Fight for life with Jason Jones Jan. 31

Larry Smith

I’ve written previously about “The real war on women: a life of poverty.” Here’s the reality: “The culture asks women to contracept. Then, when they become pregnant, it asks them to abort. If they don’t abort and keep the child, many times they are ostracized from their family or violently abused by a partner. They are often left to raise their child completely alone.”

Now meet someone who, like Catholic Charities, is on the front lines, fighting for life. If you saw the 2006 pro-life movie “Bella,” you may already be familiar with the work of Jason Scott Jones, a producer of that film and others. He’s also the author, with John Zmirak, of the recent book, “The Race to Save Our Century.”

Jones will be the keynote speaker at the Beacon of Hope Gala on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Wings Over the Rockies, benefiting Lighthouse and Women’s Services of Catholic Charities. We raised $500,000 at the previous gala, which was sold out. I urge you to buy your tickets now through www.ccdenver.org/gala. Money raised will help support a range of women’s services, including Lighthouse Women’s Center, which has saved more than 50 lives of babies in its first two years in operation across the street from Planned Parenthood.

“If we cannot care for the most vulnerable members of our family, the child in the womb, then who can we care for?” said Jones by telephone recently. He himself experienced that tragedy. After he and his high-school girlfriend discovered she was pregnant, he entered the Army in order to support them. When he was in basic training in 1989, said Jones, he received a phone call from her telling him that she had been coerced into having an abortion.

Jones went on to become a pro-life activist, working at Hawaii Right to Life, in politics and for Human Life International. His focus now is using media to change hearts and minds, illuminating Catholic social teaching on the dignity of the human person.

“Why Catholic Charities and, to me, pregnancy centers are so important is they are a safety net for the most vulnerable members of our communities, which is mothers and their pre-born children,” said Jones, a Catholic convert.

Jones met his wife, they married in 2005 and live in Hawaii. They have seven children. He has an amazing vision for a new culture of life, including a short film, “Crescendo,” that will be online this week. Producers with Jones include Pattie Mallette (the mother of Justin Bieber) and Eduardo Verastegui, the star of “Bella.”

“My goal with this project was to create a monument to the incomparable dignity and beauty of the human person that would transcend time and culture,” said Jones in a statement.

Please join us and Jason Jones in the fight for life at the Jan. 31 Beacon of Hope Gala. And if you can’t attend, please give generously to support our work.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Denver Archdiocese. Visit us online at www.ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.  To buy tickets for the Beacon of Hope Gala and learn more about Jason Jones at www.ccdenver.org/gala.

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.