The abortion debate is still raging within Christendom. It’s probably never going to be resolved, but it could be a lot more civilized. We have to find a way to love and understand each other – even if we disagree – or we will never be effective as the body of Christ.
I identify as a progressive Christian, but spent most of my life as an evangelical, so sometimes I try to mediate between the sides.
Last weekend, I jumped into a little “rooting out heretics” (this is a quote) party on Facebook. The hostess – I’ll call her Nancy – waxed eloquent:
Let me be clear. I have no complaints with my pro-choice friends.
But I find it utterly contemptible when someone calls themselves a Christian and is pro-choice. If you are that person, this is a wake up call for you to get saved for REAL. Stop clowning around. Choose this day whom you will serve.
(In another recent post, she had likened us unto Molech worshipers; in another we were Baal worshipers.)
Nancy’s post got lots of “Amen” and “preach it sister” and “what a faith warrior” comments.
A few of us in Facebook Land recognized ourselves in her tirade, and took umbrage. Free speech goes both ways.
That’s how I entered what I hoped would be dialogue with Nancy and her gang.
I will share some specifics of our abortion “debate” (I use that word loosely) another time (hop onto my free newsletter here to catch future posts). I assure you, I was brilliant!
For today, I want to reflect on evangelical egocentrism (“excessive interest in oneself and concern for one’s own welfare or advantage at the expense of or in disregard of others”).
Obviously, a large number of women seeking abortions are in an impossible financial situation; some women lack a supportive community; many other issues can make pregnancy and child-raising untenable. I suggested that we as Christians should try to make the world less hostile to these women before we ask them not to abort.
The (not unexpected) response:
But abortion is taking a human life. Alllll of those other things are peripheral.
This woman – white, married, middle class – has the luxury of a steady income and a caring community. She dismissed the very facts of poverty and isolation as irrelevant. She sees not human beings, but incubators. And just like that, every living, pregnant person is stripped of her humanity.
(See below for more Grace Colored Glasses posts on the abortion issue!)
I mentioned my own story: My fourth child was a life-threatening pregnancy, and agonizing as the decision was, we were prepared to abort if it came down to it. Needless to say, it was painful to think back on that time and heart-wrenching to talk about it. What’s even worse? When your trauma is dismissed:
Everyone has a story about awful situations but it does not change the main point—abortion kills a human.
Apathy is absolutely necessary in this game. When a ten-year-old is raped and impregnated, you have to be ready to blame the doctor who aborted, not the rapist. You have to be willing to strip a woman of her right to travel if her”home” state refuses to let her have an abortion, or support a lawsuit that would literally kill women needing a medical-emergency abortion – or tell a woman that she practically murdered her own child. And as you dismantle these women’s lives, you have to be willing to look them in the eye and claim to love them.
It’s a tough gig, but God wouldn’t ask you to do it without giving you the strength (read: holy ruthlessness) – because, in Nancy’s words, “Mere humans are not capable of doing God’s work” – i.e. thrashing those who disagree – “without the unction of the Holy Spirit.”
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for anointing Nancy to treat pro-choice Christians like crap – and then to blame her behavior on Jesus: “I am nothing. Jesus is everything.”
Surprise, surprise, a white, middle class dude patiently explained to me – as fact – his own take on how wombs work:
The uterus was specifically designed and made by God for the housing and nurturing of an unborn baby while it’s growing and developing until the time they’re big enough and healthy enough to be born and can live outside the mother’s body. It is meant to be the way for a mother to care for the unborn child until they’re strong enough to live independently outside the mother’s womb.
Killing a baby in the uterus goes against everything God intended and stands for. It goes against the absolute sanctity of life. The womb is a place of care, security, and protection and not murder.
Here is another Christian, apparently oblivious to the idea that there is more than one way to understand the world (there’s much to unpack in his comment, but that’s for another time). Oversimplified, binary thinking leaves no space for humanity or compassion. That uterus is part of a woman who is complex, and who is (supposedly) an autonomous being with God-given free will.
Any Christian advocating for a progressive cause has heard this at least once from an evangelical, as I did:
You obviously don’t want to hear the truth and have hardened your heart. You’re beyond help, may God have mercy on you. Absolutely despicable!
“Truth” is apparently a commodity held entirely by one group. The speaker here seems oblivious to the possibility that he might be suffering from a shortage of truth or hardening of the heart.
(This kind of dismissive response is most often employed by folks who find they can’t come up with an answer. They call us hopeless and then – conveniently – walk away from the conversation.)
To be fair, we all believe we have the truth – but we all need to be open to learning. The great injustices that Christians have supported over the centuries should remind us all to be humble and hold our beliefs in open hands, not closed fists.
I know from decades of experience that evangelicals are trained to know the “right” answers. We can tend to be so confident that it never occurs to us to think others might know something that we don’t know.
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Abortion and “what it means to be a believer”
A little farther down the page, Nancy reiterated the point of this evangelical field day:
My main purpose is to expose the people who think they are Christians but have absolutely no understanding (by the WORD of GOD) what it means to be a believer in Christ. God is not mocked. HE (not any of us here) is the final judge of human souls.
If I am wrong, that’s fine with me. But if you are wrong… and by “you” I am referring to people who call themselves Christians but are not truly saved… and by “wrong” I mean you will await a hellfire damnation…wouldn’t you want to know? Are you going to stand on the day of judgment and say to God: “No one told me”.. ?
Dear Nancy, the Word of God isn’t just a single-page document in big letters declaring “THOU SHALT NOT KILL* (*and this commandment refers to unborn babies only – not pregnant women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, young black men at traffic stops, Palestinians, or any others that our government deems expendable).
The Word of God, especially in the person and words of Jesus, calls for humility and compassion in dealing with others. It calls on believers to care for the needy – Jesus goes so far as to say that this is the key to entering heaven.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that evangelicals are not Christians, or that abortion is fine and dandy.
I am suggesting that evangelical Christians who can’t make space for diversity of opinion, who judge harshly and without compassion, and who view the world without nuance, need to look back at the life and teachings of Jesus – especially his interactions with the marginalized.
I am suggesting that evangelical Christians recognize the hostile world in which they want poor women to raise children, and work to make it better.
I am suggesting that evangelical Christians treat the already-born as tenderly as they treat the unborn.
(If you are energized by challenges to the evangelical status quo like this, you’d enjoy my blog. Sign up for my free newsletter here!)
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MORE ON CHOICE FROM GRACE COLORED GLASSES:
Pro-birth, Pro-life, Pro-choice, Part One
Pro-birth, Pro-life, Pro-choice, Part Two: contraceptives and all that jazz
Pro-birth, Pro-life, Pro-choice, Pt 3: Permission to defect from anti-abortion party
Straight talk about abortion and a woman’s right to choose
FEATURED IMAGE: bride with a mirror by mahmoud99725