We have to take our pro-life message well beyond boycotts
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When it comes to being Catholic, the very adult decision to “own one’s faith” comes with a few concessions.
Outside of the predictable dedication to pray more and sin less, Catholics who make an effort to live an authentic faith beyond their Sunday obligation also begin to recognize that they no longer seem to fit in with the secular culture that surrounds us.
Instead, every time we skip the meat at the Friday office potluck, refuse to participate in a juicy round of gossip or find ourselves unwilling to maintain a poker face when a friend brings up the topic of sterilization, we seem to stick out like a sore thumb.
Each year, as we begin to thaw out from the frigid days of winter, we are faced with another situation that leads the culture to look at us with dumbfounded curiosity: Girl Scout cookies.
Yes, Girl Scout cookies, those delightful little boxes of sugary sweet treats, handed out by innocent little girls in brown and green sashes outside your local grocery store. A simple $5 contribution (here in the Bay Area) helps to fund the local troop, and you get some delicious cookies in return.
What could possible be wrong with that?
Well, for Catholics, potentially quite a bit. As is pretty well known at this point, that $5 you hand to the cute youngster at the market gets split up between the local troop, the larger Girl Scouts USA and the even larger World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, who evidently work alongside the International Planned Parenthood Federation to promote abortion and reproductive “rights.”
After hearing all of that a couple of years back, I, like many of you, made the decision to politely smile and say “no thank you” to the youthful cookie peddlers as I walked past their tables.
While I was quick to pat myself on the back for my self-denial in support of the pro-life cause, I also felt a bit weird. Not the typical, everyday weird feeling that comes with being Catholic in an ever-increasing secular culture, but a weird feeling that what I was doing (or, more precisely, wasn’t doing) wasn’t actually doing any good or preventing any evil.
Also, those thin mints are really, really good, so if I was going to give them up, I needed to make sure if was worth it.
When you delve a little deeper into Church teaching, you find there is a lot to learn on this topic. From formal versus material cooperation, to necessary versus unnecessary situations, to proximate versus distant connections, and on and on.
Allow me to share where I eventually landed on this very important debate.
In principle, I believe in the idea of boycotting an organization known to participate in evil. In reality, I don’t believe avoiding Girl Scout cookies accomplishes as much as we want it to, and if you aim to be consistent in avoiding such organizations, it becomes nearly impossible.
When you look at the lengthy list of organizations and companies that are connected to Planned Parenthood, it quickly becomes clear that it would be unrealistic to boycott them all.
And if you somehow think you could manage avoiding them all, consider that this is only a list of organizations assisting to fund one of the issues that we Catholics find objectionable. If we added organizations that fund and support the redefinition of marriage, the widespread use and distribution of contraceptives and the restriction of religious freedom, boycott would become infinitely more nonviable.
And so it would seem we’re left with having to support evil by every credit card we swipe, every beverage we sip, every pair of slacks we pull on and every app we click on every smartphone we’ve ever owned.
Before you pack up your family and move to that self-sufficient farm in southeastern Oregon you’ve been dreaming about, consider that there may be a better way forward.
Instead of — or at least in addition to — giving up Thin Mints, why not give up silence during conversations about abortion? Instead of (just) passing on the Tagalongs, why not pass along the story of your adoption after your teenage parents chose life? Instead of (just) avoiding Samoas, why not avoid sitting on your couch while your parish organizes a bus trip to the next march or walk in support of the unborn?
While it may sound cliche, the best means for spreading the pro-life message is living in an authentically pro-life manner: speaking out against abortion when the issue comes up, sharing the joy of people who have chosen life, actively engaging in pro-life causes and activism, and most importantly, praying and fasting for an end to abortion.
If we take some time to evaluate ourselves and make a serious effort to live a life worthy of being called pro-life, perhaps we can have our cookie and eat it too.
Tommy Tigheis a Catholic hipster, husband and father. You can follow him on Twitter @theghissilent.