Me and Jeremiah

Me and Jeremiah

Anti-abortion evangelical Christians use the scriptural, “The Call of Jeremiah” to defend their idea of fetal viability at conception. It goes something like this:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

Frankly, those words take my breath away. I believe in a higher power most days and simple words like those give life to the marrow of my dry old bones. I can feel their power shimmy up and down my spine. My life has meaning if for just one moment of each day I know that spirit, that entity, whom I sometimes call God, has known my name since the beginning of time. 

Nothing in those words equates to the government denying women (and men) the right to choose when they wish to become parents. 

Christian mystic Richard Rohr teaches “The marvelous anthology of books and letters called the Bible is all for the sake of astonishment—not “proof” or certainty!” He says we don’t read for information but for transformation.

I’m not meant to get explanations from scriptures on how to support my point of view. I’m meant to be astonished. On more days than not, I accept the mystery and power of that astonishment without explanation, without questions, without answers. On some days, like when my body needs medical attention, I dig for certainty and absolutes, even demand them. I throw the spirit of mystery out the window and root around in the soil of black-and-white thinking.

Every week this summer I wake up feeling like Supreme Courts-federal and state—are bludgeoning me with a baseball bat. Their traditionalist interpretation of the Constitution coincides with literal  interpretations of the Bible. Prayer in the schools. Public funding of religious education. Dismantling the administrative state of consumer & climate change protections. The license to freely carry any weapons anywhere. Denying reproductive freedom. These and other contrivances are biblically-based ideas embraced by 41% of Americans who believe Jesus will descend on Earth in the flesh by 2050. Yeah. Really.

Christian zealots in every age have found signs that we are in the end-times as described in the Book of Revelation. In my twenties I belonged to a cult that looked for modern signs of the Apocalypse. We were convinced the arrival of branch banking and credit cards signaled the end was near. Globalism was then, as now, a sign. If we had today’s Supreme Court, they’d take up consideration of banning those. The World Council of Churches constituted a fulfillment of the end-times prophecy of a one-world religion. Ecumenism was shunned since it relegated Christianity an equal to other religions. I escaped that cult with a staggering amount of information that took years to dump. 

Now comes word  about how excited the 41% religious warriors are about the war in Ukraine—another fulfillment of the prophecy of the second coming of Christ. 

I know. I know. Who would believe such wacky stuff?

But is it such a leap from my belief that my existence was known eons before I was born? 

Roe

Roe

Well, It’s Happening

Long before the Supreme Court decided that a woman’s right to an abortion was a privacy issue, I helped a few friends obtain illegal abortions. They had no choice. I almost had one myself, but chickened out on the steps of the abortionist’s old row house in Newark, New Jersey.

Prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, most women I knew had a secret contact closeted away in the flap of her wallet or scotch-taped to a page in her locked diary. The Supreme Court ended that phase of our lives. No longer would we meet in secret and whisper in corners about where to go for an abortion. 

One year I drove a group of friends from New Jersey to a roadside motel outside of Baltimore. There were two girls to a room. It cost two hundred bucks, paid for with babysitting earnings or waitressing tips. Where did I get the abortionist’s name and number? I have no idea. But I do know this: in the 1960s my friends knew I could and would help them.

The Roe v. Wade decision came as a surprise. I had paid attention, written to Washington in support of the decision and sent plenty of letters to the editor. But I never expected Roe to become the law of the land. It seemed preposterous. Born-again Christians had just started flowering in the 1970s. Hell, I was one myself. I even joined a Christian cult. But anti-abortion wasn’t the primary cause at the beginning of the Christian Right movement. They took aim at teaching creationism in the schools and working against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. To the Moral Majority, the ERA was—and still is—a threat to what they call traditional family values. And I call traditional patriarchal values.

“We certainly can’t have women exercising the same rights as men!”

In the five decades that the right to choose has been law in the United States, a steady, ever-escalating squall has been battering its shutters. I know women and men who have worked tirelessly to keep abortion legal, as if any day now the Supreme Court would unlatch and reverse their 1973 decision. I never really believed it would or could happen. It just seemed preposterous.

Well, it’s happening.

A leaked memo written in early 2022 by Supreme Court Justice Alito tells us the Court is on the brink of reversing Roe.

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” writes Alito.

There are enough conservative judges on that bench to reverse Roe when they vote sometime before the end of the 2022 session. Abortion laws will go back to the states. Contact information will once again be squirreled away in secret places. An underground railroad of frightened teenage girls will stream into Illinois where abortion is legal. And when we send them back home, there’s no telling if they’ll be discovered and arrested for the crime of having an abortion.

As for me, I will make a bed for any girl who manages to find her way to my door.

Family In Three Parts: Skateboarding, Abortion and Jesus

Family In Three Parts: Skateboarding, Abortion and Jesus

 Part 1 Skateboarding

In high school a new boy arrived at the Jersey Shore from California with a skateboard. Someone made them for all of us using old roller skates and plywood. We skateboarded Skateboarding in New York City, 1960s (19)downhill in forbidden cemeteries until dark. It was the 1960s. Skateboards were outlawed, not because they were dangerous but because they were unknown, not a part of the mainstream and somehow subversive. We hid them in car trunks and behind
old tires in the garage. None of us had standard-issue parents so we formed our own family. Our family stuck together, laughed a lot and listened to each other. The police chased us out of the graveyards, creating a deeper bond of secrecy and protection. We vowed to call each other, not our parents, if we ended up in the police station. Later on, one did, with a bale of marijuana. He didn’t call. He went to jail. Another drank too many beers, drove himself  into a telephone pole and died.

Part 2  Abortion

I thought I should have an abortion. The boy I loved said I had to decide on my own. If I kept the baby we’d marry. If not, he’d never be able to see me again. How could a 20-year-old college student know that? He had more confidence than I, seemed less emotional, but had the same love for beer and the beach and rock & roll. She wasn’t hard to find, this illegal woman in Newark, NJ. When you reached a certain age in the ‘60s, everybody knew someone who knew someone. I drove alone.The three-story house had a small front porch. I climbed the wooden stairs, knocked on the rattling screen door. She answered and asked my name. Nothing came into my mind. Nothing came out of my mouth. She suggested I come back when I’m ready, but “don’t wait too long.” I drove to the boy and we started a family.

Part 3  Jesus

The poet pastor wandered around church saying hello to people with his Shrek voice, usually on his way to and from the courtyard. Sneaking cigarettes. I saw him frequently at the bar in a neighborhood restaurant. Sneaking scotch. As a former drinker and smoker myself, I had th-2a familial attachment to him. When a spiritual crisis befell me, I found him outside, lurking among the Gothic arches of the colonnade. I told him I have  something serious to discuss.  

“Sure, how ‘bout this afternoon?”

Tears got in the way of explaining myself any further until later, in his office. 

“I don’t believe in the Resurrection anymore,” I confessed.  

“Huh? Most people don’t even think about this stuff, Rrregan,” he confessed.  

“Do I have to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus to be a Christian?” I asked.  

“Well, it’s the main tenet of our faith,” I thought he exclaimed, but he probably just said.  

“What should I do?” I asked.

“Wait it out!” He definitely exclaimed.

“You will always be in the church family no matter what you believe. Just. Wait. It. Out.”