Thursday, January 17, 2008

A perfect Teng

Vienna Teng, a singer-songwriter who has been featured on Letterman, performs "Shasta," about a young woman who turns away from an abortion clinic after a pro-lifer reminds her of Jesus' forgiving love:

(Sorry the video's squished — it's the only one available of that tune.)

From the lyrics:

and you can't go back but you're going back
and you don't know what you'll say
you've got half-formed sentences
explanations for a life half-broken away
and they just may
they'll take you in their arms and then take out their knives
so you drive on thinking

so far so good
but you can't go on much longer like this you know
you're all alone in this world no that's not true
the nice Christian lady told you so

she was handing out pamphlets by the clinic door
saying "Jesus knows what you've been through
take the Savior into your heart my child
there's love waiting for the both of you"

well you don't believe but you have to believe
it's still crumpled there in your back seat
were you the hero or the worst kind of coward back there
putting pavement back under your feet
couldn't stand the heat
couldn't stand the thought of ghosts with a negative age
turn the page

so far so good
you try to sing along to the radio
but it's not your language not your song
it's from some other time ago

and you're thinking about how someone died that day
the you that was so carefully planned
but then again maybe this life is like a sleeping mountain
waking up to shape the land
Teng's lyric about "how someone died that day/the you that was so carefully planned" is especially insightful. As the Sisters of Life explain when they train volunteers, women in crisis pregnancies typically believe that if they have the child, their life is over: "It's me or the baby."

The challenge for the pro-lifer is to show the woman in crisis, as does the sidewalk counselor in Teng's lyric, that she's not "all alone in this world," that "there's love waiting for the both of you" — not just in the abstract, but concrete love shown in willingness to be there for her in her time of need. Planned Parenthood doesn't do that for women who choose life; it's up to every one of us.

An article in the Arizona Republic sheds light on how Teng found inspiration for the song:

In the song, "Shasta (Carrie's Song)," Teng sings about a young girl named Carrie who struggles with the decision of having an abortion. Though Teng has never dealt with this issue in her own personal life, she seems to understand the hardships that come with making such a life-altering decision fairly well. ... Like most of the characters in Teng's other songs, Carrie is a figment of the artist's imagination -- and yet her entire existence addresses an issue which is very much real. "I started reading about abortion on a Planned Parenthood Web site," Teng explained about the song. "Then just to explore the other side of things I started reading some pro-life stuff ... And so it got really interesting and I started writing this little story in my head about this girl who decides not to have an abortion."
Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, a portion of the royalties from Teng's album containing "Shasta," Warm Strangers (2004), go to Amnesty International, which, since the album's release, has made abortion advocacy a key part of its platform.