Monday, 27 August 2007

Sirach on Gossip

I've been reading in Sirach of late as part of my daily Bible reading. Hadn't read it before, it being one of the deuterocanonical books. That, incidentally, is one of the cooler parts about going from Protestant Evangelical to Catholic- suddenly one has more books in the Bible. Brilliant! Like on Christmas morning when one thinks the gift-giving has come to an end, then without warning Father pulls from some hidden corner a bicycle or a puppy.

Anyway, Sirach. I went into it having no idea what sort of book it was. As it turns out, it belongs in the Wisdom Literature, along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the rest. Quite long too. I'm up to ch25 and it shows no sign of letting up (just checked: it has 51 chapters. Gosh, its longer than Genesis! Hadn't realised that before). Quite enjoying it though. It has some admirable little tidbits and very quotable, such as "A slip on the pavement is better than a slip of the tongue" (Sir 20:18- I wonder if the pun exists in the original Hebrew as well) or "An ungracious man is like a story told at the wrong time." (Sir 20:19) Some are quite thought-provoking, like "The mind of fools is in their mouth, but the mouth of wise men is in their mind" (Sir 21:26) Still trying to work out exactly what that means.

One of the wonderful properties of Scripture, though, is to hold up a mirror to oneself and allow one to see oneself as one truly is. I had such an experience today.

One of my besetting sins is to tell tales out of school, as the expression goes. Coupled with this, given my inquisitive and curious nature, is the habitual desire to discover such tales in the first place, i.e. find out what is going on in people's lives (usually simply to satisfy my own curiosity) and pry into other people's affairs, often in subtle or manipulative ways (though probably not as subtle as I imagine).

So this morning, I read this: "He who controls his tongue will live without strife, and for one who hates gossip evil is lessened. Never repeat a conversation and you will lose nothing at all. With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not disclose it; for someone has heard you and watched you, and when the time comes he will hate you. Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Be brave! It will not make you burst! With such a word a fool will suffer pangs like a woman in labour with a child. Like an arrow stuck in the flesh of the thigh, so is a word inside a fool." (Sir 19: 6-12)

This is pretty arresting stuff, I find. For oh, how well do I know those pangs when I want to say something given me in confidence (especially if I know the other person would really like to know) or share that really juicy anecdote. You've been complaining about so-and-so already, but listen, you don't know the half of it!

What does the Scripture say to me in that situation? It minces no words. You're a fool, it says (Ouch!). Hold your tongue. Be brave. It will not make you burst.

These are the words of Scripture to me. May I hear them and, by the grace of God, put them into practice. "O that a guard were set over my mouth, and a seal of prudence on my lips, that it may keep me from falling, so that my tongue may not destroy me." (Sir 22:27). To which I respond, Amen.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

St George poem Chapter 1- Part 2

A man born of such noble stock
Came riding into town
At the edge of Caesar's empire,
In desert-laden Libya
And children crowded round.

The sun beat down on brown-burned rocks
With blinding glare and keen.
The glare obscured the soldier's view
As regally he rode into
The town known as Silene.

A pale grey lizard sunned himself
Upon a stone nearby;
The sand kicked up and flies buzzed round
As proudly he passed by.

From sand-strewn steppes, from over dunes
And desert did he come
To seek this small embattled town
Girt round by sand and sun.

Entrusted by superiors
To seek this town he came,
For servants of great Caesar
Sought submission to his name.

But the machina of empire
And policies of Rome
Meant naught to these young girls and boys
Who laughed and leaped and made such noise
And marvelled at this soldier's poise,
A stranger in their home.

Nor children only came to see
This curiosity-
From mudbrick doorways faces peered,
Young men grinned, women cheered,
In old men's faces fear appeared:
They knew a thing or three.

And a certain apprehension hung
In the dry air of the place,
Disguised behind the carefree air
And excitement in each face.

But soldier-like the man rode on
To one house in the square.
He'd been to towns like this before,
And prior knowledge told him sure
The chieftain would be there.

St Louis and More Redemption of Politics

Yesterday was the feast of St Louis. That is to say, of King Louis IX of France.

France has the great honour (now probably forgotten or regarded with indifference by the majority of its people) of having been ruled at one time by a saint. Not every country can claim this.

Of course there are others. England has St Edward the Confessor, though he is remembered more for being the last Anglo-Saxon king of England than for anything he did (except perhaps for building Westminster Abbey). Further east, you have St Wenceslas of Bohemia, about whom the popular carol was written.

It is interesting to reflect on this property of the Catholic faith to raise up and venerate certain politicians and statesmen, while at the same time behaving towards their power itself with a certain aloofness. The Church is strange like this. And yet at the same time curiously sane. She does not seek to supplant or grasp after the power of kings and emperors. No Pope has sought to become an emperor. The few bishops who have become statesmen in their own right have been roundly condemned (Cardinal Richelieu leaps to mind).
On the other hand, the Church has never deified politicians or men of power, as was too often the way in the ancient world. The kingship of Christ is on a quite different plane from any earthly rule. The Church has a different sort of power.
Yet the Church does not write off political power and regard it as something inherently tainted. When those that do possess it do so in a Christ-like manner, she has absolutely no problem with canonising them and holding them up as examples to be followed and whose prayers may be requested.

Nowhere is this tendency demonstrated so clearly as in the case of St Louis. For at the same time that Louis was ruling his kingdom, engaging in diplomacy, helping the poor of the realm, praying daily in his chapel and seeking to gain support for the Crusade, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was wreaking havoc on the Church in Germany and invading Italy to try to supplant the Pope.

St Louis could have done the same if he had wanted. Afterall, the first Holy Roman Emperor had been French. And the resources (which he was trying to pour into a new Crusade) could easily have been turned to an invasion of Italy (he was, in fact, invited to invade Sicily at one point, but refused). Both king and emperor had power and prestige comparable to each other. What, then, was the difference between Louis and Frederick?

Simply this- one conformed his life to the image of Christ, and one did not.

And there one has the whole answer. The old adage, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a dangerous half-truth. True enough on the natural plane, Jesus Christ changes the equation completely. Just as, when He touched the leper, He not only did not contract leprosy Himself, but actually cured the other man of his, so political power, if (and only if) touched by Christ will not only not disfigure the Christian faith itself (as many fear- "We don't want a theocracy!", they cry) but will sanctify the man who holds it. This indeed is what happened with King St Louis IX of France.

Friday, 24 August 2007

St George poem Chapter 1- Part 1

Finished Chapter 1 of my poem on St George. Fairly happy with it, though some editing is still needed. I'll post it in installments again as it is quite long (update: Blogger seems to suddenly be having trouble separating the stanzas- just to let you know, there should be spaces in there- its not just one very long stanza). Comments and criticisms are, of course, appreciated.

A weary world lies round the sea
At the centre of the earth;
A weary world awaiting death,
Or maybe a new birth,
For hedonism holds right well
The heart of king and serf.
The dying throes of empire
By dusk and day do sound;
Quite faint at times, at others loud,
Yet few could there be found,
While blood in the arena
Would gather men around
And willing men would enter in
And shed it on the ground-
Yes, few there were those echoes heard,
And those that did said not a word.
But Rome was great ere emperors
Took up the purple cloth,
Made great by good and simple men
With calculated wrath.
For generals might fight amongst,
And politics turn sour,
But every legionary-man
Stood ready for his hour.
And on the backs of men like this
The emperors rose high;
Great lustful, violent, ruthless folk
Who always meant the words they spoke,
Whose backs and spirits seldom broke,
Who looked death in the eye.
The purple-laden ones might well
Bicker like a boy,
But all the while soldiers stood
And smiled, true sons of Troy.
And civil wars might come to pass
And men be called to fight;
So fight they would, and bravely,
Be the cause of it wrong or right.
Barbarians would one day fill
The shoes of these good men;
They'd fight for Rome, and bravely,
But it was not home to them.
Pro patria- the legionary's cry;
His home was why he fought,
And he'd defend it with his life
Through any ill-begotten strife,
Protect home, children, land and wife,
Fight on without a thought.

How Sweet the Sound

I've been doing some more reflecting on the film "Amazing Grace' of late. Its been a couple of weeks since I saw it and so I've had a bit of time to chew it over. Like a tough but flavoursome steak. Or something like that.

One of the things that strikes me more and more as I think about it is the depiction of John Newton and, specifically, his experience of grace, about which he so famously wrote. When I was growing up, John Newton was a bit of a legendary figure at church, like King Arthur or Robin Hood. We would often sing "Amazing Grace" and the pastor at the time (Adrian Tepper, of hallowed memory) would never fail to mention Newton and give a brief outline of his story before we commenced the singing. He had run a slave-ship, we were told. He had been converted. He wrote this song. That was the template of his life I understood as a boy.

With the kind of religious atmosphere that surrounded us, one got the impression that it was a clean cut. Like those weight loss 'before' and 'after' photos. Once he was evil. Then he was good. Whether or not something like this was said explicitly, that was the impression one received because that was how conversion was generally treated. One's life was divided into pre-grace and post-grace with the yawning abyss of a single moment dividing the two (one took pride if one could remember the date of that moment). This all seemed perfectly normal. Grace worked like that.

At first, as I watched "Amazing Grace" I expected the depiction of John Newton to fall in line with my boyhood impressions. And at first it does. William Wilberforce gets up in a tavern, gives a short spiel about Newton's life to a bunch of slave-owners and then sings the first verse of the song. Exactly like we used to do at church. Imagine my surprise then when I saw how John Newton himself is depicted in the film.

In "Amazing Grace" we only ever see Newton well after his conversion. His slaver days are long behind him. And yet he is a man haunted by his sins. "Every day," he says, "I am haunted by 8000 African ghosts- ghosts of the men who died on my ships." His faith is no less sure. When we first meet him, he is reminiscing and advising William Wilberforce. Yet he seems keenly aware that the sins of his past were not committed by someone else but by him, and that that is something he has to live with, something that does not go away. When William Wilberforce asks him to aid the Abolitionist cause by writing a memoir of his slaver days, he cannot bring himself to do it.

The film does not leave him there, however. Near the end, after the passing of years, Wilberforce comes to visit him again. Newton is blind now ("I once was blind but now I see," he muses, "I wrote that, you know."). Yet it is now that he can summon the strength to write down the sins of his past life. "Only two things I know:" he says, "I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Saviour." At the end, when the crucial vote is cast, he is in the mezzanine overlooking Parliament.

Grace builds on nature, as the Fathers were so fond of saying. Grace is not magic. In the life of John Newton, its action was not instant but like yeast in bread (actually didn't someone else use that same metaphor for something similar? Luke 13:20-21).

It is perhaps only relatively recently in my Christian walk that I have come to appreciate the fact that both sin and grace are realities. That may sound like a strange thing to say. But there is a certain form of Christianity which treats them rather like legal decrees. One sits under a sentence of condemnation- that is what sin is. Then one receives a pardon and is declared acquitted- that is what grace is. There is a certain warrant for this biblically, if one restricts oneself to a particular set of passages, but not as much as one might think (none whatsoever, according to N.T. Wright) and a reading of the entire Scriptures offers a rather different picture.

The image I have found more helpful is that of a drug addiction. There is a moment when you cease to take the drug, when you have your last bong or whatever. But then you've got the consequences to deal with, the damage the stuff has done to your body, the cravings, etc. Sin is a poison. It is an acid. It eats away at our souls. It cripples us, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sometimes even physically. That doesn't go away in an instant.
Human beings are creatures of time and process. Grace does not treat us as though we were not. It builds on our nature rather than obliterate it. The poison must be sucked out. The burns must be healed, not just bandaged over. Grace alone can do it- I certainly can't do it on my own, any more than I could do my own open-heart surgery.
But grace is not a diploma, a title. It is life itself. It is the Blood of Christ in my veins; the sap of the True Vine; the antivenom. It has to be pumped through my system, get to where the poison is and nullify it.

The cravings will one day stop. There will come a day when the work of grace will be complete, when I will no longer desire the drug of sin, that everything contrary to God's will will repulse me. But that day is not yet. I'm still in rehab. My system is still being purged, my soul still being cleansed. Grace is a reality though. And it is effective. It effects real change in me. As long as I submit to it, the work will continue apace. This is called justification.

John Newton's life, as depicted in the film "Amazing Grace", is a reminder to me that the life of grace is a journey (and that that shouldn't surprise me), and also that that journey has an end. And you know what? Suddenly that song takes on new meaning for me.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, among others...

God seems to be getting into a strange habit in my life of displaying His hand especially clearly on major feast days. Today was no exception.

Today, August 15, is the Feast of the Assumption. Today we commemorate the Blessed Mother being assumed, body and soul, into the immediate presence of Almighty God (I have inherited from Andrew Katay a dislike for the term "heaven" since it can mean several different things, between which necessary distinctions are seldom made so, as often as not, upon hearing the term, people conjure up in their minds a Platonic state in which disembodied spirits blissfully roam somewhere near a vaguely anthropomorphic God- when speaking of heaven it is perhaps more useful to be explicit about what it entails). The Blessed Mother is, of course, one of only four people to whom this has happened, the others being Enoch, Moses and Elijah. Some question hovers over whether our Lady died first and then was assumed, like Moses, or whether the entire thing happened without her dying, like with Enoch and Elijah. For my own part, I side with the Eastern churches (and, coincidentally, with the early Church) in suspecting that it was the former (one will notice that, in the icon above, her tomb is shown indicating that the iconographer agrees with me).

But back to my own experience of the feast. The Assumption is one of the few remaining holy days of obligation (the other that doesn't fall on a Sunday is, if memory serves, Christmas) and so I was pretty keen to get to Mass. Since I work, my only option was to go in the evening. There were some Masses locally at 6:45am, but given the traffic on the M4 I would not have been able to attend one of those without being late for work.

Not to worry, I imagined; I'll call up a local parish, find out their evening Mass time and go along.

Fittingly, given the feast, I had made the assumption that most parishes would have an evening Mass on a holy day. Unlike that of the Blessed Mother, however, this assumption turned out to be decidedly ill-founded.
Before leaving for work this morning, I jotted down phone numbers for the parish near my house and the parish near my work. I thought if one didn't work out, I could go to the other one. So during spare moments at work, I called each of them. As it turned out, in each case the last Mass of the day was at 9am (!?). 9 in the morning! And they expect all Catholics to get to Mass today? The people who organise these things must all be either seriously out-of-touch clergy or retired! Don't they realise some of us have jobs? Such were some of the angry thoughts that leapt to my mind as my blood pressure began steadily to climb.

Of course, this was not entirely fair. A lot of churches, I discovered, had had Vigil Masses last night, in keeping with the Jewish reckoning of days the Church still follows. My problem of course, apart from not being sufficiently prepared, was that I don't follow the Jewish reckoning of days and therefore assume that days start in the morning rather than the previous evening. Another ill-founded assumption.

With the real possibility that I might miss out on Mass on a holy day of obligation, I began desperately casting around to people I know (those in the know- or with Internet access) who might know of somewhere with an evening Mass. A couple in the city had a 6:30pm one, but since I finish at 5:30 I wouldn't be able to get there in time from work, again given the traffic on the M4. Stress levels continued to escalate.

Of course I realised if I was physically unable to get to Mass on a holy day of obligation, no culpability would attach to me. But here's the rub- I really like Mass, and I didn't actually want to miss it. Especially on such a great feast day.

Nobody I called knew of any Masses that I could reasonably get to. And so, with my boss probably getting tired of me asking whether I could make a quick phonecall from the work phone, I set about unpacking summer stock (a surprisingly relaxing occupation) and sought to calm myself somewhat.

Okay, Lord, I prayed, these are my circumstances. I've done everything I can about them. I realise the circumstances themselves don't matter. You've orchestrated them for a reason. What matters is how I react to them. Fill me with your grace. Help me to regard the situation with Your eyes and react the way You would want me to.

So I continued to work the rest of the day, offering up that prayer (or the gist of it) several times, though always remaining a bit on edge, as one does when one's immediate future is uncertain. I would have settled for anything in that frame of mind. Liturgical abuses, dodgy sermon, you name it. I just wanted to offer the Sacrifice somewhere.

Then around 4pm I got a text message. It was from one of the friends I had called earlier in the day and read simply "Belfield at 7pm".

God often answers our prayers over and above what we expect. I hadn't even considered looking up St Michaels Belfield earlier. The name hadn't even occurred to me. Of course I knew the church. It is the site of the annual Call to Holiness Conference and, moreover, I once gave my testimony in the Church hall. Behold the gratuitousness of God's answers to prayer. I would have willingly gone to the most gauche, 70s inspired monstrosity with happy-clappy music and organised teams of elderly extraordinary ministers if needs be. I was so desperate even that would have sufficed for me. But instead, God sent me to one of the most beautiful and reverent churches in the Sydney Archdiocese, with one of the most gung-ho and systematic preacher-priests I've met (excluding, I have to say, Fr Greg Jordan SJ!)- Fr Robert Slattery- who memorably remarked at the end of Mass once, "Go outside if you want to talk. We don't talk in here. This is a church!"

His homily was appropriately direct and illuminating (focusing on the antiquity of our knowledge of Mary's assumption and then on its significance as a precursor to our glorification in Christ and on the Blessed Mother as an image of what the grace of God will do in all of us ultimately) and the offering of the Sacrifice was beautiful and moving. Communion was, as ever, terrible and thrilling.

So here I am at the end of the day meditating on God's mercies, given in supreme love and in spite of my earlier frustration. Its very humbling, truth be told, to be on the receiving end of such practical evidences of God's love for me. But thats the kind of God we have. Thats the kind of God the Blessed Mother now worships every day. Thats the kind of God whose glory she enjoys and reflects. Thats the kind of God I too am called to imitate. Magnificat anima mea Dominum!

Friday, 10 August 2007

What is Cardinal Pell up to?

Well, this is interesting.

Looks like the revolution has begun. And, blow me down, the media outrage has so far been fairly understated. Some of them even seem mildly supportive (for example, the Telegraph's Editorial states, "In short, what the Bishops are suggesting is a greater emphasis on the core tenet of Catholic education - which is that the teachings of the Catholic Church should be at the foundation of what is offered in Catholic schools. Why should that come as a surprise to anyone?" Why indeed?). Of course this impression may simply be a result of my avoidance of the SMH. Still, if even some of them get it, this is indeed promising.

And indeed the move is long overdue. For example, I understand that the vast majority of enrolments in seminary in the Sydney Archdiocese over the past couple of years have come from graduates of public schools. In addition, at the non-denominational private school I attended as a young whippersnapper (well, all of eight years ago), one of the requirements to teach was a sincerely-held and regularly-practiced Christian faith. By contrast, until now, as far as I understand it, teachers in Catholic schools have only had to make a vague commitment to some ill-defined entity known as "the ethos of the school".

Of course, realistically, these top-down sort of moves are not always effective, and when they are, the change that results is usually slow. Nonetheless, all this is hopeful. Of particular interest is the precedent set by the bishops making this move collectively. That in itself bodes well for the future. Matt 18 leaps to mind. In the meantime, prayers should be offered and eyes should remain peeled. If JPII (or for that matter, the Jesuits) were right about the youth, a genuine revival in the Catholic school system could add up to big consequences for the culture in a generation's time.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The Redemption of Politics

Last night, I saw the film "Amazing Grace" at the local Hoyts, while tucking into a packet of mint-flavoured Pods (which I had never encountered before but were actually quite yummy). No doubt many will draw (and already have drawn) the obvious parallel between the abolitionist and the pro-life causes. I certainly think there are lessons to be learned from the film and, more precisely, the events it seeks to depict in regard to that issue. I may jot down some thoughts in that connection later.

One thing about the film that struck me, however, which may not be so glaringly obvious was the way it redeemed the political process. Let me explain.

In some ways, this touches more upon myself qua me. I find the Australian political process unbearably dull and boring, mostly due to its monotony, the close identity between the two leading parties and the tendency to engage in partisan politics (i.e. use whatever issues come to hand to somehow discredit the opposing party and/or its members- occasionally in ways that are quite creative).

Coming from a Protestant Evangelical background, I tend to be naturally suspicious of politics (I was shocked when, upon becoming Catholic, I discovered a substantial contingent of staunchly active Catholics in the Sydney Archdiocese to be similarly staunchly active members of the Young Liberal Party), and this is coupled with a distinctively Australian and English distrust of authority and power. So it is instructive for me to watch righteous causes being defended and won through the political process (rather than in spite of it). Defended and won by politicians and not clergymen. The concept is novel and salutary.

I think there are benefits to the revelation that go beyond my own enlightenment and edification as well. To the Protestant Evangelical, it is a reminder that politics is not hands-off for Christians. Being the salt of the earth is not a selective calling. All the dishes need to be salted. That includes government.

For the Catholic actively involved in some form of political enterprise already, it is a reminder that the battles being fought are winnable. Though legislation may be against us, though we may be outvoted, though other interests swing the swinging voters against the good and right, these things are winnable. Legislation can be made to reflect virtue and natural justice. Bills can be passed that respect the human person. Politicians can govern wisely. If we are accustomed to the contrary, it is not because these things are normal but because they are habitual. We can learn to tell the difference.

That goes for me too.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Church's Final Hours

Found this linked on Mark Shea's blog. Looks like the Catholic Church is going to collapse today. Because of course revelations made to an anonymous website manager in 1985 MUST be true. (Especially when his website has such cool music!)

Besides, this guy seems to have a knack for prophecy. After all, he can describe actions taken by Pope John XXXIII!

Haven't heard anything on the news yet. But then, Italy is behind us by several hours. Best keep my ear to the ground.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

The Retirement of John Stott

Found this article at Christianity Today and was deeply saddened and at the same time impressed.

John Stott is one of the greats of Protestant Evangelicalism; a man at once eminently practical and solidly intellectual; a true and honest follower of Christ. I have heard him speak once, at EU Annual Conference some years back, where he spoke eloquently and passionately on the necessity of being intellectually engaged with our faith. He seemed a frail figure, with the kind of correct RP accent one associates with Oxford professors out of touch with the real world. Yet he spoke with such articulateness and determination, as though at pains to convey to his audience the importance to their souls of his message. One saw in him the passion of an American pulpit-pounder but without the guile, and a palpable love of Jesus Christ.

To see him retire is indeed a sad thing. I will be praying for him as his journey wends towards its close.

The other thing I find of interest here is the weird way in which the most honest of the sons of the Reformers somehow find their way leading back to the Universal Church without realising it. Luther would have been horrified to hear this speech from John Stott. 'Participation in the mystery of the Incarnation'? 'Christ-likeness is the will of God for the people of God'? None of this is entirely unprecedented within the ranks of Protestant Evangelicalism, but to see it said so explicitly from someone so influential is gratifying to say the least. And a far cry indeed from total depravity and 'sin boldly'.

It is an ironic thing that evangelism in many ways clears the head. The minute one starts sharing one's faith, the old Calvinist dregs that cling on so stubbornly to the Evangelical ship begin to lose their grip on the hull. It took two centuries before it occurred to Protestants to evangelise. Now, for those who took the very word as their own special label, the errors surrounding the whole justification issue seem to be very slowly melting away (though more often in practice than theory). It would be interesting to see what the consensus position is in another hundred years.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Our Culture's Glorious Inconsistency

While reading the Telegraph at work this morning, I stumbled upon this.

The story is disturbing by any measure, but what I find most distressing about it is the madness of the charges. I have no idea what the legal intricacies are, but note- Ms Freeman "has been charged with first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter", yet "None of them were full-term", according to the police spokesman. Have I missed something here, or is Ms Freeman guilty of what under other circumstances would be classified as a late-term abortion?

Our culture's sentimentality is boundless, and nowhere is it so clear as in a case like this. There is no biological difference between an eight-month old baby and a four-month old foetus (note the euphemism). Yet somewhere between the two our culture draws an arbitrary line, based largely, as far as I can see, on how recognisably baby-like the entity in question is.

Nor is this usually questioned. I find it significant that many of the lines taken by the pro-life cause work within this mentality and, rather than challenging it, seek to harness it to further the cause. The methods that use imagery depicting babies in the womb, ultrasounds, the shocking videos of how the foetus reacts as it is being aborted, the little feet badges and so on- all of these are designed to encourage one to think, "Actually, even foetuses in quite early pregnancy look and act like babies- therefore abortion is wrong." This is an appeal to the sentimentality of our culture, rather than to reason. Indeed, this methodology has a lot to recommend it. And in a culture where there is little hard thinking but a tonne of emoting, it is certainly effective.

However, I wonder (and of course I submit this thought to those who are far more active and experienced in the pro-life cause than I) whether this does not ultimately play into the Enemy's hands. Would it ultimately be of more benefit to question the underlying assumption? Should we, judo-like, use our opponents' strength against them, or would it be wiser to choose the battlefield ourselves?

Still thinking about this myself. I submit it for reflection by other minds as well.