Her Flesh and Blood

[Cornerstone, Summer 1998] A foot, a rib, a womb. A piece of glass. Whalebones smoothed and polished, netted in cloth. The mother takes her daughter’s hand. The girl is dizzy; bright sunlight stripes through the shutters and dims her eyes. The old cloth tape is in her mother’s hand. A pause of disappointment; her waist has still not met the mark of 20. The whale bones that stripe across her bones, the bones of the dead behemoth, are stonger than her bones. Her bones are young and they will give. She pauses between small tastes of air. On the day she was born her waist measured 16 inches. The bones press in. The mother thinks: this hurts, yes, but this is the way the world is. Not to do this would hurt my daughter more.

Personhood of the Unborn

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” January 21, 1998] A recurring question in the abortion debate has been whether the fetus meets the definition of “person.” Why should this be relevant? What advantage is it to be a person? What does a person get? At the most basic level, persons get protected from violence. Not all persons are allowed to drive or to vote, but every person is allowed to call the cops if someone tries to beat them up. There are probably many laws that are unnecessary or foolish, but the irreducible minimum are those laws that protect persons from violence--that prevent the larger and stronger from crushing the smaller and weaker. Laws against violence even the odds, replacing an older and more instinctive law of “might makes right.”

The Heart of the Matter

[Parenting, Dec 1991 - Jan 1992] In Edgar Allen Poe's classic horror tale, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, a murderer dismembers his victim and hides the pieces under the floorboards. When the police call to investigate, he prides himself on his cleverness--but gradually becomes unhinged, at last screaming out the location of the corpse. He was undone by the sound of his victim's heartbeat, drumming in his ears. Why, after so many years of legalization, does the abortion debate continue in America?

Beyond “It’s a Baby”

[National Review, December 31, 1997] “This week is anti-choice week at UB,” wrote Michelle Goldberg, a staffer with the University of Buffalo (NY) student paper, the Spectrum. “If you see one of them showing their disgusting videos or playing with toy fetuses, do your part and spit at them. Kick them in the head.” The lively Ms Goldberg demonstrates one of the reasons that it is always bracing to go onto a college campus as a pro-life speaker. In my travels--Yale, Princeton, Bryn Mawr, Brown, Wellesley, et al--no pro-choicer has actually kicked me in the head, but a few have looked as if they'd like to. A few more have delivered dark imprecations in the question and answer period, occasionally disguised as questions. And a few more have just glowered at me threateningly, like the wicked witch before the bucket of water hit her.

I Believe

[Regeneration Quarterly, Fall 1998] This speech was given at “Engaging Common Ground,” the second national conference of the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, held in Syracuse, NY on May 14-17, 1998. The Network was organized in 1993 and based in Washington, DC, and worked to enable discussion between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. The Network lost its funding in 1999 and had to disband.The topic we were assigned for this plenary session was, “What is the broader context of meaning and beliefs in which we engage with the abortion issue?” Though I was in on the discussion to choose this topic, I now find myself in the embarrassing position of wondering “What in the world did we mean by that?” As a result, I've written several different versions of what I would say this morning, and last night when I got up for my regular prayer time I took one more look at the topic, threw out all previous versions, and started over from scratch.

From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life

[Christianity Today, January 12, 1998]Wanted: A New Pro-life StrategyJanuary 22 marks a grim anniversary: 25 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. A generation has passed since the first wave of unborn children fell, and the accumulation of each year’s toll totals nearly 37 million. During those years one child was aborted for approximately every three born. Their names would fill the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial wall over 700 times.

From Episcopalian to Orthodox

An excerpt from Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey Into the Mysteries of OrthodoxyPrologue: In the Passenger Seat Saturday, December 21, 1991Vespers He was an Episcopal priest, but he was standing in an Orthodox church on this Saturday night and thinking about Truth. At the altar a gold-robed priest strode back and forth swinging incense, moving in and out the doors of the iconostasis according to rubrics that were as yet unfamiliar. Golden bells chimed against the censer, and the light was smoky and dim. Over to the left a small choir was singing in haunting harmony, voices twining in a capella simplicity. The Truth part was this: the ancient words of this Vesperal service had been chanted for more than a millennium. Lex orandi, lex credendi; what people pray shapes what they believe. This was a church that had never, could never, apostatize.

From Agnostic to Christian

A little church on Sunday morning is a negligible thing. It may be the meekest, and least conspicuous, thing in America. Someone zipping between Baltimore's airport and beltway might pass this one, a little stone church drowsing like a hen at the corner of Maple and Camp Meade Road. At dawn all is silent, except for the click every thirty seconds as the oblivious traffic light rotates through its cycle. The building's bell tower out of proportion, too large and squat and short to match. Other than that, there's nothing much to catch the eye. In a few hours heaven will strike earth like lightning on this spot. The worshipers in this little building will be swept into a divine worship that proceeds eternally, grand with seraphim and incense and God enthroned, ”high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple“ (Isaiah 6:1). The foundations of that temple shake with the voice of angels calling ”Holy" to each other, and we will be there, lifting fallible voices in the refrain, an outpost of eternity. If this is true, it is the most astonishing thing that will happen in our city today.