ministry, a home for teen moms, a camp for the disabled…anywhere that helps anyone.
  65. Talk about atrocities being perpetrated in other countries.
  66. Sign the Declaration of Life and give a copy to your family members. It may not be legally binding, but it’s a powerful statement.
  67. Recognize beauty in every human face. And every body type. And every ability level. And every set of problems and addictions and anxieties.
  68. Figure out why research done on adult stem cells is better than on embryonic stem cells–on every level.
  69. Question Guantanamo Bay, nuclear proliferation, gun laws, and international debt.
  70. 100_0099Spend some time in Palestine and begin questioning that wall.
  71. Befriend the outcast.
  72. Share the Gospel with someone.
  73. Buy locally.
  74. Take a risk on someone handicapped/uneducated/foreign when you’re hiring.
  75. Learn the facts about human embryology. Share them.
  76. Recognize that poverty is not synonymous with laziness.
  77. Live on minimum wage for a month.
  78. Smile more.
  79. Don’t use hormonal contraceptives.3
  80. Bake cookies for prisoners.
  81. Educate people about human trafficking.
  82. Don’t assume all homeless people are on drugs.
  83. Talk to a friend about her alcohol problem.
  84. Go to the March for Life.
  85. Blog about pro-life issues.
  86. Realize that war, poverty, capital punishment, education, discrimination, euthanasia, health care, immigration, affordable housing, fair trade, prostitution, and sweatshops are also pro-life issues.
  87. grinning FelicityTake your kids to the Special Olympics.
  88. Pray for those who go hungry every time you eat. Eat accordingly.
  89. Talk to a theologian when dealing with end-of-life issues.
  90. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  91. Mentor at-risk youth.
  92. Stop yelling at your kids.
  93. Walk more, drive less.
  94. Look for a need in your community. Meet it.
  95. Teach ESL for free.
  96. Befriend someone who disagrees with you.
  97. Listen more than you talk.
  98. Don’t give up on people.
  99. Forgive.
  100. Love everybody. No exceptions.

Your whole life can be a battle for life–every life. What would you add to the list?

  1. They’re out of date but little has changed besides inflation as far as I know. []
  2. Warning: rated morally offensive by the USCCB reviews for violence and the obvious moral quandary. I had no qualms about showing it to mature teenagers. []
  3. Or any, for that matter. []

3 Reasons: The Mandate

I don’t know that I’ll ever run out of reasons I love Catholicism. But with the Fortnight for Freedom starting later this week, I’ve got contraception and persecution on my mind. So we’ll call this the Remember-the-HHS-Mandate-Yeah-That’s-Still-Happening edition.

1. Perspicacity1

I remember once talking to a woman who was in a Lutheran seminary studying for ministry. Since I was in college and knew everything,2 I was debating her about something. To make a point, I asked, “Well, what does baptism do?”

Now, any moderately-catechized Catholic will automatically spout something about how it takes away Original Sin or at least something about it making you a Christian. So I thought I was still on common ground. Her response?

“I haven’t decided yet.”

She hadn’t decided yet! Forget the fact that it’s a little silly to phrase things as though your opinion might impact objective truth, I was stunned by the realization that in most denominations a theologically-earnest person has to examine every single matter of dogma and determine her position. You can’t, if you’re being intellectually honest, accept anything on the authority of your church because your church doesn’t claim to have any authority and probably doesn’t have any official teaching on most points.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. The logical result of sola Scriptura is that you have to examine all of Scripture for the answer to any doctrinal question.3 Being the kind of person I am, I would have felt compelled to figure out the answer to every question–without any authority to point me in the right direction. What an exhausting prospect! It’s not necessarily easier to submit to the Church on difficult matters, but it has the benefit of being right.

Romans 12 2It’s not just confusion that the Church’s authority protects us from–it’s that powerful temptation to ignore Paul4 and conform to the world. I think we see it most powerfully these days in the matter of contraception.5

Prior to 1930, every single Christian denomination unequivocally condemned contraception. After all, hadn’t St. John Chrysostom declared in the 4th century that contraception was worse than murder?6 And Caesarius in the 6th?7 And doesn’t it seem significant that the only time anyone in Scripture contracepts he gets struck dead for it?8

But there was pressure from society (not least, I’m sure, from the esteemed Ms. Sanger of Planned Parenthood and eugenics fame) and the Church of England caved, declaring in 1930 that contraception was acceptable in marriage when absolutely necessary.

By the time 1968 rolled around and Pope Paul VI reminded everybody once again that this isn’t going to change, every mainstream Protestant denomination accepted contraception. Most even taught that contracepting was the responsible thing to do, an essential element of good stewardship.


That’s a complete 180 in less than 50 years. And still the Catholic Church stands strong, telling us again and again that sex was created to bring life into the world, pointing out the terrible damage that contraception can do to a marriage and to unborn children and to our bodies as well as to our souls. With all the pressure society is putting on us to stay out of the bedroom or to recognize birth control as a human right, still our Church holds to what is true. Praise God for a Church with authority and the guts to exercise it.

2. Perseverance

For a good 50 years now the Church has been fighting societal pressures to cave on the contraception thing. But now we’re fighting the government. I’m sure you know all about the HHS Mandate–how it’s requiring businesses and non-profits to violate their consciences by providing their employees with insurance that covers contraception and abortifacients. If not, catch up here.9

But I think that after last summer’s protests and Fortnight for Freedom we thought that it was over. As it happens, it’s only just beginning. August 1 marks the date when non-profits will have to start paying hefty fines–up to $100 per person per day, as best I can tell–for refusing to comply. No matter that employees covered by the mandated insurance are likely making more than enough money to buy their own birth control. Or that they could choose to work somewhere that doesn’t object to this requirement. Or that birth control is never medically necessary given that abstinence is vastly more effective in preventing pregnancy.10 Our government has decided that contraception is basic healthcare and can’t for a moment understand why anyone would object.

right to contracept iusenfp

They thought we’d back down. That after 2,000 years of standing strong the prospect of fines and awkwardness would convince us to change our teaching–or at least to look the other way while funding evil. They thought we’d be convinced by their rhetoric: “Religious freedom doesn’t mean that you get to make choices for other people based on your religion.”

But we’re not. We’re not trying to limit anyone’s access to birth control, just refusing to provide it or pay for it ourselves. And as Christians–as Americans–we refuse to allow our government to require that we violate our consciences.

As our government has pushed and cajoled and threatened, our bishops have grown stronger. They’ve stood together and refused to back down. They’ve promised that they will shut down every Catholic institution before they will betray their faith. As the world closes in, the Church is closing ranks and rather than bow to the idol of free love we’re getting ready to take up our crosses.

3. Persecution

So everybody and his mother is suing the government. And we Catholics in the pew, we sit and wait. But the atmosphere in this legal waiting room isn’t nervous. It’s more–well, excited. We may not want to die for our faith–most of us would much rather not suffer even financial setbacks for our faith–but we’re willing to. And after a lifetime of being tolerated by society, we’re ready to fight. We’re ready to join the ranks of our fathers in suffering for our faith.

Tertullian wasn’t kidding when he said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. In every era, the persecuted Church has flourished while the complacent Church has faded. In some situations, the blood of the martyrs quite literally made new Saints–when he was beheaded, Edmund Campion’s blood splashed on a worldly Henry Walpole. Walpole left his empty life and became a practicing Catholic, a priest, a martyr, and a Saint.

Okay, maybe it’s not really persecution yet. It’s just ridicule and fines and possible imprisonment. Probably nobody’s going to die. But the fact remains, as I’ve said before, that the approaching discomfort will separate the wheat from the chaff. Maybe, when we’re all done pretending to be politically correct and the gloves finally come off, people who are mostly Catholic but not in the bedroom or at a steakhouse on Ash Wednesday or alone with a computer–maybe they’ll realize that this Catholic thing is either everything or it’s nothing. Maybe they’ll decide that it’s worth fighting for when they see people being fired and bankrupted and jailed for their convictions. Maybe when it stops being so easy to be Catholic people will see how good hard is.

And maybe people who call themselves Catholic but only show up at Mass twice a year or dissent from the Church’s teaching or live in unrepentant, manifest grave sin will let go of the moniker they hold so dear. Maybe we’ll be rid of all the politicians who tell us that they’re devout Catholics and that’s why they fight for abortion on demand. Maybe our dear friend Piers Morgan will decide that calling himself a Catholic isn’t getting him ratings or street cred or whatever he’s looking for and will own up to the fact that he doesn’t much believe in Catholicism and that’s okay because it’s his own business.11 Maybe all those Catholics on the fence will pick a side–for or against.

truth stomach Flannery O'ConnorBut whether or not the upcoming persecution gains strength, whether or not the Supreme Court overturns the HHS Mandate, whether or not our Bishops are in jail in ten years, our Church will continue to teach truth. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when it’s unpopular. Even when the whole world stands against us–Christians and non-Christians alike–we will speak truth into a world of falsehood. Because our Lord promised. “The gates of hell will not prevail against it,” he said of our Church, and he was right. Not Diocletian’s hell, not Good Queen Bess’s hell, not Lenin’s or Stalin’s or Mao’s hell, and not the hell we see in the world today. Our Church will fight and our Church will win and a thousand years from now Catholic schoolchildren will roll their eyes at being made to remember Sebelius and Pelosi in a world where Humanae Vitae is just one document in a long line of repetitive statements about contraception.

I praise God for a Church that can discern, by the power of the Holy Spirit, what is true, that refuses to back down when challenged and threatened, and that rejoices even in the suffering occasioned by our commitment to the truth. Pray with me, friends, for the Supreme Court, the Church, and our nation. These are difficult times. May we stand firm in our faith and emerge from this time of trial purified.

Oh, and if the NSA is reading this–along with my mundane emails and my snarky Facebook statuses–let me just say:

bring it on 2

Linking up with Micaela and a bunch of other people whose posts are assuredly less combative and controversial than this one. But that’s just how I roll.

3reasonsAnd now watch an atheist school a Catholic on what it means to be a Catholic. You’re going to love this.


  1. I know this is an appalling and unnecessarily large word, but it fit so well with the other two that I had to go with it. And I wish I could have listed it third so you would see why I used it but I had to be systematic and explain why we’re right first. So…sorry not sorry? []
  2. Who are we kidding? I’d do the same thing today. []
  3. There’s also the concern that some central Christian truths aren’t overtly in Scripture and that you don’t have a Bible without the Church…. []
  4. Rom 12:2 []
  5. You knew I’d get to the point eventually! []
  6. “Indeed, it is something worse than murder and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation” []
  7. “No woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive….  As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty….  If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman.” []
  8. Gen 38:9-10 []
  9. Really–I wrote this one before anybody really read this blog, so check it out. []
  10. I understand that this is a difficult issue and that abstinence may not be an option in abusive relationships, but why is our response to this contraception and not helping women get out of these relationships? And I know that complete abstinence in marriage is very, very difficult and generally unhealthy for the marriage but why is it the Church’s job to provide you with contraception? []
  11. See video below. Love it! []

In the Name of Love

It may surprise many of you–especially those who think they know me–to hear that I hate conflict. Oh, I’ll get up on my soap box when I’m preaching to the choir1 but the minute somebody gets upset my shoulders seize up and my stomach starts to churn. I won’t change my mind, but I’ll sure as heck agree to disagree faster than you can say “relativism.”

marriage equalitySo today’s been rather a rough day on Facebook. Everyone’s got their trendy equals signs or their counter-cultural declarations and I’m just trying to get by with a few links and no drama. I can’t even handle Catholic Memes today, and you know that’s usually my fave.

All day, though, I’ve felt like I had to say something. But I don’t just want to start shouting about Romans 1:26-27 and have all my “conservative” groupies back me up.2 And I don’t want to pull out studies or Church Fathers. I don’t want to talk about the constitution or the separation of Church and State or what happens to religious liberty when institutions with religious significance are threatened by the state. I don’t want to talk about homophobia disguising itself as religion or intolerance disguising itself as acceptance. I don’t want to talk politics or sex or any of the other topics that get people all mad.

Today, I just want to talk about peace and love. But ain’t nothing gets people madder than real love working for real peace. And you know who’s getting in the way? Conservatives. And liberals. Progressives and traditionalists. Stay-at-home moms and 12-year-old-kids and me and you and a whole lot of everybody.

If I see one more claim that people who support gay marriage are in favor of love while those who oppose it are in favor of rules, I may scream. Don’t you know that the rules are supposed to help us love better? Don’t you know that we–some of us, anyway–are trying to love you by helping you to understand the rules? You might think I’m wrong, but please understand that my disagreeing with your lifestyle doesn’t in any way change how much I love you.

And you know what–if I see one more mathematical equation that reduces the love of two human beings to the orientation of a set of lines, I may scream louder. How does it help anybody to reduce their love–their family–to a gimmick? How does shouting that it’s not marriage if there aren’t babies or that it’s not a family if there isn’t a mom and a dad speak to a world of infertility and contraception and single-parent households?

Quit calling me a homophobe because my understanding of the nature of marriage doesn’t match yours.

Quit bringing up pedophilia and bestiality like they’re at all the same thing as homosexual unions.

Don’t attack my Church if you don’t know what she teaches.

Don’t attack my friends if you don’t–you know what? Just don’t attack my friends. Or their friends. Or anybody at all. Don’t tell people they can’t be good parents, don’t tell them they don’t know anything about love, and don’t you dare tell them they’re going to hell.

An invitation from a gay Catholic friend of mine to go beyond the rhetoric.

My friends, we’re not getting anywhere. And we’re not going to get anywhere until we shut up and listen. I respect those of you who are actually making points. But if you’re just recycling the rhetoric, try sitting down with someone intelligent and compassionate who disagrees with you and asking them why they think the way they do. Because I don’t think there are a lot of people sporting pink equals signs who are trying to destroy the moral underpinnings of our society or corrupt children. And I haven’t met many who support traditional marriage because of hatred and fear.

There are outliers on both sides and confusion and poor reasoning and unfair attacks but I think we mostly just want people to be free to love.

compassion and convictionsYou may think that a person isn’t free to love unless he’s free to marry whoever he wants. I think that a person isn’t free to love until he’s living in God’s plan for love. But I’m not opposing equality, I’m fighting for love. You’re not opposing morality, you’re fighting for love. And we’re not fighting each other when we oppose each other’s positions. If Twitter is any indication, we’ve lost any ability we once had to disagree without despising. In the name of Jesus–invoked on both sides–we are hating each other in order to pursue love. That’s seriously screwed up.

So as the equals signs proliferate (and the division signs and the addition signs and whatever other craziness there may be), can I implore you to stop before you link, before you share, before you like or comment or tweet or pin and just ask yourself: is this loving? Is it reasonable? Does it attack positions rather than people? And if it’s not for the greater glory of God, delete it.

Living like this may not change any minds,3 but maybe it can change some hearts, can show them that this is about love. Whatever side you’re on, unless you’re a total clown, this is about love. Can we stop hating each other for 5 minutes and respect that we’re all fighting for love here?

  1. Gotta love a mixed metaphor. []
  2. No, I don’t consider myself a conservative. Nor do I think liberal is a bad word. I’ll take a lot of both, thank you, although that’s a post for another time. []
  3. The only minds that matter this week are the nine on the Supreme Court. What the heck difference do we think our caustic social media interactions are going to make?? []

Fast, Pray, Vote, and Don’t Worry

This is probably the most important election of our lifetimes–certainly the most important of mine to date.1 There’s so much at stake in a frighteningly polarized nation. I already told you I believe that a vote for Obama is a vote against life and liberty.2 By now, you’ve most likely made up your mind who to vote for; maybe you’ve voted already. And now you’re sitting around anxious and miserable and dreading tomorrow morning (or very late tonight).

I want to ask you, friends, to join me in fasting and prayer not for victory but for God’s will. We may disagree on many things, but odds are good that if you’re reading this, you believe in God. And if you believe in him, you probably know (at some level) that his plans are better than all we can ask or imagine. You probably know that God works all things for good. You probably know that in God’s providence, even that terrible Friday was Good.

So today, fast with me. Maybe it’s too late for you to go water-only or maybe that’s unsafe in your situation. Give up meat for the day or sweets or soda or sitcoms or facebook.3 When we fast, we lend strength to our prayer. We tell God that our intention matters more to us than our flesh does. We’re reminded of our prayer throughout the day; skip a meal and every time your stomach rumbles, you can ask the Lord once again to bless our nation and guide our elections.

Pray with me. Go to Mass if you can or pray a Rosary. Lead your children in a prayer for our nation. Sit before the Blessed Sacrament and beg for the protection of the unborn, for the preservation of religious liberty, for justice for the poor, for aid to immigrants, for peace in our hearts and homes and streets and world. Our God moves mountains–he will answer your prayer.

Please vote. Please, please vote. We are so privileged to be able to vote and to let laziness or indifference or dinner plans keep us from the polls is unconscionable. Do what you have to do to get there. Vote.

But friends, don’t worry. Whoever is our president-elect when we wake up on Wednesday, there will be no riots. There will be no revolution. We will look tragic or smug, we will whine or brag, and we will go on with our lives. Because in America, as in so few places, we are free. And while this election will determine how free we are, the fact remains that we are blessed to live in a country where we may mistrust the government but we do not fear it. When you look at the history of the world, it almost seems a miracle.

And whatever happens, God will still be in control. Perhaps we will face systematic persecution on a large scale, the like of which no church has ever seen in this country. Perhaps the persecution will remain subtle and the temptation will be to continue to leave the poor and the marginalized in our wake. Perhaps this election will be like so many others and very little will change. Whoever our new president is, there will be suffering and joy and frustration and complacency. There will be a cross, made heavier or lighter. But God will still be God.

Whoever is elected, God will still be God.


If you’re going to join me in fasting and praying for our country and this election, would you leave a comment? Share what you’re doing if you like or just tell us that you’re in. Either way, I think we could all use the encouragement.

  1. That’s not saying much. []
  2. Also against the pursuit of happiness, but I didn’t really make that case, except inasmuch as one can’t pursue happiness without life and liberty. []
  3. That one’ll sure make you holier. []