For the first time, perhaps ever, people from both sides of the abortion debate entered into an international conversation about the issue that was truly honest, thoughtful and civil. I've never seen anything like it. The web series, Bump+, a fake reality show, which followed three women facing unplanned pregnancies, has received endorsements from numerous pro-choice and pro-life groups. Perez Hilton praised it--and so did Fr. Frank Pavonne, the head of Priests for Life, probably the most well-respected Catholic pro-life organization. When has an attempt to bring people together to discuss the issue been so successful? When has such a thing ever happened?!
The show has easily been the most talked about web series ever. This has been by far the most amazing development in the conversation about abortion I have ever witnessed. Anyone who watched the show and participated in the conversation knows that something really remarkable took place here. Here's the retrospective, but if you did not follow the show as it aired live, you really need to check out the brief episodes (go here) the conversations revolve around. The message boards are only going to remain open for another 72 hours! "Join the conversation!", as they say.
The Need for Dialogue
Some might be surprised by my support for this show. Readers of this blog know how much the experience of becoming a father has reinforced my belief that abortion is evil. In my mind, you can't look at an ultrasound and not be transformed--it certainly looks like a human life to me! So it might seem odd to some that I have supported this show, which fosters open dialogue.
In fact, I'm always a big proponent of honest dialogue--whether that be about theological issues, biblical issues, philosophical issues, moral issues--etc. Having, as a Catholic, received most of my education at non-Catholic institutions, I can testify first hand to the fact that much fruit comes from open and honest conversation. I would submit that most, though admittedly not all, of the theological and biblical disagreements stem from misunderstandings and knowledge of only straw-man arguments in support of various positions.
Yet some clearly have a mistaken view of what dialogue entails, claiming that it should be avoided because it necessarily involves compromising principles. Laura Ingraham, a conservative talk show host, slammed the Bump+ show. As a Catholic, she claimed, it is wrong to open up dialogue--Catholics are called to "take a stand" she stated, "not dialogue".
Ingraham's thinking is flawed on many levels--I can't possible enter into a full discussion here. But, fundamentally, her view seems to illustrate the problem: people have given up talking to each other in favor of talking at each other.
Moreover, Laura's Ingraham's position reveals her own ignorance of Catholic teaching, which has repeatedly called for dialogue. Engaging in honest conversation is not antithetical taking a stand. In fact, Bump+ is about initiating the kind of charitable, intelligent conversation the Second Vatican Council called for:
Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.(10) God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone [Cf. Luke 6:37-38; Matt. 7:1-2; Rom. 2:1-11; 14:10, 14:10-12].
The teaching of Christ even requires that we forgive injuries [Matt. 5:43-47], and extends the law of love to include every enemy, according to the command of the New Law: "You have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you (Matt. 5:43-44).
--Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 28.
If Catholics and Christians seriously took these words to heart and put winning friends over simply winning debates in the abstract, the world would be in a much better place.
The way people talk at each other--oftentimes ignoring the women most especially involved--was in fact illustrated in this, my favorite episode of the series. If you haven't seen it, here it is--and seriously, you've got to see the whole show to really understand this in context. Again, you've got 72 hours--go add your voice now!