7-Quick Takes

Losing the blinders in the face of logic, reason and compelling evidence

I had a little giggle from participating on Jennie's blog yesterday. Jennie admires the work of Pastor Tony Bartolucci so much that she is featuring his series entitled, "Drowning in the Tiber" on her blog. I think she feels that if Catholic folk like me would just listen to his sermons the scales would fall off and we would see the light and change our Catholic ways.

I gave his introductory talk a listen. Twice. For anyone who has done any bit of Catholic apologetics online or read apologetics materials, Pastor Tony isn't adding anything new or different. He was raised in a nominally Catholic household and was exposed to a lot of Catholic people doing a lot of sinful things during the week and then going to church on Sunday.  That apparently helped to sour him on the whole Catholic faith. Though I sympathized with his experiences, there was nothing in the introduction that made me think that the rest of the series was going to be more compelling or interesting or give me logical reasons for leaving the church. For every bad Catholic he saw growing up I'm sure I knew some exemplary ones. I guess we balance each other out.

As I was pointing the problems with the introduction  to Jennie et al,  she defended her guy by saying "He's preaching to whoever 'has ears to hear' the truth." The insinuation of course is that I don't have my listening ears on so of course I can't hear the truth of his message. And that is the part that made me giggle. I know myself well enough to know that when I hear a compelling message I am open to change. I have done it before.

Earlier this summer the popular blogger Dooce blogged about her second birthing experience and her acceptance and then enthusiasm for natural childbirth was reminiscent of my own experience.



out of no where the publishers of Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's book Your Best Birth sent me a copy, just like the publishers of many books send me copies of other books all the time. Internet, I have rooms full of books that publishers have sent me. ROOMS FULL. And I was just about to toss this onto the mountainous pile of ones I'd eventually drop off at Goodwill when, I don't know, I flipped through a few pages and gave a full minute to one or two paragraphs. And those two paragraphs happened to be ones that really pissed me off. So much so that I read them aloud to Jon and said something like GOD, THOSE HIPPIES! or I BET THEY SMELL LIKE PATCHOULI!

You know, something totally open-minded.

Those paragraphs pissed me off so badly, in fact, that the one part of me that resembles my father the most — no, not the pointy chin or the metabolism or the absolute inability to watch a movie where everything goes wrong and the protagonist just keeps getting pummeled by life and I'm all MAKE IT STOP and then I have get up and actually leave the theater, no, none of those things — my righteous indignation, it flared up so magnificently that I sat down to read the whole book, just so that I could be angry at it. WHO DOES SHIT LIKE THIS? Me and Michael Hamilton, that's who. Both he and I will go to our graves filled with an inordinate amount of unproductive anger, but a smile will mark our faces because we will feel so justified. So RIGHT.

And then, oh God, the worst thing happened. And I didn't even see it coming, but I'm sitting there reading that book, gritting my teeth, shaking my head when all of a sudden it started to make sense. I started to see just how medicalized labor and birth have become in America AND THERE GOES MY WORLD VIEW.

I'm not going to get into the specifics and the really convincing and at times jaw-dropping statistics of it here, there are so many other places and people who can write about it better than I can, but I will say this: if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, GO READ THAT BOOK. From now on when someone asks me what is the one piece of advice I would give to a pregnant woman, it will be: GO BUY A COPY OF THAT BOOK. Listen, I am not affiliated with that book in any way, I do not know Ricki Lake, she and I do not vacation in St. Tropez together (although if she'd like to come ride four-wheelers at my Mom's cabin in Duchesne, Utah, THE OFFER STANDS), I do not owe that publisher any favors. But IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I'm not even kidding, I'll say it again: IT CHANGED MY LIFE.

I read Dooce's post and wept.  That was me about 20 years ago  and the book was A  Good Birth, A Safe Birth. Like Heather I changed my opinion of hospital births and the birth industry in this country.  I went from being the good new mom patient who accepted her C-section as medically necessary, to a real birth junkie, reading everything and anything I could get my hands on about the birth process and natural birth. I went on to have a VBAC and three more births at home.

But that type of compelling evidence didn't end with giving birth.  My  baby was 4 years old I first heard about homeschooling and thought it was absolutely ridiculous.  Who would ever want to do that?  It wasn't until my beloved pediatrician outed himself to me as a homeschooling dad and brought a ton of information from his private office into the examining room for me that my mind cracked open again.  I read the materials, attended my first homeshool conference  (which I thought was going to be about 20 people in someone's back yard and ended up being hundreds of people in a convention center!). I was open to the evidence and was persuaded to change my mind. I have been happily homeschooling now since 1995.

Homeschooling lead to meeting with other Catholic homeschoolers in my area.  To say I was a tepid, luke warm Catholic wouldn't be entirely inaccurate.  I was a product of my Catholic High School and was firmly in the I'm OK--You're OKera with more than a touch of the Spirit of Vatican 2 still buzzing in my ears. When I attended my first homeschool meeting the leader said we were going to some praise music and then say the rosary.  I smirked, "who carries a rosary around in their purse?  just old ladies."   Much to my surprise and chagrin, everyone there had a rosary and knew how to say it.  A kind lady next to me let me borrow one of hers.  The sincere faith and devotion of these ladies who were my age and younger touched my heart.

Shortly thereafter one of the ladies introduced me to the tapes of a man named Scott Hahn.  I didn't care for Professor Hahn's first tape too much and I remember tossing it into the back seat.  I thought I'd give his wife's tape a try though. and I accidentally put side two of Kimberly Hahn's Conversion Story  into my tape player. I turned up the sound and heard Mrs. Hahn sobbing about a miscarriage into the microphone. Even though  I was driving somewhere with my three kids under 5 I felt compelled to rewind the tape and listen to it from the beginning.  I must have played that tape 100 times.  I knew that I heard it enough that my 5 year old at the time could recite parts of it verbatim. Eventually,  I was able to listen to her husband's conversion story and soon afterwards I  read their co-authored book,Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism.  I shared all that I had red and learned with Mr. Pete very soon we were both Catholic reverts - back whole heartedly body and soul into the Catholic faith of our childhoods, this time with love and understanding.

I had one more instance where I had "ears to hear."  It was 1992 and Bill Clinton was running for president. I had been a lifelong Democrat as had everyone in my family. But I couldn't get over his pro-abortion stand.  I decided however that if he picked a pro-life running mate, I could still vote for him. I could still be in the party.  Of course he picked Al Gore and I was stuck.  I thought maybe I couldn't even vote in the election because I could no longer in good conscience vote for the pro-abortion Democratic ticket.  Then one day Mr. Pete mentioned that he was listening to a new guy on the radio named Rush Limbaugh and suggested I take a listen. I remember trying once but it was too painful to listen too.  I thought he was brash and arrogant and I couldn't take more than five minutes of him. But I was taking a course at a community college about an hour away and the only station I could get in my car had Rush on while I was driving home.  He started making sense to me and I saw the logic of his perspective.  By the time of the election, I wouldn't say I was exactly Republican, but I was on my way to becoming a conservative. 

Last month the Huffington Post had an article in it by Cynthia Boaz. In the middle of the article she wrote something that really stuck out for me:

An inflexible unwillingness to update one's beliefs in the face of logic or evidence is the very definition of fanaticism.

She might be right. But in 50 years of living I know this about myself: If the argument is compelling and logical I do indeed have the ears to hear it and the eyes to see it - Even if I don't want to! And I know it because I have changed my view four times that have lead to life changing decisions.













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