Jonah, Marines, and prenatal diagnosis

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Jonah Cast Forth By The Whale, by Gustave Doré.

Image via Wikipedia

Jonah had a really bad attitude. God gave him a job he didn’t want to do– the people of Nineveh weren’t worth his trouble–so he took off in the opposite direction, only to find himself stuck in the belly of a fish. When he proved indigestible (how lucky for him he was spit out near shore!), he did as he was told…but he did it with bad grace. The people of Nineveh repented, and God spared them.

Jonah should have been ecstatic. Who gets that kind of chance to change the world? Instead, he pouted because he thought God had made him look stupid. So he went into the desert to die. When his shade tree died, he threw a little hissy fit, and God said, “How can you get so upset over the death of this little plant, and simultaneously be completely insensitive to the deaths of the people of an entire city?”

This is the story our associate pastor told in the homily yesterday. It reminded me of a column from our diocesan newspaper this week, addressing the story about the Marines who urinated on the bodies of dead Taliban members. I won’t share it all because I don’t have permission, but this part really stopped me in my tracks:

“The irony is so great that we don’t get it. A sterile liquid produced by the kidney and streamed onto a cadaver is morally debated, but the hail of bullets that penetrated those bodies, making inanimate what was only minutes before a breathing, sentient being, does not enter the discourse. War gets reduced to an etiquette that shows more respect for the dead than the living.”

Christian and I spent Saturday morning at a training session to learn how to talk to parents receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome–part of our local effort to start a hospital visitation program. Right now, the presenter told us, most people are being “surprised in the delivery room.” But very soon the paradigm will shift to almost exclusively prenatal diagnoses, because of the new tests. She reiterated that the Down Syndrome Guild is “pro-information,” not “pro-life,” a position I have always thought was untenable–how can you advocate for people without taking a stand that they are inherently worth taking a stand for?

But as the morning progressed, I began to see the wisdom, or at least the necessity, of such a position. If we come out all guns blazing, laying down a blanket “law” via a prolife message, we will never get the opportunity to witness at all; people will never let us near them, because they will know that we are more about our soapbox than we are about helping them. The fact is that abortion is an option, whether we like it or not. If we hope to be credible witnesses, we have to acknowledge that, and say “Look, we know what you’ve heard about Down’s is scary. Here’s the part the doctors can’t tell you”–without trying to “guilt” people into proper behavior at a time when they’re wounded and bewildered. If we can’t do that, then we can’t be trusted to have a family’s best interest at heart, and we have no right to be doing this work at all.

Sometimes we get so focused on the unborn child that we forget the wounded parents before us. And that’s why I bring it up in connection with Jonah and the dead Taliban. We must respect the dignity of every person–even when they are considering an action we find morally reprehensible–even when the dignity of another life is at stake. The risk to the baby’s life does not negate our responsibility to respect the parent as well.

I don’t have my thoughts all in order on this topic yet; I can’t help feeling there are holes in my logic that I haven’t yet identified. So I’ll be interested to see your thoughts.

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8 thoughts on “Jonah, Marines, and prenatal diagnosis

  1. Kate, this is incredibly profound, insightful, provocative and unquestionably inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is truly THE fine line we have to walk to inspire a (The) Gospel of Life in a culture of death. It’s not an easy decision on the part of parents who may not have our same conviction. And who better to give the example of the better option than you and Christian and Julianna, with true compassion. Thank you for sharing this. And let me know if I can help in any way. That is quite an awesome endeavor on your parts. May God bless you richly in success (saving lives!).. Joe
    Deut 30:19-20

  2. Jean

    Kate, you are right on the mark by striving to be non-judgmental. When we were very young and unmarried, I found out after the fact that my friend had an abortion. She regretted it deeply. But she told me later that the simple reason she did it was that her family was furious with her for getting/being pregnant; they were judging her harshly and condemning her. She said the woman who scheduled the abortion for her and took her to the appointment was the only person who said she understood and offered to help her. So, she followed her lead. We can’t judge people for weighing their options, options even they may have thought they would never consider. But you, Kate, are uniquely qualified to offer them understanding, show them a beautiful example of life, and pray that that they follow your lead.

  3. Jonah’s ingratitude unfortunately seems rather widespread. Too many of us don’t seem to appreciate the magnanimity of God.What are the odds also, I had a post a Jonah this week too?

  4. I’m not finding any holes in your logic. Being “pro-information” doesn’t mean being “pro-death”. In very troubling situations such as this, what people want most is hope. If you give them hope and a way forward, they will choose life. I believe this because I believe that most people really don’t want to kill the baby in the womb.

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