Where’s Your Joy?

by Reita S.

Just before Easter, my co-workers and I were going out for dinner. As we walked from the university to the restaurant, we passed about a block below the Morgentaler Clinic, and site of the 24-hour vigil, 40 Days for Life.

Though the vigil wasn’t taking place at the time, one of my co-workers commented, “That’s where all the pro-life people congregate.” Of course, I waited somewhat anxiously for his opinion of us. “You know,” he continued, “They just seem really miserable. Every time I walk past, I see a bunch of old ladies hunched over signs that say ‘God loves you; Save babies’ and clicking their rosaries. Where’s their joy? It just seems like a duty or something.”

I must admit I really didn’t know what to say to that and I’m glad the subject was dropped as we continued on; however, I’ve been turning that comment over in my mind for the couple of months since. Did he just go by on a bad day, when the weather was terrible and only a few wet volunteers made it out? Was he reading some personal biases into the people’s expressions? Or did he see something of a scary reality – we feel like saving babies is a duty or obligation?

The pro-life movement certainly has significant ties to religious groups, specifically the Roman Catholic Church. This does not mean that all pro-lifers are Catholic, Christian, or even religious. Pro-life is a moral ideology that is not limited to one particular faith or age group. Why then do people hear the word ‘pro-life’ and think we must all be elderly Catholic ladies, intent on judging the young or some such nonsense?

Clearly, trying to marginalise a position makes it easier to criticise. I think that my co-worker found it much easier to dismiss the prayer vigil by reducing it to two groups which endure a lot of criticism ‘the outdated elderly’ and ‘the crazy Catholics’. Perhaps he saw one woman like that and assumed the whole group was like that? I’m not sure. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t ask.

All I can say is that as pro-lifers, we need to be careful that our burden for truth and justice never becomes a burden of obligation. While protesting injustice is not something to rejoice over, we should certainly have the joy of our convictions and the knowledge that we are not compelled to do this. In fact, it would be so much easier to turn a blind eye! We are pro-lifers because we love justice and we have the hope that one day our efforts will change hearts and minds, and thus change laws and actions.

Don’t fall into the trap of letting this become a burden or a chore. Few people have respect for a reluctant activist. One of the biblical psalmists wrote that “zeal for your house has consumed me”. Let us take that as an example. Let our passion for justice transform our actions – let no one say that we’re only there because we have to.

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