I can scarcely appreciate what my mom and countless Black people her age are going through, but I doubt that most white people can even imagine it. The Voting Rights Act is arguably the most important piece of legislation in American history: It’s the first law that made real the promises of the 15th Amendment, and thus the first law that extended the full measure of citizenship to Black people in a supposedly democratic system of government. It was the silver bullet of the civil rights movement. Voting rights were supposed to make it impossible for future cabals of white supremacists to take away the gains of the era.
Yet, over the past eight years, that most critical law has been gutted by the Supreme Court. Our one unelected branch of government has taken away the key thing put in place to keep the elected branches from sliding back into the whites’-only rule that plagued the first 150 years of the American experiment.
Esau McCaulley, “The Vortex of White Evangelicalism” (The Atlantic)
To understand why Black Christianity exists in a totally different key than the debates that happen in white Christian spaces, you have to imagine this: It’s 1790; it’s 1800. An enslaved Black person hears about the person of Christ. He has to decide from the very moment that he says “Amen,” does this God want me enslaved? In other words, the moment he has to ask the religious question, he has to ask the political question, because slavery was not just a moral issue. It was a legal issue—a systemic injustice. And the Black Christian has to decide, “What does God think about this?”
So Black Christianity was always inescapably political, while at the same time being deeply spiritual. It is not our fault that other traditions pooled these things into different categories. The difficulty is that people always want to hear about just one or the other of those. We are only seen as pawns in someone else’s fight.
Beverly Wildung Harrison, “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love”
Far more than we care to remember, though, the evil that we do lives on, after us. The radicality of our vision of love gains its urgency from that very knowledge. The prophets of Israel were right to insist, long ago, that the sins of the fathers (and the mothers) live on in us, corroding and destroying the power of relation. This is why our human moral task sometimes seems overwhelming. We live in a time when massive and accumulated injustice, acted out over time, encounters answer in the rising anger of those whose dignity and life are being threatened by collective patterns of privilege that have to be undone. In a world such as this, actively pursuing the works of love will often mean doing all we can to stop the crucifixions, resisting the evil as best we can, or mitigating the suffering of those who are the victims of our humanly disordered relations. In the midst of such a world, it is still within the power of love, which is the good news of God, to keep us in the knowledge that none of us were born only to die, that we were meant to have the gift of life, to know the power of relation and to pass it on.
A chief evidence of the grace of God — which always comes to us in, with, and through each other — is the power to struggle and to experience indignation. We should not make light of our power to rage against the dying of the light. It is the root of the power of love. So may it never be said of any of us feminist theologians that we merely stood by, ladylike, when that power of love was called for or that we sought refuge in an Otherworld when we were needed here and now, in the line of march.
But what seems to have turned a narrow margin into a landslide was the case of Savita Halappanavar, the dentist who in the midst of a miscarriage died of sepsis because she could not be given an abortion while there was still a fetal heartbeat. Halappanavar became the emblem of the movement to strike down the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which insisted, like the Catholic Church, that the unborn’s right to life is equal to the mother’s.
That position conflicts with the visceral human understanding that an early-term miscarriage is not the death of a person; that the mother’s life and health are more valuable than the life of the unborn; that a woman who becomes pregnant by rape or incest should not be required to carry to term.
The Church has always opposed abortion, but there was a time when its doctrine reflected that visceral understanding.
In the summer of 2004, I was five weeks pregnant, which means I was seven weeks pregnant, according to the state of Texas, and thus would have been unable to access abortion care under the state’s draconian new law. I didn’t feel pregnant, but we were “trying,” and on day 28 when the test was positive, I high fived my husband and went back to taking care of our older kids. When the spotting started three weeks later, I called my OBGYN, who advised me to take it easy and call if there were any problems.
There weren’t. I cried in the kitchen while I was making dinner, and that was it. My husband was very sweet to me that night, but then again, he always is. Three weeks or one week later — there’s that pesky math again! — I was pregnant again.
Of course, every miscarriage is unique. Many women will grieve the loss of a wanted pregnancy, particularly if they have struggled with infertility. And the physical toll of miscarriage is much greater later on in pregnancy.
Still, especially those of us with large families fundamentally understand that a pre-viable fetus is not a child.