"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will," Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." He was describing his frustration with some white "moderates" who gave lip service to his civil rights case but couldn't bring themselves to join. "Lukewarm acceptance," King wrote, "is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
Lukewarm acceptance happens, too, when our shallow understandings allow unjust campaigns to flourish. Now is a time in America when radical cultural campaigns are driven by appeals to equality and social justice, hope and change, freedom and even women's health. Beware when you hear these things in political campaigns or during marches on Washington.
At a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, one Georgetown professor declared: "We have a dream, we need a team to join the women whose bodies are burdened by antiquated science and out-of-step politicians."
The line was pregnant with ironies, including one surrounding a current choice the nation's capital is set to make. While D.C. is not known to be an overwhelming bastion of clear thinking and lawmaking, it is currently a model on the topic of surrogacy, prohibiting the commercialization of wombs in a country where many states have made a mess of human dignity.
"Surrogacy takes something as natural as a pregnant woman nurturing her unborn child and turns it into an unnatural, contractual, commercialized endeavor," Jennifer Lahl, a nurse who serves as president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture said in testimony this June before the District of Columbia's city council. "It opens the door for all sorts of exploitation."
That's not quite the way the current Washingtonian magazine puts it, however. The Beltway glossy features "Meet the Baby Carriers," which might as well be a commercial for the Surrogacy Parenting Agreement Act of 2013 now before the council. Surrogacy, despite both propaganda pushing the liberalization of laws and the real and painful experiences of married couples struggling with infertility, is an issue that is not confined by partisan politics. If looked at honestly -- and that's an urgent conjunctional challenge -- we can rise out of a lukewarm acceptance that is allowing disorder to flourish.
As with other contentious issues that divide us, our embrace of all types of third-party reproductive arrangements relies on scientific advancements that deny some natural arrangements that have served civilization well. To embrace surrogacy requires a denial of a mother's intimate bonding relationship with her child in the womb.