Culture of Life
Marshalling Celebrities for the Pro-Life Cause
BY Barb Ernster
November 04-11, 2001 Issue | Posted 11/4/01 at 2:00 PM
A Harvard University student was ecstatic about the publication circulating on campus last year. Four thousand five hundred copies of a 28-page tabloid, entitled LoveMatters.com, had been distributed, spreading a pro-life, pro-chastity message. It created a campus wide discussion and a flurry of chatter on Harvard's online bulletin board. The student excitedly e-mailed over 100 student letters to the LoveMatters.com publisher, J.T. Finn, in Redondo Beach, Calif.
A second distribution of 5,000 copies went out to students at Georgetown University. These were among 15 college campuses which have received LoveMatters.com, generating hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters from students, parents, teachers, college faculty, youth directors and clergy who are starving for this kind of message to get into the hands of youth.
“The positive (response) outweighs the negative by about five or six to one,” said Finn, who is director of the nonprofit organization Pro-Life America. “It gives me a lot of hope and I think that if people give our youth good role models and messages, they will move toward truth and goodness.”
LoveMatters.com is a colorful newspaper supplement with an eye-catching cover sporting supermodel, Kim Alexis. At first glance, it could be mistaken for something produced by Cosmopolitan. But instead of sex, fashion and make-up tips, celebrities—such as actors Kathy Ireland and Mel Gibson, and pro-basketball star A.C. Green—promote messages of the sanctity of human life, chastity and abstinence-until-marriage.
The paper is filled with testimonies from former abortionists and post-abortive women, information on fetal development, STDs, birth control and abortion procedures, and articles about self-respect and chastity.
Finn, 40, is the oldest of six children who grew up in a strong pro-life, Catholic environment. His involvement in pro-life activities dates back to pre-Roe v. Wade days when his father, John Finn, was busy publishing pro-life literature and gathering the family for peaceful protests wherever the legalization of abortion was being discussed. His first involvement in college campus work was as a college campus project manager for Human Life Alliance, a Minnesota-based organization. He helped distribute their pro-life supplement, She's a Child, Not a “Choice.”
Human Life's president, Marlene Reid, said Finn was instrumental in getting the supplement on California campuses eight years ago. Today there are over 20 million in print, with about half of that number reaching students. She says the supplement, the original as well as the revised versions, focuses on the pro-life message, whereas LoveMatters.com promotes a stronger abstinence-until-marriage message, so the two complement each other well.
Finn liked the idea of distributing materials to college campuses, but felt it needed further development. He found a graphic designer who could design a hip, contemporary piece that appealed to the youth culture. From there he tracked celebrities that had made pro-life, pro-chastity comments in interviews.
“We were tired of the media constantly saying the pro-life movement was a bunch of old men trying to tell women what to do with their bodies. To overcome that, we thought we needed some popular people, young men and women who are encouraging sanctity of life messages, speaking out against abortion and talking about the beauty of life in the womb.”
Finn's message has reached hundreds of thousands of people today through the publication and the Web site. The Archdiocese of St. Louis recently distributed more than 117,000 copies of LoveMatters.com to Catholic households and high school students. Auxiliary Bishop Joe Naumann said the supplement reinforces their efforts to provide education about chastity and respect for life. The eye-catching format and content helped get a message out about God's plan for human sexuality and the goodness of living a chaste life.
“The environment today is so difficult for young people in terms of embracing Christian values about human sexuality and chastity. The messages they get from movies, television and music are so contrary to that,” Bishop Naumann said. “It's more important than ever that the Church does everything it can to present them with the teaching of Jesus and the Church's tradition.”
Bob Kloska, director of campus ministry at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind., said the Church needs to be countercultural in its presentation in order to reach the popular culture. He distributed LoveMatters.com to the student body when classes started in August. Although its content does-n't jibe with the popular culture, he said its sleekness and professionalism make it more palatable to youth, and he hasn't received one negative comment. “I think we have to adapt to our culture and use those sorts of marketing techniques, but that doesn't mean we're watering down the message. The medium is contemporary, but the message is eternal truth.”
Finn's goal is to distribute millions more copies to Catholic high schools, private Christian schools, religious education directors, youth ministers and others. He also thinks a more urgent need is to counter the efforts of Planned Parenthood in New York. The group recently announced that for a limited time it would offer free services, including abortions and birth control, to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; and it started distributing red, white and blue condoms.
“At a time when churches and non-profit organizations are rushing in with spiritual help, food and funds for the victims, Planned Parenthood is bringing more death into their lives,” he said. “They are a very cunning organization. They're experts at tempting people toward terrible sins that scourge our nation.”
His organization is concerned about the thousands of women who may feel pressured into having an abortion, particularly in light of the fact that people often cope with tragedy through increased promiscuous behavior. Some experts are already predicting a surge in pregnancies, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Pro-life America has drafted a plan to distribute 100,000 copies of LoveMatters.com within a one-hour radius of ground zero, and hopes to garner support from New York and New Jersey churches, schools and pro-life groups.
“We have another war that we're fighting right here on our own soil,” said Finn. “The ultimate act of [violence] is abortion.”
Barb Ernster writes from Fridley, Minnesota.
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