It’s hard to overstate the symbolic power of sitting down. Today, a football player’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem has garnered headline upon headline. Twenty-two years ago, a seated couple protested one of the world’s most beloved figures.
In a truly iconic American scene that still captures the attention—and confusion—of the Washington elite, then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, sat in stunned silence amid a standing ovation that followed Mother Teresa’s address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
The applause lasted a solid five minutes after Mother Teresa’s address. Long before the days of “virtue-signaling,” however, the Clintons were sending a message of dissent loud and clear to the woman now officially canonized a saint in the Catholic Church for her “heroic virtue.”
Abortion, the Destroyer of Love
The Clintons’ seated dissent had everything to do with Mother Teresa’s courageous stand for the sanctity of life, which echoed her earlier comments in her 1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want,” she said. “This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
Instead of offering a violent “solution,” Mother Teresa urged her listeners to help mothers and fathers learn to love their babies, to start within their own families in their care for the unwanted and weak, then to move into the community and into the world. To love until it hurts. Isn’t it clearer every day that the real alternative to the violence of our world today is none other than love?
The Clintons have not learned that lesson from Mother Teresa. In fact, Hillary’s Democrats promote the most rabidly pro-abortion platform our nation has ever seen. In addition to forcing the American taxpayer to fund abortions at home through promising to repeal the Hyde Amendment, the Democratic Party’s platform would also force us to pay for abortions overseas by repealing the Helms Amendment.
Beyond Virtue Signaling
Tragic as it is to see many in our culture roundly rejecting Mother Teresa’s words, we are the living beneficiaries of her legacy—which placed an inestimable value on every human life and went well beyond courageous words and virtue signaling.
About 3,000 neighborhood-based pregnancy help organizations, including pregnancy centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, nonprofit adoption agencies, and maternity support programs in all 50 states provide love and support, “until it hurts,” to more than a million people every year who are in the throes of an unexpected pregnancy. With shoestring staffs and budgets, community-funded nonprofits make up one of the greatest humanitarian movements in modern times.
Every woman deserves the love and support she needs to have a healthy baby. Life-affirming pregnancy help exists to replace the fear, abandonment, and even coercion that often drive her to abortion with love. It’s through this kind of irreplaceable help a mother can follow her God-given instinct to love and protect her own baby.
As Mother Teresa acknowledged, the problems facing the poor among us are daunting in their complexity. Our solution to these challenges must always include reducing our aims to simple steps—the steps of active love we can provide within our families, our neighborhoods, and our society.
Mother Teresa reminds us so well of our call toward the individual in front of us, who bears the very image of God. We don’t focus on “problems,” but on individual lives, one by one, as we offer love and personal involvement in their lives.
“Ek, ek, ek,”—“one, one, one” in Hindi—is the way Mother Teresa often described her approach. One person at a time: one family, one neighborhood, one step followed by another. Every one of those steps led by the Lord.
Not everyone will stand with us. But with or without their support, we must stand, as Mother Teresa did, with those who need us most.