Loving Our Neighbor

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’” Matthew 22:26-40

There was a time in America when just about everyone knew that piece of scripture. And knowing it–or being reminded of it–as well as other concepts like The Golden Rule really made a difference in how we acted.

This story from Grayson Quay:

“On the night that Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was on the campaign trail, preparing to address a predominately African-American crowd in Indianapolis. As cities across the country braced for riots and RFK’s advisors begged him to get as far as he could from the yet-unknowing crowd while he had the chance, the candidate stepped up onto a flatbed truck to break the news. In a scene that was itself like something out of Greek tragedy, he quoted Agamemnon from memory:

‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget

Falls drop by drop upon the heart,

Until, in our own despair,

Against our will,

Comes wisdom

Through the awful grace of God.’

That night, while dozens of American cities burned, Indianapolis remained peaceful. “

These words, spoken to those who had grown up with the Golden Rule and the concept of loving our neighbors, kept anger from owning the day in one American city.

Compare that story to this one about Rep. Brian Sims’s encounters, first with an older protester, then with four younger pro-life activists–three teens and a mother–outside a Planned Parenthood in Sims’s district. Sims, who used to escort women into an abortion clinic, recorded the videos himself and posted them on social media.

In the first video, Sims berates a lone, older woman (perhaps in her 60s) quietly protesting outside the facility in his neighborhood. He calls her “an old white lady” whose behavior, in his view, is “disgusting,” “racist,” and “grotesque.” He tells her she can “pray at home.” The woman does not respond to his insults except to reach into her purse to retrieve her rosary beads.

Here’s the link to that video on a website that invites people to “push back against Planned Parenthood protesters.”

It’s not the only time Sims pushed back. The Philadelphia inquirer reports:

In the other[second] video, Sims approaches a woman [Ashley Garecht] and three girls who appear to be in their teens outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 12th and Locust Streets and refers to them as ‘pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here.’

“’I’ve got $100 to anyone who will identify any of these three,'” Sims says [referring only to the teens, two who are 15, one who is 13, but not to Garecht who is the mother of two of the teens].

“[Garecht] responds, ‘We’re actually here just praying for the babies.'”

It was the second time, according to Garecht, Sims had accosted the quartet of protesters. He yelled at them at first, and then returned with his phone to record himself and ask viewers to identify the teens.

That means he had plenty of time to think about what he was doing.

He directed his comments to the girls. Garecht came between him and the teens and politely asked him to have a conversation. “Talk to me,” she said. “But he continued to yell at the girls.” He called the girls white (as he had done to the older woman)–apparently presuming that as an insult even though he is also white. The Hispanic teen corrected him.

“I’m not white,” the girl said. “I’m pretty far from white.”

But that didn’t slow him down. He claimed that Planned Parenthood “faces such attacks daily.” It doesn’t seem that he knows what the word attack means.

Sims used the videos to solicit contributions to Planned Parenthood, specifying in the second video that he would give $100 to the abortion titan.

But his plan backfired. Garecht and her husband started a Go Fund Me page after the encounter between Garecht, the teens, and Sims went viral. The fund is in support of a Philadelphia pro-life group.

In three days, they raised $118,000.

When Sims was making his videos, there were very few people on the street. Once the pro-life public saw his actions, they rallied on Friday.

Demonstrators at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood where Brian Sims recorded his encounters with peaceful praying protesters. Photo by Pennlive (link below).

It’s possible that when the older woman pulled out her rosary beads, she was praying for her own protection. But I would not be surprised to learn she was praying for Sims.

That’s what Garecht and the girls did in the moments after their first meeting.

“We prayed for him then. I said we’ll continue to pray for him.”

The “old white lady,” Ashley Garecht, her daughters, and their friend know the words of Jesus Christ and ideas behind Aeschylus’s words from Agamemnon that RFK quoted. The now-famous Planned Parenthood protesters know the ideas that formed our culture before this moment.

Brian Sims, sadly, still has much to learn.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Pennlive

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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