I promise, this isn’t about the HHS Mandate. Not directly, anyway.
You’ve read/heard/seen plenty of explanations as to why it is a violation of our religious freedom, how it will snowball into storm of future oppressions, how your voice can be heard through petitions, voting, calling your elected official and just about everything else you could possibly want to know about the matter.
Don’t get me wrong. This is all very, very important. I mean, this is a girl who carries around a pocket-sized Constitution, checks Associated Press updates on her Blackberry and has one (or ten) too many articles posted on her Facebook wall.
And for weeks after our proposed exemption was denied, all I could think about was the injustice carried out by the federal government, the inspiring words of Cardinal Dolan and which presidential candidate might fix all these problems. I seemed to have forgotten that the root of these problems was right in front of me.
That was until a call from my teammate brought me back to a harsh reality. He told me students representing the University Health Services (UHS) were passing out condoms in front of the student union. That’s right. I work on a college campus, where contraception is wildly available and often times even free for students. But why? Why is the university giving away condoms to one and all? When a student asked, he was told the initiative was to “uphold the academic integrity” of the student body.
The next week, we found out Planned Parenthood was hosting a “Birth Control Matters” rally in front of the LBJ Library on campus. Cecile Richards, PP President, delivered a determined address, stating that this rally, organized by several student groups, was held in direct response to resistance to the mandate. Really, I wasn’t interested in what Richards had to say (except when she talked about the various phone conversations shared between her and President Obama). But listening to students stand and defend the very thing that is hurting them was something else.
And last night, in one of my Bible studies, a student told me that because it is “Love Your Body Week” on campus, UHS is passing out water bottles filled with sunscreen, granola bars and you guessed it, condoms. I couldn’t even work up a good, righteous anger rant (i.e. “How do condoms help love your body?” or “Are you kidding me?”) at this point.
Because you see, in the course of these events, the whole contraception thing became supremely real. It’s never just been about what’s right or wrong, legislation, paper-thin arguments or a violation of our rights. It’s always been about real people, real immortal souls. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with two young men giving away condoms wrapped up to look like flowers on Valentine’s day (one was a fallen-away Catholic, one just hated us). Or the sweet young woman I talked to at the birth control rally who grew up in a good Catholic family, but chooses a “different lifestyle” from her parents. Or the thousands of college students on this campus who are told they have limitless control of their bodies, academic responsibility includes “safe” sex and that sexual activity is not only expected of them but also encouraged.
With every condom passed out on campus, with every student I meet that swears by the pill, with every Catholic who openly renounces Catholicism, my heart breaks. Sometimes I find myself overcome with sorrow for those souls, and I think to myself, “If my poor, little human heart can be burdened with this much sadness, how must our Lord’s be, after so many afflictions?” Yet He remains, waiting for us to come back.
So, here’s a question I ask myself, I ask my students and I ask you now: are you willing to let God use you to change a heart today?
Will you step outside of yourself to reach a person who really needs it? Will you sacrifice being “right” to simply love as He loves? Instead of reading another HHS article that says something you already know, will you talk to someone about the dignity and sacredness of their sexuality? Let us together beg for the Lord to use us this day and everyday, that we may see the awesome, transformative power of His love.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.
My teammate and I wrote a Bible study on contraception for all studies at UT. Click on the link below to read about it.