High Hopes, High Stakes

A teen group called reLOVE helps at-risk teen mothers

Always and everywhere we have high hopes, and they reflect the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! In our time and place we have particular hopes because of special people — ordinary people doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Last week I met one of them, thanks to Christy Yao of the American Solidarity Party. Her friend Purity Thomas is 16, maybe a bit anxious about how she looks “on screen,” at least early in the day, but definitely keen on getting her driver’s license. She’s also absolutely “into” lots of social media platforms. So far, pretty ordinary. What else? She’s making friends with other teens, and with them she’s helping out still other teens who can use a boost. Still ordinary enough, but she’s already more “looking out” than “looking in.” That’s a step forward for lots of us at any age. So is there more?

There’s much more! Purity Thomas has put together an outfit that she calls “reLOVE.” It brings together teens to help teen mothers who are at risk. Because of misinformation, fear, and isolation, they are sometimes abortion-minded. Help comes in the practical ways that pro-lifers have long offered: paying rent, getting groceries, providing transportation, and hosting baby showers. Plus, listening.

Here’s a new twist, though. The young women in Thomas’s group are experts in using their social media savvy to connect with teen mothers. In doing so, they offer an alternative to the pervasive tech presence of Planned Parenthood. Young people in solidarity with young women and their new babies, as we might expect, build on the present and look to the future. Purity Thomas speaks about how reLOVE learns from pro-life groups that have more experience. (Feminists for Life, take a bow!) Thomas also tells us that she’s on alert for someone to take her leadership role in four years. After all, by then she’ll have aged-out of her all-teen organization.

Purity Thomas offers us high hopes at a time when the stakes have become dizzyingly high. I make this claim, with a brevity that befits a blog, with two thoughts in mind. The first is political. The current POTUS, through his deeds and misdeeds, is in an untenable position. When he falls, the backlash against pro-life policies will be sharp and sustained. The second observation is cultural. Robin Abcarian, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, now tells us that she refuses to bemoan abortion as a necessary evil or describe it as a difficult decision. Rather, she writes, “I embrace it as an essential tool for independence,” and immediately adds, “Without the right to determine when to have children, women will never have true agency.” This is the rhetoric of the move to sell abortion as a human right. It is rhetoric in the worst sense, the sort Socrates exposes as “cosmetic” in the Gorgias. The core claim is this: Unless a woman can commission the deliberate killing of her unborn child, she cannot direct her life. If we unpack this claim, we find an arrogant individualism and a contempt for “the other.” The convergence of such individualism and contempt is at work in the worst sorts of violence that characterize our tortured times, including violence against women.

I would not, though, say that “times past” were not tortured times as well. Fritz Eichenberg, of the Catholic Worker, made an eloquent woodcut of the Annunciation. In it we see our Mother Mary, who herself sees both the birth of Jesus and his Crucifixion. In the sure hope of the resurrection, we know that Christ did not die in vain. We also know, in part, how very high the stakes are for all of us, especially the least little ones.

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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