Mercy and a Doritos Commercial

Doritos’s Super Bowl commercial (via YouTube)

Overnight I thought about how ridiculous it is that people went to sleep last night thinking about Doritos because of this tweet:

If you haven’t seen the ad, it’s here:

And I kept thinking about three things: life, laughter, and mercy.

Starting with laughter, because it’s obvious what the commercial has to do with life — which is why NARAL wasn’t happy about it. Sonograms have already humanized the unborn child — a human being — as our window into the womb.

I’ll be the first to admit to being sensitive to pop culture’s making men look like doofuses. So NARAL almost had me there. Except it was a silly Doritos commercial that made me laugh when I watched it to see what the sudden chatter was all about. And that, of course, was the problem that led to the tweet. It worked as a bearer of a pro-life message in a way that probably has more of an impact than any political argument.

Its power is that it further exposed the hardening among some ardent advocates of legal abortion that is happening as common sense and technology get us closer to the point when people realize we shouldn’t have legal abortion for three trimesters in America.

I’ve recently pointed out the illuminating numbers in a Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, released last month, showing once again that most people who call themselves pro-choice don’t share the sentiments of that NARAL Super Bowl tweet.

Read these numbers again if you haven’t already:

The survey found that more than 8 in 10 Americans (81 percent) would restrict abortion to — at most — the first three months of pregnancy. This includes 82 percent of women polled and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of pro-choice supporters.

Additionally, 77 percent of Americans, including 79 percent of women and 71 percent of pro-choice supporters, say that laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child. Only about 1 in 5 (17 percent of Americans, 15 percent of women, 23 percent of pro-choice identifiers) disagree.

The poll also found most Americans see abortion as both ultimately harmful to women and morally wrong.

By a 25-point margin (55 to 30 percent), Americans say that abortion ultimately does a woman more harm than good. A similar proportion of women (56 percent to 31 percent) agree. More than 1 in 4 (27 percent) who identify as pro-choice also share this view.

That’s remarkable. And it’s not good news if you’re the group formerly known as the National Abortion Rights Action League. Which is why the group seems to be taking efforts to protect its turf recently — just ask Nancy Pelosi.

#share#But this is also a year Pope Francis has set aside for some serious encounters with mercy. What does a controversy about a Doritos commercial mean through that lens? Pope Francis writes about the year:

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.” Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. On the other hand, sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

Pope Francis, of course, didn’t invent mercy. Nor did John Paul II, who said in his “Gospel of Life”:

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life. 

There is tremendous pain surrounding this issue. Abortion hurts, as Anne Lastman has written quite movingly about in her book Redeeming Grief. There’s healing available. (Do you know about the likes of Project Rachel?) For hearts. For our laws. There’s hope. And who knew a ridiculous Doritos commercial would be a little door into something better than the culture of death NARAL Pro-Choice America insists on — even during the Super Bowl.

And let’s not rest until every woman and man knows this.

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