Tradition, Family Property’s Student Action is legendary for its activism on campus. These brave young men address the burning issues of the day at some of the most liberal universities. They go where few dare go.
Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when a TFP Student Action millennial asked me if I would like to go with them to defend preborn life at Penn State University. It had been a while since I had last been on a campus outreach like this one. He promised me it would be a good campaign. I had to say yes.
“Meet us after breakfast,” I was told, “and there will be a place in the van for you.”
I found the van and took my place. Within minutes, we were headed due north for Penn State at State College. I was impressed by how well-organized everything was. TFP standard, anti-abortion banner, flyers, signs and clipboards were ready to go. The young men in the van were seasoned veterans. They were nonchalant about the whole affair treating it as if they were going for a hike or a walk in the woods.
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As we arrived at the sprawling campus, I wondered where we would set up. We soon headed to the center of the university, right in the belly of the beast. There we faced off with the students as they went to their classes.
At first, there was not much action. Students would take flyers without comment. There were the “normal” things that TFP Student Action activists have to endure: ripping up flyers, obscene gestures and foul language. However, there were no real incidents to cause concern. “It will pick up,” I was told. It would only be a matter of time.
“Let’s put up the banner,” said TFP Student Action coordinator John Ritchie. “Then you will see debates.” The large banner was controversial and left no doubt to the passersby as to our message. It read “Let us pray for the end of the sin of abortion.” True to his word, the debates started happening.
In fact, all hell broke loose. There were more than two-and-a-half hours of non-stop debate. It was loud, crude, intolerant and at times full of hatred. Pro-abortion students crowded around the banner, some arguing, others screaming and shouting. All were determined to drive us away.
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Of course, it is not easy to debate people who do not believe in any moral code. All morality is subjective in their minds, and there is no objective right or wrong. The only thing that appeared to be wrong is anything—a moral principle, a baby or a TFP activist—standing in the way of a person and the object of his or her gratification. Then their rage knew no bounds.
The pro-abortion students were constantly trying to give the impression that no one was pro-life on this liberal campus. However, student after student came by thanking us for being there, some shaking the hand of each TFP member. In one particularly loud debate, a young lady, who identified herself as a feminist, interrupted the discussion and passionately thanked us for defending life. We were surprised to see how our witness emboldened other students who started their own debates arguing in favor of life.
However, the debates did get nasty. At one point, some female students used so much foul language that a visiting parent entered the forum and protested, saying this was not the kind of place he wanted for his daughter, a prospective student. He was rudely told both he and his daughter would not be wanted there.
The only respite was when several students from the local Catholic Newman Center joined the TFP in praying a public rosary for an end to abortion in America and the world. After trying to disrupt the prayer, the rabid pro-abortionists suddenly quieted down in an almost surreal scene of calm amid the storm.
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In the end, a young man in a booming voice shouted out so much obscenity that it became impossible to argue with him. It was the time to play the bagpipes, which the piper promptly did, silencing the intruder who could not make himself heard over the music.
Finally, we decided to leave the university as it became clear that we had accomplished our mission of defending the preborn in this hostile environment. As we headed home, I could not help but be impressed by the campaign of these brave young men who had conducted themselves so well. The van was full of lively conversations about the campaign. Each had his episodes to tell. They very clearly delighted in the opportunity to bear witness to the Faith despite being mistreated.
I certainly received the “good campaign” that I was promised. It was beyond my expectations. And yet for the young TFP Student Action veterans, the day was very good but not extraordinary. They have weathered other storms. For them, it was just another day of campaign.