A Catholic Woman’s Open Letter To Linda Sarsour
Dear Linda Sarsour,
Your name is on so very many lips these days, spoken with love and hate. Your name graces so many headlines, sometimes in adoration and sometimes in vitriol. You are outspoken, controversial, full of fire, a standard of contention, a sign of the times. You are undaunted in your advocacies, unabashed in your beliefs. You see the world through your own unique lens, and let nothing shake your viewpoint.
To your mind, all progressive courses are interconnected, and you will expand yourself in the pursuit of your understanding of justice. You have explained that your faith demands it of you, and for that, I have nothing but admiration. For, you see, my faith also demands that I strive after justice, and that includes justice for you, in the face of my fellow Christians who I am ashamed to admit are eager to demonize you for the scarf you wear around your head.
But I believe we have more in common than many would think. You are a devout Muslim woman and I am a devout Catholic woman, and while we may differ theologically in various areas, our core principle of community service for the common good as a matter of religious conviction remains the same. We both feel the presence of God in our lives, the Almighty one who first made himself manifest from out of the desert lands that we share as a spiritual center.
You have said that if any group within society is mistreated or marginalized, then all of society suffers, and that this principle guides you to reach out actively to those within and without your own community. With that I cannot more wholeheartedly agree, and take courage in the observance of our determination to be present wherever you feel you are most needed.
That is also why I must disagree with your interpretation of “reproductive rights,” for through abortion, society’s most helpless and most voiceless members are not only shunted to the fringes but snuffed out. Are not their lives given by Allah, the same creator who shaped each of us in our mother’s wombs? Do they not have the same potential to strive after justice and security for themselves and others, if only justice and protection would be given to them in their time of utmost helplessness?
Violence against one is violence against all, and, as such, proves an affront to justice in its entirety. Nothing can be solved if life-affirming solutions are not embraced as a whole. By trying to pour salve over an injustice with yet another injustice, we become rotational, not enlightened. It is a trap, not a liberation, a slippery slope, not a fast fix. To destroy one innocent life is to destroy the world. And the world is already groaning under more destruction than it seems able to carry.
That having been said, I do not doubt your sincerity, nor have I ever, like so many people, presumed to level a charge against your best intentions. I have seen in you a genuine empathy for humanity in a way that I can only accurately describe as pro-life. You have called mothers of children with autism your heroes; you have tirelessly advocated criminal justice reform; you have spoken out in solidarity with persecuted Christians and raised funds for desecrated Jewish cemeteries, putting paid to those who sought to smear your name and your religion. You have passionately pleaded for the cause of Palestine, of equal pay for women, and the plight of immigrants and refugees.
While there may be many sides and opinions and ways of approaching complex quandaries, and while I may not always see eye-to-eye with you, I cannot help but admire the very fact that you are a presence of resilient womanhood, empowered femininity, and dignified modesty. You do not compromise who you are for others and do not allow yourself to be daunted by the hatred flowing out against you. You have said that fail allows your heart to see light when your eyes see only darkness You embrace hope, flowing forward towards something, and radical love as the ever-present reason for all you do. Is this not a powerful testament to what Christians call the three theological virtues working in your life?
You, of course, are not perfect; I am not perfect; none of us are perfect. There are many things which I might critique in your methods and choices as projected in the public light, areas in which I feel you press too hard and cut too deep, when you use a broad brush when an intricate scalpel may be needed. But far be it from me to judge you. In the end, we are just human beings praying that our Creator may shed His light upon the paths we must tread and show us the ways He intended us to walk.
And as such we are sisters in our common under the same God. I have heard you pray, sometimes as a guest within Christian places of worship, with a sincere voice, that we may all have the courage to stand up for one another, and protect one another, and realize that we are all created and all one in the sight of the Almighty. You are a woman of faith in an oft times faithless world and I cannot help but be moved to join your prayer. That is the greatest solidarity I can ever offer.
September 20, 2017