Last Saturday, outside a Lehigh Valley PA abortion clinic, Joe, a dyspeptic old white man, afflicted with a condition known as echolalia, repeated the same refrain, “Your parents were prolife, why aren’t you. Why don’t you emulate your parents?”  Over and over and over for two hours, he repeated, “Why don’t you emulate your parents”? The saying “A fool can ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in a year” seems especially apt here. Joe’s foolish presentation of self is a weird concoction of fetal worship embellished with a blend of perverted Catholicism and draconian masculinity—one that in all likelihood is an insane reaction to feeling impotent, disempowered and humiliated by feminism and homosexuality. But I digress.

Let me return to the “emulate your parents” refrain, which, on so many levels, defies sensibilities. At the most fundamental level, why would anyone want to emulate someone who has a voracious appetite for all things monstrous? As an anti abortion activist, Joe sports a tattered, grotesque image of an alleged 21 week fetus. To passers-by and to incoming clients, he flaunts the image toward anyone who will pay attention, hoping that the dead fetal image’s loud and monstrous voice speaks of all things evil. His fetish for the fetus is obvious when clients approach the clinic and he “speaks” for the voiceless saying, “Mommy, I wanna live. Don’t kill me, Mommy. I love you, mommy. I wanna go to da beach, I wanna play ball.” I wonder if Joe’s behavior is what his children should emulate?

If I were to respond personally to Joe, I would tell him that I most definitely imitate my parents, but only to the extent that I was taught to think for myself, as they do. I was taught to stand up against bullies like Joe and his God-intoxicated friends. Like my parents, I choose education as a life choice against those who are drunk on fairy tales and their weird brew of American virtue and Christian Armageddon. From my parents’ tutelage, I grew to recognize those within the religious right as embodiments of intolerance, hatred, bigotry and hypocrisy. And while my parents chose to have three children, they were and are very prochoice. Standing up for women’s rights is what I learned from my parents. I express my choices, as a proud feminist, when I speak out against domestic violence, anti abortion zealots (like Joe) and anti contraceptive neo-nazis. I also learned that Christianity should facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness. But the Christianity I see outside the abortion clinics is altogether something else.  Lying to women while knuckle dragging rosary beads, terrorizing women with frightening utterances magnified by megaphones, and carrying grotesque and ignorant signs is not love and compassion. John Ruskin wrote in 1875, relevant and now, “It is neither Madonna-worship nor saint-worship, but the evangelical self-worship and hell-worship — gloating, with an imagination as unfounded as it is foul, over the torments of the damned, instead of the glories of the blest, — which have in reality degraded the languid powers of Christianity to their present state of shame and reproach.”

So, thanks for asking about my parents and me. But, Joe, I’d caution you about asking your kids to emulate you because you’d be asking them to be homophobic, anti Semitic, and racist. You’d expect them to do as you have done to call a gay Jewish volunteer a stiff-necked Jew or to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. only when a person of color arrives at the clinic. You’d be asking them to disregard any other religious perspective; to be  as myopic as you are.

To emulate their father, you’d be asking your children to have a fetish for fetuses that draws them into your religiously fantastical swirling imaginarium of slaughtered babies. You’d be asking them to have no respect or deep compassion for the dominion of any conscious human female over the insides of her own body. They would only feel compassion for an as-yet insentient embryo/fetus that the woman doesn’t want there. Asking your children to emulate you means asking them to avoid a factual reality that is more obscured by obstinate prejudice and intransigent, willful ignorance supported only by emotionally charged irrational belief and misinformed and uninformed opinion and in which the consequences of this failure to face and accept truth, reason, and understanding are catastrophically and mercilessly cruel for women.

On the contrary, as a self-proclaimed Christian, an assertion you broadcast with hubristic regularity, I’d suggest you ask your children to emulate the life and works of Jesus and not their father.