‘Silent Night’ and Planned Parenthood: A Scandal for All the Wrong Reasons
All is not calm. All is not bright or right.
A holiday episode of the ABC prime-time series Scandal recently showed its lead character, Washington “fixer” Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), at work. After encouraging the ex-wife of her boyfriend, the president, to finish the filibuster she had begun on Christmas Eve to stand up for continued funding of Planned Parenthood, she went in for her own abortion. The background music for the scene was the Christmas hymn “Silent Night.”
It was an incredible juxtaposition. But maybe not so far-fetched. Mary Eberstadt writes in her book How the West Really Lost God how foreign the idea of Christmas can seem to modern citizens. If you grew up with a broken or dysfunctional family, what does the Holy Family mean or look like to you? If you never knew your father, what do God the Father and God the Son mean to you? How does Christianity make sense?
And yet, culture adopts some of the smells and bells, so to speak. Wreaths and Starbucks’ red cups. Santa. We argue year in and year out about a “War on Christmas.” The real problem lies in a culture that has lost sight of what the day and the season mean — the celebration of the gift of God Himself to humanity.
Since innocents in Paris were attacked on Nov. 13, I haven’t been thinking about “Silent Night” but about “Joy to the World.” If that sounds about as jarring a juxtaposition as the one on Scandal, consider for a moment the frequently overlooked or forgotten third stanza: “No more let sins and sorrows grow/Nor thorns infest the ground/He comes to make His blessings flow/Far as the curse is found/Far as the curse is found.”
The curse seems overwhelming. And yet, if Christmas is real, on Dec. 25 we will find ourselves yet again “behold(ing) with nearly breathless wonder,” as Archbishop Augustine Di Noia put it in a homily just after the Newtown school massacre in 2012, “the birth of the one who, taking on our humanity, will lay down his life for us in the Sacrifice of the Cross so that we can become sharers in his divinity. This wonderful exchange restores us to life, making possible things otherwise completely beyond our reach and imagination: namely, participation in the divine life, and forgiveness and healing of our sins.”
How far does God’s grace reach? “Far as the curse is found, deep into the dark fissures of our hearts where the thorns of envy and malice, pride and lust, greed, hatred and despair would find a niche and thrive. How far then do his blessings flow? As far as the curse is found,” wrote Archbishop Di Noia.
That’s a solid reason for hope, the miracle of that mercy.
There is something appropriate about applauding an abortion on TV during the week before Thanksgiving, as the Christmas decorations go up, because this is the air we breathe. Murder. Death. In the name of freedom. In the name of religion. But that is not the God of Christmas. That is not the God who freed His people.
At the end of that Christmas episode of Scandal, after the abortion, where misery seemed to set in more deeply — complete with retail therapy as a momentary distraction — “Ave Maria” was the exit music. Would that we all pause and listen to the wisdom of this song and to the woman who said yes to the child who changed the world.
The world needs fearless women who harbor hope amidst suffering and help other people through the grimmest of situations. May we celebrate them, too, as we approach a season of gratitude and the greatest love.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at [email protected].
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