Jonathan Roumie courageously said “yes” to speak at the March for Life this year. Roumie, if you haven’t encountered him, plays Jesus in the series “The Chosen.” (“TV Jesus” is how he describes himself.) A friend of mine happens to represent him to the media and posted a photo of the two of them at the Rose Dinner after the March for Life. One of the comments under the post expressed disappointment that Roumie once appeared in the virtual presence of Jesuit Father James Martin.
I can’t find an actual video online, but the event seems to have been about prayer and discerning God’s will in your life. I saw a note online where Roumie thanks Father Martin for his book “Jesus: A Pilgrimage,” which has nothing to do with what Martin is controversial for — LGBT issues. It was during 2020, when most of us needed opportunities to come together in makeshift fellowship and reminders that God has a plan that is bigger than any of us and our designs (and what we were watching on the news).
To express disappointment in Roumie for that is some of the worst of our culture. He wasn’t canceled in that Facebook comment, but it’s the same kind of reflex. I understand frustration with Father Martin on these issues that are so confusing and harmful to the human person. I also understand some of his outreach — people feel removed from Christ. How we can all be reconciled and live chastely and virtuously is core to our call as Christians. What does that look like today? How can we reach out to people who feel unwelcome so that they can better be on the journey to union with Jesus? This is all our work, in different ways.
And while he is best known for his work on this point, Father Martin also writes about Jesus. He has a beautiful book that helped prepare me for a pilgrimage to Lourdes. A quite conservative friend of mine recommends “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” for preparation for visiting the Holy Land. We can’t just write people off because we disagree with them, even on something fundamental. We certainly should not cancel others for associating with them — and on something that has nothing to do with the controversy.
At the March for Life this year, and at the dinner after, Roumie talked boldly about the spiritual battle going on in the world today. It would have been much easier for him to not appear at the March for Life. Especially this year, abortion is about as contentious an issue as there is. The March for Life happens in January to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade every year. By the grace of God, Roe did not make it to its 50th this year. And in the months since the Supreme Court ruled on the Mississippi case that overturned Roe, thus ending the decision that made abortion legal in all three trimesters of abortion, the media has been relentless in scaring people. For his career’s sake, Roumie would have been smart to stay far away from the March. Sure, he’s known for being serious about his Catholic faith. But, hey, so say Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. No one had to know that he actually believes and stands up for the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion — which happens to be what anyone who “follows the science” can see with their own eyes.
God bless him for standing up with clarity on the human-rights issue of our lives.
I spoke at a conference of Ivy League students on life after Roe after the March, and one student came up to me and said that she was trying to educate herself because the issue was so polarizing and she didn’t know where she stood. The event was a conservative one, and I asserted that the students were too smart not to be honest about the truth about abortion as murder. But they also need to be able to talk with people who don’t see everything the way they do. And they need to talk about Jesus and encounter him in a context that doesn’t have to do with the controversial issues. That may lead to more. We pray that it leads to more.
Jonathan Roumie and Father James Martin don’t have to agree on everything to talk about Jesus. Actually focusing on Jesus could work miracles in our culture and our Church — and our conversations.
Do we really believe this? Then we will simply thank Roumie for his courage!
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.