Why it’s time for us to reclaim “values”

I just got off the phone with a reporter working on an article about religion and spirituality in connection to home birth. Our conversation got me going, particularly when she told me of the Christian midwife who said that she doesn’t think pro-choice people should be doulas or midwives. That it’s a contradiction to work with birth and hold pro-choice beliefs. It makes my blood boil.

People often assume that radical politics go hand in hand with atheism, or a rejection of religious beliefs. The Religious Right in this country has furthered that idea by claiming the realm of religion, of God, of spirituality even, as their own. They promote the idea that being religious means certain things about your political beliefs and actions.

My doula work is about providing non-judgemental support to a person during pregnancy. Period. Just like I don’t bring my judgements about how the birth should happen, what tools should be used, or even how or when the pregnancy should happen, I don’t bring my judgements about the choices the pregnant person makes about their pregnancy.

I know that many of you who identify as radical doulas bring a sense of spirituality to your work, and I want us to claim that. I want us to reject the idea that radical politics (which, by the way, in an ideal world wouldn’t be so damn radical) are inherently atheist, or anti-religion, or anti-spiritual. Inherent in that rejection is that we get to claim, rightfully, that a belief in God or some sort of higher power doesn’t go hand in hand with anti-choice views. Anyone who studies the Bible, the Old Testament, knows that the beliefs that the Religious Right holds up as so clear, so self-evident, are not. It’s all about interpretation.

I want us to talk about values. I hold dearly the fact that my VALUES as a doula are based in the principle of non-judgmental support. My values are that I don’t know what is best for anyone but myself, and as a doula I serve folks during pregnancy by remembering that, always, and simply searching for the best way to validate and support someone’s experience.

I wholeheartedly reject the idea that family values are based in principles of hatred, discrimination, non-acceptance and judgement. Those are the anti-choice, anti-sex, anti-woman and anti-gay family values are being promoted in the US.

I’ve got my own version of family values—helping people build the families they want to create, however they define family, in the most loving and supportive environment possible. My family values include empowering every family member to make decisions about what’s best for them—whether those decisions are about how to dress, when and how to begin romantic relationships, how to be sexual, what to do when they are pregnant, what pronouns to use, damn even what food to eat every day. Again, I don’t know what’s best for anyone but myself. My values center on creating an environment where everyone can make the absolute best, educated and supported decisions about their lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a shit ton of opinions. I’m a blogger! But my opinions stop where your choices begin. I can express them from here til kingdom come, but YOU know what’s best for you. Period.

I’m sick of the left being painted as rational or logical but values-less. That’s complete and total bullshit. I’ve got an incredible set of values right here, and I think you do too. We just need to start talking about them.


12 thoughts on “Why it’s time for us to reclaim “values”

  1. aisha barrios February 8, 2012 / 2:11 pm

    preach it, sister!

    i really appreciated reading this, as a queer socialist AND a muslim, i get that kind of crap all the time. us folks with radical politics must be allowed the choice (and the right) to claim whatever faith we choose. after all, as much as the Right (and militant atheists on both sides) want to deny, your politics decide your religious experience, not the other way around.

    i look forward to the day where radical folks can feel comfortable calling themselves “religious”, “of faith” “spiritual” or whatever they want to claim, without being told you can only pick one.

  2. Marlene February 8, 2012 / 5:38 pm

    You complain about the Right’s characterization of “radicals”being atheists, yet you buy right in to their crap about values only coming from religion. Talk about religion or talk about values, but don’t talk about them as though they are the same thing. They are not.

    Perhaps you didn’t mean to say that they are the same thing, but the way you have written this post discusses them in parallel. Us atheists have values. Mine are quite like those you describe.

    • radicaldoula February 8, 2012 / 10:11 pm

      I don’t think religion and values are the same thing, although you are right that they are often conflated. This conflation is why I made the connection here.

      That’s why I think it’s so important for those of us with radical politics, religious or not, to claim our values.

  3. Stella Rose February 8, 2012 / 6:09 pm

    Not the exact point of your post, but reminded me how much it has always shocked me how people in both the conservative and liberal camps see some kind of animosity between advocating for reproductive rights generally, and being interested in promoting woman-centered birth practices (the kinds that, more likely than not, midwives and doulas practice or help women attain).

    Helping women have the kinds of births they want, and advocating that women have access to the tools to decide whether and when to get pregnant are both about a belief that women should control their own bodies, and women—not doctors, ministers or the state — own their own bodies and reproductive capacities, EVEN when they decide to have a baby.

    Also, as you point out, this idea that abortion was always a lighting-rod issue for religious people is totally anachronistic. Before we had modern technologies to identify pregnancy early on through hormone tests and ultrasounds, pregnancy was not really a public social reality from week 2 on. The concept that “life begins at conception” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on a world where there was no way for anyone to know a woman was pregnant, or whether the pregnancy was viable, for a very long time. Hence the tradition rule that abortion was acceptable until quickening.

  4. Graham February 8, 2012 / 7:10 pm

    Actually, religious texts are often explicitly clear. The worst among us really do have the theology on their side, and trying to reimagine those texts into something modern or moral is a dishonest project.

    There’s a hazard in pretending this isn’t so.

    • radicaldoula February 8, 2012 / 10:14 pm

      I have to disagree. I think there are lots of different moments in these texts, some that directly contradict each other. I’m not saying every passage in the Bible or Old Testament is in our favor, but that it’s the interpretation of the texts as conclusively supporting one opinion or another that is mostly false, and used by the Right to justify all sorts of things.

    • Stella Rose February 9, 2012 / 10:30 am

      I’d be interested to know the citations of which you speak. Since the understanding of how human reproduction worked was so different thousands of years ago when these texts were written (e.g., there was no microbiology as we understand it, etc) it seems very unlikely that they could be easily mapped on to modern concepts. Certainly there is some interpretation needed there.

  5. Jen Sidlo Henley February 8, 2012 / 8:40 pm

    Great article, thank you! Have a look at The Christian Left. I think you’ll find some kindred spirits there.

  6. Sandra February 8, 2012 / 10:44 pm

    You know what else? You can be an atheist and have values. Why the hell do you have to ascribe to a religion to have a moral code? You don’t (clearly, since most religious people ignore the bulk of their holy books) and I’m sick of being treated like a social pariah because I don’t believe in a sky-daddy.

  7. Montrealdoula February 14, 2012 / 11:23 am

    I agree with you Radical Doula. But it seems everyone needs a soapbox to stand on and yell about something. Best to apply doula non-partisan respect, an open heart and hands-off integrity to every part of your life. Life outside the box!

  8. Justine A February 15, 2012 / 1:25 pm

    Wow what a great discussion here. This post brings up so much for me, I almost
    don’t know where to begin 🙂

    First, I don’t think the body of the post completely supports the title. I agree
    it’s time to reclaim values, those that were defined
    and claimed by the right. We all have values and some of them are very similar
    regardless of which way you lean politically. This has become a question of
    religion and morality only because that’s how the right has painted it and we
    Americans have bought into it.

    If we took the question of religion out of the picture and simply focused on
    values, we, especially doulas and other birthing pros would have a lot in
    common. We might not agree on everything but we weren’t meant to. I think we all
    value life, whether we are pro-choice or not. I think we all value freedom,
    whether we are pro-choice or not. Because belief is so deeply ingrained in us
    and we are willing to fight and die for our beliefs, judgment and
    narrow-mindedness can become the divisive factor in how we relate to each other.
    We all have beliefs and it would do humanity good to have us each examine our
    beliefs and be open to the idea that maybe certain beliefs don’t serve us or the
    highest good.

    Lastly, I want to make a distinction here between religion and spirituality.
    They are often talked about as one and the same. I think it’s important to have
    a common definition when addressing topics such as these. I see myself as highly
    spiritual but not religious. I reject the idea that political affiliation has
    anything to do with spirituality or even religion. We only accept this idea
    because it is what has been shoved down our throats for so long.

    It’s time to first redefine and then reclaim our values. As a life coach, when I
    read the title I thought, right on someone is talking about how important it is
    we are connected to our values. After reading the post, I still hold that
    viewpoint and would say it’s more important now than ever for each of us to
    identify our values, connect to them and live life proudly and joyfully from our
    deepest values. Forget the labels and judgments that come with them. When we are
    free to live our most meaningful values, the world becomes a more loving and
    just place. Just my 2 cents.

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