June 14, 2013

Editorial

Football player doesn’t pass up chance to live out faith in the public arena

Growing weary of reading about the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service? Are you tired of hearing about the U.S. government’s monitoring and collection of phone and Internet records, and the chasm that keeps our two major political parties from agreeing on much of anything in our nation’s capital?

While most would agree those situations are indeed newsworthy, there are other stories coming out of Washington that are worth sharing that don’t get as much publicity in the media—except for a few outlets who are to be commended for seeing their importance.

Like nearly all championship teams in professional sports, the Baltimore Ravens—Super Bowl victors in February—made a visit to the White House last week.

But noticeably absent was Matt Birk, the team’s all-pro center, who recently retired after a 15-year NFL career. Birk declined to make the customary trip to meet the president and spend time with our commander in chief.

The reason? Birk is unabashedly pro-life, and offered a simple yet heartfelt response about why he stayed away.

“I would say this, I would say that I have great respect for the office of the Presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president [Barack Obama] made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood.’ ”

In late April, President Obama became the first sitting president to speak at Planned Parenthood’s national conference and, at the end of his talk, he reiterated his commitment to supporting the organization and its mission.

“As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you fighting every step of the way,” he said.

“Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you,” the president concluded.

For Birk, those words were enough to keep him away from the White House recognition.

“Planned Parenthood performs 330,000 abortions a year,” he said. “I am Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way.

“I’m very confused by [the president’s statement],” Birk added. “For God to bless a place where they’re ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend.”

A native of Minnesota, Birk and his wife, Adrianna, are the parents of six children. Birk has also publically voiced support for traditional marriage, and in 2011, he was a featured speaker at the Maryland March for Life.

In a 2011 story in The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Archdicoese of Baltimore, Birk talked about his faith and being a parent.

“It was unbelievable the love that I felt for her,” he said after the birth of his first child, “and any parent knows exactly what I’m talking about. At that point, you know it’s not a choice. Life is a gift that’s given to us. We are supposed to accept it. It’s not our choice whether we decide a baby lives or not.”

Birk said participating in the March for Life was “one of the coolest things I’ve done. It seems like our society and media want to push pro-lifers to the side and hope that we would shut our mouths and go away quietly. Let’s not do that.

“We all need saving,” he continued, “and there’s one thing that can save us all, and that’s prayer. For me, it comes down to what’s right and what’s wrong—what’s God’s will and what’s not.”

Birk is to be commended for being one of those athletes—and Christians—who isn’t afraid to live out his faith in the public arena, and not only on Sundays or in the privacy of his home.

Too often in today’s increasingly secularistic society, we are told to keep our faith to ourselves and not worry about the wrongs we witness happening around us.

May we all have the courage and conviction to follow Birk’s example and not be afraid to live out our faith in all we say and do.

—Mike Krokos

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