I logged onto Twitter today and came across what seems to be a continuation of the attempt at dialogue I had earlier with Abby Johnson. I respect the work she has done for the prolife movement, but I am afraid that she is shooting herself in the foot with the kind of charity she's been showing on Twitter.
To give you a quick rundown of what happened, she posted a link to a video and then proceeded to either delete or take a negative attitude with many of the comments that disagreed with her views. She made it sound like you cannot accept evolution if you want to be prolife. She made it sound like you cannot accept evolution if you want to believe in God. I finally had to write something (my first open letter to Abby...which started as a comment on the facebook thread) about one of the comments she wrote in reply to someone else's comment. I thought it was unfair and as I felt qualified to talk about it from a Catholic and scientific standpoint, I did. Essentially, the Roman Catholic Church accepts both evolution as well as God...we simply don't see the need to choose one or the other...because faith and science complement each other (when they aren't being used for the wrong reasons). She replied in an unfriendly manner, which led to the second open letter.
There were a few exchanges on Twitter (kind of one-sided on my end because she had blocked me) and I let it go after I said what I had needed to say. She then took the route of the bully. I do not find this acceptable, especially considering how often she attempts to help bring the prolife movement together. Her calls for unity and the nature of her comments are in conflict and call to question her sincerity whenever she advocates for unity and acceptance. This is the message I got out of her words to me:
"We must be united in the prolife movement if we are to defeat abortion....but only if you reject evolution...even if you value the sanctity of life."
"Yes, you are a former abortion clinic worker who was touched by God's love and now wants to defend the unborn! Oh, wait...you believe in evolution. We don't want your kind."
Forget Humani generis, forget Bl. Pope John Paul II's 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and any other thing that may contradict Abby's personal beliefs on the matter...if you aren't in accordance with her rigid interpretation of God's creation...you deserve to be bullied. No one cares how prolife you are if you refuse to reject evolution.
I've been bullied before and I've put up with enough criticism in my professional life to grow a backbone. I have been wrong before and I have learned to listen to others when I need to change something like pride, anger, etc. I have also learned when I should hold my tongue and when I should let the truth out. This is one of those occasions where I feel the truth must be freed. You see, I am concerned about the future of the prolife movement if this exclusionist attitude continues. I am Catholic and understand the Catholicism-based arguments for life. I agree with the Church completely and I don't find myself having to reject evolution in the process. I am 100% prolife and a scientist with a decent background in evolutionary scientists. I don't see a problem with this...and I don't see the need for people to choose evolution or God.
Science and religion, when learned and understood properly, work hand in hand. The teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the sanctity of life, human dignity, conception, etc. are beautiful and I accept them completely. The pro-choice atheist beside me won't accept them. However, there is a chance that they will accept the science-based reasons for life. If this is the case, chances are this atheist will continue being pro-choice if we continue talking science and I find myself trying to win an argument with them over how evolution is of the devil and should not be accepted by good Christians. I may win the argument, but lose the soul...to paraphrase the old adage. And this is just the pro-choice atheist. What about the pro-choice scientists? What if we attempt to win an argument with them (especially if we find ourselves quoting or referencing the awful video Abby was advertising)? What if we seek to reach out to secular America? Our anti-evolution stance and refusal for dialogue may be cute in some circles...but it will not win over secular America. Neither will bullying...or the automatic ignore/delete/block strategy I saw on Facebook and Twitter.
We must be willing to speak to people with words they can understand. We cannot speak to them at all if we outright refuse to have dialogue....or simply refuse to listen to ideas we may not like. I've had to sit through ethics lectures that made my blood curdle...but I at least attempted to learn the other person's perspective. I didn't attack them for the sake that they had this perspective. Instead, I talked it out. Maybe I didn't win over everyone I spoke with...but at least I got them to understand a bit of where I was coming from. With a little more reading and a touch of the Holy Spirit...who knows? Maybe they will have a Saint Paul-like conversion one day. We are called to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16) when dealing with these people...not as stubborn as mules and as ignorant as children who refuse to learn.
Yes, we can hear the "faith of a child" comment whenever we are confronted with something that is difficult to understand...but I think this is a poor reflection of what we are taught in Matthew 18:3. We need to "become as little children" in order to "enter into the kingdom of heaven." We need to learn as children must learn. We must change and mature as children change and mature. We must listen to wisdom when it is imparted upon us. We need to be corrected when we err. We question. We need to wonder. We need to seek. We must learn lessons we don't want to learn. In my experience, children are much better at breaking bad habits than adults. They are better at learning lessons than those of us who are set in our ways. Kids have wonderful, limitless imaginations and a seemingly infinite capacity for knowledge. Their brains are like sponges, whereas our brains have a tough time helping us remember what we had for breakfast. A child is far better at recognizing God's infinite nature than those who impose limits on God's creation.
When it comes to faith and our search to understand the mechanisms of God's creation as well as our role in God's creation....the words of Blessed JPII come to mind:
Bl. JPII got it. He understood the quest for truth that was instilled in our hearts. As I have mentioned before, I went into the sciences because this is where God's truth was revealed to me (well, that and art...but I could always do art on the side). Evolution helped it all click for me....the necessity for God. The significance of human dignity. God's infinite love for us. These are the things I was able to understand after learning about the harsh nature of natural selection and the processes behind mutations. Studying the mechanisms of evolution, helped me appreciate how much God loved me from the beginning. Evolution may not explain the why's of creation or the nature of the human soul...but it certainly explains the how's behind quite a few things. By understanding our relationship with other animals, we are able to study cancer and develop therapies to fight it. Evolution helps us determine which animals to use when screening life-saving drugs in their early stages of development. It helps us understand how viruses are spread and how they can be combated. Genetics and evolution have helped us diagnose diseases, find cures for diseases, and improve our ability to grow crops (long before test tubes and beakers, our ancestors were well on their way to creating all kinds of cool crops that are distinct from their wilder counterparts). It has helped us understand the divergence of species. It has helped us recognize just how precious creation is in the eyes of God.
Not everyone sees it this way, but I have attempted to understand why they do not see things as I do. I have not sought to close my ears to them. I have been respectful and I have attempted to avoid putting the need to win an argument over the need to seek dialogue and encourage understanding.
With that said, I just want to make it known (before the release of the awful video she is probably going to be promoting soon...and the charitable comments that are sure to follow)...that you can accept the science of evolution AND be prolife AND be Catholic if you so desire.
You can accept evolution AND be prolife AND be Catholic.
Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise if these are your beliefs.
This goes for everyone, regardless of what people like Abby may say. If she thinks this is my attempt at smearing her name...then so be it. Better for an on-the-fence pro-choicer to get my end of the story regarding what it means to be prolife...than to get Abby's story...especially if this person has read a science book. I can only hope that certain atheist pro-abortion polemicists (and they do exist) don't grab Abby's story and use it to paint the entire prolife movement as anti-science hypocrites. Considering how biased our media is these days, heaven knows that is all we need right now.
With that said, I want to make sure everyone knows that there are prolife individuals that accept God as well as evolution into their lives. I will share the whole Twitter fiasco here, because that way you can see for yourselves what the whole story is about....and who exactly is smearing whom. In my opinion, her comments are the ones doing the smearing...and it isn't my reputation that she's ruining. It wasn't just me she was picking on either, but anyone attempting to speak up for me as well when I was off twitter for a few days.
I continue to wish Abby the best and continue to pray that God may soften her heart so that she can abandon anything that does not ultimately give Him glory. Bullying doesn't give God glory...and neither does an outright refusal for civil dialogue....or an appreciation for his infinite creativity and love for his creatures.
I have nothing else to say on my part save for these words by my man Saint Augustine: