Thursday, 2 August 2012

let the pro lifer be unto you as a heathen and a tax collector.

So. My book club of more than 10 years standing has ground to a sudden, juddering halt.
One minute we were rolling down the literary highway,  the next we were standing on the hard shoulder.
It was like having a blowout on the motorway.

I got an admonishing email from a book club buddy..
A VERY admonishing email. The kind that ends with a final deprecating "Shame on you"
Seems I've been rumbled. 
My involvement with 40 Days For Life would appear to be in the same category, pariah wise, as belonging to the BNP.
So my liberal minded book buddy had little option she felt, but  to call me out on my "behaviour". 
After all, as she put it, if I was a racist she would have a moral obligation to call me out on that too.  To remain silent she said, would  make her feel "complicit" in my actions, actions which in truth, she explained, horrified her.
Such is the heavy moral obligation incumbent on the right minded liberal thinker these days.
Liberal totalitarianism is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

So the email listed all the ways in which my "behaviour" represented such an affront that the book club really couldn't continue without addressing the issue and helping me see the magnitude of my error. And ultimately it seems,  my recanting.

The principal concerns were these:

That my presence outside the clinic is tantamount to bullying women who are at their lowest ebb,  facing "the most difficult and heartbreaking decision that anyone is ever likely to make"

That the right to safe and legal abortion worldwide is paramount, and that I, and 40 Days For Life,  put this hard fought right at risk.

That I open up the country to "more extreme elements", and increase the likelihood of violence such as the shooting of abortionists.

That I terrify women, making it more likely that they will "take matters into their own hands".  Her principal concern was, she said, above all for the safety of these women.

That for all the babies lives saved by 40 Days For Life , there are many others "damaged, destroyed and cut short" by their campaigns.

I won't go into all the too'ing and fro'ing, but suffice to say that it stirred up a hornets nest.
The next book club was slated as an air clearing session.
'Out' being better than 'in' after all. 
To be honest though, I didn't feel terribly enthusiastic about providing myself as a target for anyone to dump their disapproval on.
It's hard to enjoy the nibbles and Sauv Blanc when you feel like a counter revolutionary in a Maoist struggle session.
But along I went nonetheless, to face the music.

Oh, anyway, I don't think I have the heart to hash it all out here, but the long and the short is that the book club would now appear to be at an end. 
Having attended the 'air clearing' it wasn't quite the Star Chamber experience I was expecting. They didn't tar and feather me.
It was rather polite. And heartbreaking actually.
These are my friends of many years standing.
I'd been told that everyone was in agreement, but  in fact two or three of the book clubbers said they were on the fence on the issue and just wanted the club to continue regardless.
Having already sent two emails responding in detail to most of the indictments, I said very little. I felt I'd already said most of what needed to be said.
I felt that for me, the most significant question was whether I could continue enjoying the book club, and their company, despite feeling so 'disapproved of'.  Oddly perhaps, I felt I could. I wasn't expecting approval anyway.
And this seemed like one of those 'potential' moments, when the "tolerance in diversity" rubber really hits the hard road. I wanted to hang in there.
But the most significant questions was theirs.
Could they 'bear' me?

Well, at the heels of the hunt, the book club came to an impasse. Three of the book clubbers resigned. They felt that what had happened had made the book club itself untenable for them. 
And no one else has the heart to carry on.  

Having poured out my heart about the pro life issue in two emails, in which I answer the charges which were put to me, it occurs to me that it might be worth leaving the relevant parts of  my  responses here on my blog. In part because I know that my book club are not the only ones among my friends who are mystified or even angry or repulsed by my pro life activities. Some of them read my blog, others may stumble across it.
So I'm planning to post  my responses to the main criticisms shortly . Just for the record, so to speak.
More on this to follow.


  1. Oh Clare! Prayers and hugs for you.

  2. Thanks Bonnie. It's pretty sad isn't it?

  3. What a sad post. I admire your tenacity to want to continue to sip wine and read books under such blatant opposition and distaste.
    This is part of the suffering one must (at times) endure for being pro-life, and it is a suffering, as the enjoyment you once experienced has been shattered because they are unable to tolerate the Truth.
    And congratulations with the 40DfL- how is it going? We were considering one here in Oxford in September. Where are you witnessing?

  4. This sort of thing makes me so cross.

    She likened you to a racist?! How are you like a racist? What a silly line of reasoning. Perhaps she should have taken it a step further, if you were a sociopathic mass murderer she'd have had to get the police in! But you're neither...I hope. :)

    Of all the reasons to dissolve a book club, because one of the members has a moral conscience and acts on it? Crackers. You are protesting against a behaviour/an act that you deem to be's NOTHING like racism.

    To suggest that because you join in on, what I understand to be, peaceful protests that you are somehow facilitating and encouraging those who would take to violence is also ridiculous. A peaceful protest does not incite violence, it makes its point and that is all. You haven't told anyone to be violent, you haven't preached violence, you haven't been violent.

    She can counter protest if she feels so strongly, she can support the women having abortions if she feels it is her duty to do so, she can be a voice for pro-choice if she wants to be. That's what being in a democracy is all about. Free speech. The ability to have our own opinion, our own voice, our own political views and to speak out about it if we feel it is right to do so. And we should be allowed to be in a book club whilst exercising these rights.

    Hope you're OK, praying... x

  5. Hi Amanda. The 40 days campaign here is in Bedford sq, just off Tottenham Court Rd. It would be wonderful if you cold be part of an Oxford campaign!

    Hi Sunshine,
    Yes, I thought the racist comment was really absurd. And actually, if I discovered that someone who I had known and liked for more than 10 years was a BNP member, I don't believe I would send them an excoriating email saying "Shame on you". I would want to initiate an honest dialogue to try to understand what on earth had driven someone I respected to such extreme views.

    1. Honest dialogue is always more productive than flame emails. Hope that you manage to rebuild friendships and relationships where they might have been damaged by this episode. ~Sarah

  6. Yikes! Sounds pretty awful!

  7. Its hard to be pro-life sometimes. All the same, W.Wilberforce had a great dea of his friends and allies turned on him in a similar manner over the slavery issue, and look what came of him, don't let this daunt you. I have every faith in you
    God Bless, G.K minor

  8. I came across your blog on Facebook and am saddened but not surprised at the reactions of your friends in the bookclub. From what you say I think you're very committed to the cause of life and to saving the unborn and I pray that you'll have the strength and courage to continue with what you're doing. Doing the right thing is often very difficult and it's becoming more so when pro-life activists are being seen as the problem in a world where anything goes. Although you will miss your friends in the Book Club you will have made many more in the pro-life movement, genuine people who will support you and who share your love for justice and goodness.