On Sunday, May 15, 2022 Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk for the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering. A lightly edited transcription of the talk is presented here.
Hello, everybody. Thank you all for being here. Happy that you're here today and always grateful that I get this opportunity to share my process and to share my thoughts. The title of the talk today is "The Abortion Debate: A Miracle in the Making." I want my spiritual training to be relevant. I want my spiritual training to affect my life in a very practical way. Sometimes people say that I like to be controversial, or that I like to be a provocateur, and that my choosing topics like abortion to talk about is partly related to me just liking to stir the pot up a little bit.
While that may be true in a sense, I never view it that way. I just view it like I want my spiritual discipline to be practical. This is what is going on in the world. This is a discussion that our society is having, and I want my spiritual discipline to be relevant to the discussions that I see going on in the world, and I believe that it is. A Course in Miracles tells us, "This is not a course in the play of ideas, but in their practical application." (OrEd.Tx.10.80) The Course isn't supposed to be just this theoretical, metaphysical, lofty thing. I believe it's supposed to be something that we bring into the day-to-day, not only of our personal life, but also the day-to-day of our interacting with society.
There is a big discussion going on in the United States right now about abortion and the federal right to abortion. This all happened because a few weeks ago a document was leaked from the Supreme Court of the United States, which in and of itself is a whole other discussion, but this document led people to believe that the landmark case Roe v. Wade from 1973 which made abortion a legal right for every US woman all throughout the land, was about to get overturned.
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Now, it hasn't been overturned yet, and there is some question as to whether that's actually going to happen. However there is some speculation that maybe that is about to happen, but I want to be clear that hasn't happened yet. But of course, this triggered a whole discussion and a very passionate discussion. The abortion discussion is always very passionate. As I observed it though, I felt something a little different about the discussion. I truly felt that there was a real miracle happening in the discussion.
Regardless of the fact that it still seemed very polarized, I did feel that people were looking at this a little differently. There was more openness to the other point of view than I have seen before. Maybe two plus years of the pandemic has changed people a bit. Perhaps we realize a little more that we don't know everything. A Course in Miracles says, "Whenever anyone can listen fairly to both sides of any issue, he will make the right decision. This is because he has the answer. Conflict can seem to be interpersonal, but it must be intrapersonal first." (OrEd.Tx.7.12) That was in the reading read earlier.
People forget this statement from A Course in Miracles. It's a real call to listen fairly. That's an important adverb there, "fairly." Listen fairly to both sides of big issues like this. "Yes," this applies to us A Course in Miracles students too. We need to be able to listen fairly to both sides of the question. This means the abortion question, or the Covid question, or the vaccination question, or the free speech question, ... or any of those big societal questions. We need to be able to listen fairly. What do we mean by "fairly?" Well, at the least that means we need to be able to listen and not react with anger, and fear, and attack.
We need to be able to hear what others are saying, take it in, and be gentle responding to what it is that they appear to be saying. I love the last statement in the previous quotation too, that conflict seems to be interpersonal, which means the conflict appears to be between different people. It appears to be interpersonal. But if there is an appearance of interpersonal conflict, what the Course wants us to know is before that appearance manifested, there was an intrapersonal conflict. "Intrapersonal" means within the person. Interpersonal conflict is the appearance, but that always means that there is a conflict within the self.
Today's lesson was great. "If I defend myself, I am attacked." (OrEd.WkBk.135) Any issue with another person that triggers defensiveness in you, that's an intrapersonal conflict. You project it out there and make it seem like it's interpersonal, but it always is indicative of a conflict within the self. Maybe that's helpful to remember as we navigate our way through these tricky discussions on hot button issues like abortion. Maybe it will help us listen fairly to both sides of the question.
One thing I want to say about the abortion question is I've always felt very neutral about abortion. I don't have a lot of energy on it. I have a lot of energy on many other things, but not about abortion. Maybe because I'm a man, and I never truly saw this as my issue. This is always an issue for the woman. It's a woman who makes the abortion decision. I know sometimes men have influenced to the decision that women have made, but I think ultimately it's almost always down to the woman's decision. So, not being my decision, I never felt that connected to the abortion question. Women have been saying for decades that men need to stay out of women's business around this issue, and maybe I took that in. Not my issue. This does however mean that I can talk about abortion in a neutral way.
I do identify with being a man, and I do know the difference between men and women. Unlike our new Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who when asked at her confirmation hearing if she could define a woman, she said that she could not because she was not a biologist. Well, I want you to know that I am a biologist. I have a biology degree, a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Cornell University, which I got in 1974. I am a biologist and so I feel that I am uniquely qualified to be able to tell the difference between a man and a woman.
I am a man and so I do not identify personally with this abortion issue. I'm neutral. What I see though is that there are very strong opinions on both sides of this issue, and that it is a complex issue. A lot of the arguments on both sides of this issue are founded in deep philosophical ideas that people hold very tightly. Some are very personally and religious ideas. I understand, and I'm sensitive (I believe) on this issue. Those who are against abortion, the right to life people, they believe life is sacred – that the rights of the unborn are sacred, and that they need to be protected, because all life is sacred.
Then of course there are the pro-choice people who are the pro-abortion rights people. They believe that up until birth a woman's body is her domain and she should have the right to say what goes on with her body. Abortion would be a decision, a choice, that the woman would make about her body, and she should be able to make that choice. In the process of this debate, I have seen some protest signs and women are, again, claiming that meme, "Our Bodies, Ourselves." I think that's great.
That's a meme that was also popular during the vaccination debate of the past year. People were saying that it's their bodies, and if they choose not to be vaccinated, that should be their right and they shouldn't be coerced into being vaccinated. They shouldn't have their ability to work and travel be dictated by laws that are about their choice of what to do medically with their bodies. It's the same argument that women use about abortion. So I have a connection with that argument. I understand that argument, and I resonate with it.
I actually think that there's probably no real solution to the abortion argument on the level of the discussion, that it's just going to spin round, and round, and round. A Course in Miracles says, "Ideational preoccupations with problems set up to be incapable of solution are also favorite ego devices for impeding the strong-willed from making real learning progress." (OrEd.Tx.4.77) Spinning around these ideas – which argument is stronger the pro-choice or the pro-life argument – there's no solving this problem on the level of an intellectual debate. In fact, it's particularly set up to be incapable of solution. The ego loves things like this because they spin our mind with these questions that can't be solved on an intellectual level. The ego wants us to keep arguing, and discussing, and debating. The ego is doing this so that we don't make real spiritual progress, which is actually what we're here to do.
I said at the beginning, I do actually feel some spiritual progress is being made through all of this, because I do feel some willingness on each side to listen to the other side. We watch the world go through these discussions. It's almost fun to watch the world go from one issue to another. It wasn't that long ago the discussion was all about the Covid-19 pandemic and what were we going to do about that, the mitigation strategies, masking, social distancing, and sheltering in place – all of those things. Then that mutated into a vaccination versus non-vaccination discussion. Then there was boosting and all of that discussion.
Then we quickly pivoted to war in the Ukraine, war between Ukraine and Russia. There was that discussion. Then we had the Elon Musk and the free speech discussion with Elon Musk possibly buying Twitter. How important was free speech? Do these big tech companies have the right to limit speech? What is "disinfomation?" This discussion about free speech I find very interesting, and I think we have to apply free speech to the whole abortion situation too. People who have different opinions have the right to express them. If we are flirting with this idea that people who have a different opinion than us should just shut up, I think we've gone off in the wrong direction.
We have to be willing to allow people who have other opinions to have platforms to express them. If we want to be useful in that discussion, a healing force in that discussion, we need to be able to listen to their points of view. I think we need to strongly reject the idea that those who think differently than us should just shut up. I don't think that's a truly miracle-minded perspective. I'm all for letting everybody have their right to express their ideas even though they can be very different from mine.
As I said, Roe v. Wade is up. There's a case before the Supreme Court now which in fact may overturn Roe v. Wade and some people are upset about this, but I do believe that I can listen fairly. I call all my fellow miracle students, friends, and fellow A Course in Miracles practitioners to truly be miracle workers here and listen fairly to the other side of the argument. Remember, listening fairly doesn't mean you're going to agree with the other side of the argument, but you are going to connect with the person as a fellow holy child of God who has a right to an opinion.
You can logically try to understand their opinion, but you don't have to change your own opinion. You can have your opinion; they can have their opinion. You can have a discussion. That's when the miracle happens. I believe that we can do this. We can listen to other opinions without projecting anger. Maybe you can't do it without feeling the anger, If the anger comes up, you feel the anger, but you don't have to act on the anger. You don't have to use the ego as your counsel, and you don't have to act on the anger.
I know for me, there's no cheese down the tunnel of me having an opinion about abortion or taking any side in this discussion at all. That's just me. Other men certainly have opinions about this, but me, I don't have an opinion about it. I see both sides of the issue. I want to be a force for miracles and healing about this, about everything. I want to truly acknowledge that both sides of this issue have strong opinions that are valid.
One of the things I have gotten, that I do keep wanting to mention is, if Roe v. Wade gets overturned, that doesn't mean that abortion suddenly become illegal. All it means is that there's no federal law about abortion. What it means is that abortions, and the right to get abortions, gets thrown back to the states. The states will decide. This is not so unusual. Basically the states decide almost everything about medical issues with people anyway. The whole Covid pandemic illustrated that clearly. So abortions will still be around. Even the states who will go for a more conservative view about abortion, not many of them will probably limit them all together. They might restrict them more, and there will be states who won't restrict them at all.
Again, if indeed Roe v. Wade gets overturned, it doesn't mean abortion will become illegal. Maybe that can be some comfort to some of the people who are on the pro-choice side. Again, we don't know for sure if it is getting overturned. As miracle students, I think the real question is, "Do we want to see separation here or do we want to see miracles?" I want you all to know that I want to see miracles. I want to see my brothers and sisters coming together in love, appreciation, and respect.
A Course in Miracles tells us, "Be not afraid to look upon the special hate relationship, for freedom lies in looking at it." (OrEd.Tx.16.30) Let me repeat that line. "Be not afraid to look upon the special hate relationship, for freedom lies in looking at it." (OrEd.Tx.16.30) People know that A Course in Miracles makes this distinction about special relationships and they usually think about special love relationships. However, there is this mention in A Course in Miracles about special hate relationships. We have to look at those. Who do we hate?
A lot of A Course in Miracles people will say, "Well, I don't really hate anybody." Yeah, but I hear how people talk about people. You might not use the word "hate," but there are certain people that we just feel we have permission to feel very negatively about and to judge. Maybe it's President Putin. Maybe it's President Biden. Maybe it's Bill Gates; maybe it's Dr. Anthony Fauci. Maybe it's President Trump. Who do you think you just have permission to judge negatively? Maybe its institutions. Maybe it's the organized church. Maybe it's the Catholic Church and especially about how it tolerating and covered up pedophile priests.
Maybe it's government in general. Maybe it's these big multinational health organizations like the WHO. Maybe it's the CDC. Maybe you just really don't like Republicans, or maybe you really just don't like Democrats. Who do you hate? Who do you love to hate? Who do you feel you have permission to judge? In truth, we don't have permission to judge anybody, and we don't have permission to hate anybody if we're going to be miracle workers, and I assume everybody here today wants to be a miracle worker, a miracle healer. So we have to let go of this extreme negative prejudice that we have against certain people or certain institutions.
Let's be miracle workers. Let's put on our big boy and our big girl pants and practice the discipline, and the discipline said listen to both sides fairly. Listen to both sides without reacting with anger. Let me repeat that quote again from the beginning. "Whenever anyone can listen fairly to both sides of any issue, he will make the right decision." (OrEd.Tx.7.12) Listen fairly in the coming weeks about everything, but since this talk is about the abortion issue, listen fairly about abortion. Listen fairly to both sides. Don't display anger. If you want to be part of the discussion in a healing, miraculous way, we got to put our anger in check and go to Holy Spirit and ask for new perceptions. The time to start this is now. I have actually felt that starting and I feel really good about that. In spite of all the rhetoric on both sides of discussion, I do feel that there's miracles here in the making.
I want to end with just one more thought, and this is a thought that I do connect with. I do have an opinion on this. I just think it's so unfortunate that whenever we have some sexual discussion in the culture, it's usually about something really negative. People have forgotten that sex is supposed to be adult fun and there's a lot of real positives about sexual activity. It promotes wonderful communication. It promotes interaction; it promotes joining and intimacy. It promotes a feeling of oneness with other people. Sexual activity is ... it's a very good thing. Let's not forget that during our whole discussion about abortion, which then turns into legal rights, life, death, murder and all the things that get wrapped up into the abortion discussion. Abortion is an aspect of the sexual discussion. However, at its core, sex and sexuality is a truly wonderful thing. It's a wonderful thing for adults to participate in, and it keeps adults feeling young, vital, and connected with their sisters, brothers, and others.
Let's not let a whole discussion on abortion make us get sex negative. There's so much sex negativity in our culture and I welcome the day when we can actually have that conversation, because I do have a lot of thoughts and opinions about that.
Okay, that's my talk for today. Thank you very much. ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20 minister. He currently (07.03.22) serves on the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the May 2022 (Vol. 36 No. 3) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.