I would like to start out by saying pro-lifers are the most amazing, compassionate, caring people I know. They not only pour out their blood, sweat and tears to speak out for the unborn, they also adopt kids, foster, kids, adopt shelter animals, feed the homeless, take care of the elderly and infirm, etc. etc. Most people have one cause they devote themselves to. Prolifers are likely to have at least two: the right to life cause and at least one side cause. (So if you’re recruiting volunteers, head out to your local pro-life gathering!) Pro-lifers are caring, compassionate people.
The worst conversation starter in the world is, “You’re doing it wrong.” I mean, where does one go from there? Okay, I’m wrong. Who are you and why should I care what you think? And yet, Christians in general and pro-lifers in particular are really good at starting with all the ways people are immoral, evil, misguided, and flat out wrong. This is not the way to win friends and influence people. (To be clear, this isn’t limited to Christians and pro-lifers, most activists do this. It raises awareness, all right. Mostly awareness that activists are killjoys and whiners.)
The most recent example of this is the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds to fight ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease.) The gist–in case you’re one of the five people who haven’t seen this–is that you are challenged by someone to dump a bucket of ice on your head or donate to an ALS organization. Most people do both, because we’re a nutty culture and like to do weird things. The upshot is that funding for ALS is skyrocketing. And more than that, a bunch of people hopefully getting a look at the lives of people who suffer from this awful disease. And all that is great. Full stop.
I’ve seen a couple dozen videos of people getting doused with cold water, but this video really moved me. Please note, there’s some strong language, but it is a powerful video that you should watch. (I suggest you start at 2:00, after his rather silly challenge, like Monty Python’s Camelot silly. Plus it’s inappropriate for little kids. But if you choose to watch the silly challenge, please watch the rest. That’s the most important part.)
My heart goes out to this young man and his family. If we can help find a cure for him, shouldn’t we?
The problem for pro-lifers is that some of the organizations may be funding research on embryonic stem cells. Pro-lifers, very naturally, oppose the creation of human life for the sole purpose of destroying it (i.e. “harvesting” the stem cells) and feel that a lot of people may be donating without understanding where there money is going. This are absolutely valid concerns. And most posts I’ve seen by pro-lifers end with one or more options to donate for ALS funding that are in-keeping with pro-life principles. But the thing is, they end with that information. The headlines are all, “You’re doing it wrong.” The message people take away is: You’re caring about people who are suffering wrong, you’re giving to the wrong people, you’re being compassionate wrong. And I think a lot of people read the headline and the first sentence and think, “you pro-lifers care more about embryos, but you don’t care about these suffering people that I can see and know and care for.” Generally, if you read further, that isn’t the case. And I absolutely don’t think it’s the case that pro-lifers don’t care for people suffering from ALS or any other injury or disease. I just think in our eagerness to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves, we skip the part where we need to show compassion and empathy first.
Start with compassion. Start with love and joy and empathy. Yes, it’s important first, not to violate our own consciences, and second to inform people about ethical ways to support suffering people. So let’s start with the fact that ALS is a horribly, ugly, cruel disease and it is amazing that $50 million dollars has been donated to find a cure. There are some wonderful opportunities to support proven research. (Adult stem cells have lead to the development of tons of therapies for many diseases in use today! Yay for stuff that works AND doesn’t rely on destroying life!) Let’s not say, “Pro-lifers, be careful not to give to the wrong people!” Let’s say, “Pro-lifers, let’s help find a cure for ALS by funding these great organizations!”
So, pro-lifers, let’s help fight this nasty disease. Here are some places to donate. (Snagged from Lifenews and other great, compassionate pro-lifers who want people to give to stop ALS.)
The John Paul II Medical Research Institute
Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center
The Mayo Clinic has a project using adult stem cells.
As for the actual Ice Bucket Challenge, Sir Patrick Stewart has the best one out there. (I like Zachary Levi’s, too. It’s very inclusive)
Slate has an interesting article on where the ice bucket challenge comes from. Short answer: nobody knows!
Go forth, and be compassionate!