Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beatitudes, Babies and Baseball: The poor pitcher


Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with words that we all must take to heart:

1 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be consoled.
3 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
4 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will receive it in full.
5 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
6 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
7 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
8 Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
9 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matt. 5:3-12.

The beatitudes should be more central to a God-based resolution for those considering or opposing abortion. Please consider whether abortion is consistent with these values or opposed to them. This is the first of nine essays which relates each beatitude three ways: to God, to His laws, and to others, especially the least favored of humanity. The nine beatitudes also work together, much like the nine players on a baseball team. Accordingly, the introduction to each discussion relates a beatitude to a quality of a famous baseball player. See how many you recognize before you hear the player’s name.

1. The Poor Pitcher. He was born the seventh of eleven children in a poor black Alabama family around the turn of last century. He picked up his lifelong nickname from his boyhood job carrying suitcases for tips at a train station. After he was caught shoplifting, however, he spent five years at the state reform school for Negro children. Still, he is known as perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time, pitching professionally over five decades, concluding at the age of 59 with the Athletics, then playing in Kansas City. Joe DiMaggio called him, “the best I've ever faced and the fastest." By the time the big leagues allowed his race to play ball, though, his best years were behind him. He earned less in his whole career than most Major League ball players today make in a single season. His name is Leroy “Satchel” Paige.

Strictly speaking, the poor are those who must depend on the generosity of others to live. Since that spirit of generosity comes from God, the poor most directly depend on God for everything. Regardless of social status, we are still called to place our trust in God for everything, to be poor in spirit. Considering the three relationships, the poor in spirit realize their total dependence upon God; they realize that He, rather than they, make the rules which govern their conduct; and they realize that they have no more fundamental rights than the least of their brothers and sisters. This is reality. Everything else is just an illusion.

The prochoice position starts from opposite premises concerning all three relationships. First, rather than encouraging dependence on God, it asserts independence for persons facing unwanted pregnancies. Dependence upon God is a threat to their autonomy. Second, His rules are not acknowledged as legitimate for their conduct. They make the rules as they see fit for their present situation. Third, the prochoice position claims superiority for women facing unwanted pregnancies: superiority over their unborn children and superiority over the rights of every other person affected, including the fathers of their children.

The prochoice position does, however, profess to support pregnant women, whom they view as among humanity’s least favored and who they claim must be allowed to terminate their pregnancies for myriad reasons, but most often, when a child would threaten their financial status or their relationship with the child’s father or their husband, who may not be the child’s father. This position, the world’s position, is not really aligned with the poor in spirit because dependence upon the violent destruction of the unborn replaces dependence upon God; independence from external standards of conduct (power or right to choose) replaces realization of God’s rules; and superiority over the unborn replaces a closer relationship to them.

This is not to say that all who claim to be prolife are thus poor in spirit. We have egocentric, fallen people who claim superiority over others in our midst too. The media loves to portray prolife persons as being “antiabortion” as if that term connotes a claim of superiority over those more tolerant of abortion, those who are “prochoice.” Funny, isn’t it, how media elites scold us for telling others what to do – isn’t that just exactly what they do?

Our task is not to get control over the media, or in fact, to control anyone. Our task is to realize our dependence upon God who makes the rules for all of us to follow. If we are truly to be poor in spirit in our prolife convictions, we must help others to see that dependence upon God is our strength -- although we offer no quick fixes, our God cares deeply for us and will not abandon us, even at difficult times. Following His law is our hope because departures from His law lead to the despair of those agonizing over an abortion decision, past, present or future. Finally, acknowledging that we have no more right to destroy the unborn than they have to destroy us provides us with an ability to resist the temptation to use deadly force against them. In solidarity with the unborn, we build strong relationships person to person and generation to generation.