The Hunger Games: The Prequel

11-17-2019Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Two News headlines caught my eye recently, they both deal with the same subject matter but you wouldn't know it from the way the headlines were written. One read, “Federal Judge overturns Obamacare transgender protections” (The Hill). Sounds very broad and like a major loss for transgenders. But then the other headline read, “Judge Rules Doctors Can Decline To Perform Transgender Surgery On Religious Grounds” (Religion Unplugged). Again, both articles dealt with the same Court ruling, so which is more accurate? I would say the latter since there are still plenty of physicians who are willing to provide hormonal and surgical treatments to transgenders. The Court ruling allowed a small subset of medical professionals to opt out on religious or conscience grounds but didn’t prevent other medical workers from offering transgenders medical interventions but you would think otherwise from the first headline.

Here’s two more: Trump Reverses Obama’s Anti-Religious Decree (WSJ) and Adoption Groups Could Turn Away L.G.B.T. Families Under Proposed Rule (NYT). The subject of both stories again was the same, a carve out for religious based Adoption Agencies to place foster/adoptive children with opposite sex families only. These headlines show the obvious editorial stance as well as biases by the writers. But I think they also show the cultural divide that we are facing with two completely different worldviews and ethical stances that have little in common. Unfortunately, as hard as we have tried no common ground or compromise has been allowed. For example, with Religious Adoption Agencies, many have been told: “you either adopt to same-sex couples or you close” even though there are plenty of Adoption Agencies that do consider same-sex families. That’s no compromise. As a result, many have shut down which has caused the waiting list of children for adoptive or foster families to balloon into the thousands. The new rule would help alleviate this backlog.

What underlies the above headlines is really two opposing views of human dignity and ethics. Or more specifically where human dignity or the sanctity of human life is grounded. Is it intrinsic to the individual by virtue of being human or is it determined by the will of the collective? That is why the fight over abortion is so foundational. If the most defenseless among us has no rights other than what is determined by a collective agreement than none of us really has any inherent or intrinsic dignity or rights.

I happened to read this quote recently from a wonderful eye-opening book, Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, written in the 1940’s about Communist Russia:

There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community — which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb.

When the collective ends justify the means, then those who stand opposed can only be viewed as enemies. Which is exactly what is happening in our society. Political correctness and the “cancel culture” that is permeating our social media and media is proof enough. It’s becoming a soft form of totalitarianism and totalitarianism brooks no dissent. And as we have already seen in Communist regimes of the 20th century, those who are enemies have no intrinsic dignity or worth and are expendable, in fact they deserve to be silenced and sacrificed for the “good of the community”. Witness the 20million+ who were killed in China, Soviet Russia and Cambodia for impeding the progress of the state by holding position contrary to the collective will.

We shouldn't be fooled to think that it won’t happen here. It has already begun. How many of you, if you support President Trump are comfortable wearing a MAGA hat or having Trump-Pence bumper sticker on your car? How many of you are comfortable having your Facebook page state that you are opposed to abortion or that marriage is between one man and one woman? Or that there is no medical/scientific evidence that shows hormones and surgery provide permanent relief for those suffering with gender dysphoria? Or hang out a “thin blue line flag” in support of law-enforcement?

Something odd has been happening in our society. What has been hidden is now being revealed. Everyone is putting their cards on the table. The contrast between positions has never been clearer. We see those who support abortion not only supporting abortion but late-term abortion and infanticide. We see those who demanded same-sex marriage not wanting just legalization but full acceptance and applause from everyone. We see those who previously were anti-war (applauding Obama’s attempt to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) now freaking out that Trump wants to end our war in Syria. How quickly and disappointing to see doves turn into hawks so readily. No principles just political calculation. And on it goes.

But what should be obvious is that the time of choosing is upon us. As Jesus said, “you are either with me or against me”. There is no straddling the fence. So now that we see clearly the lines that have been revealed, and not having been able to broker any compromise, no live and let live, no you do your thing and I ’ll do my thing, the time to choose is upon us all. Hopefully, despite the cost we will say with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” The die is cast, no more bets.


Fr. John B.