I’ve been quiet for a while due to the demands of my vocational and personal lives. I thought I would take a moment and re-emerge.
So what have I been thinking about?
Many things: one of which is the recent surge in the attempt to ban all forms of safe and legal abortions. I have been a life-time supporter of women’s right to affordable and accessible comprehensive health care. That includes access to abortion services.
Some might be surprised to hear a pastor say that. If you listen to many in the media, you would think all Christians are opposed to abortion rights. Let me say this: they are not.
So how does a faithful Christian get to such a position?
Let me share a few thoughts and then invite you into the conversation.
First, the language we use in discussing the issue is incredibly important. I do not know of anyone in my inner circle who is pro-abortion. I know many, however, who are pro-choice.
What’s the difference between the two?
In my mind, a pro-abortion individual is someone who encourages women to get abortions since abortion represents the preferred option. Pro-choice means something very different. While a pro-choice individual might believe very strongly in the sanctity of life – and that she could never make such a decision herself, the pro-choice individual respects a woman and her loved ones’ right to choose the option that best fits their circumstance.
Second, I believe we begin the whole conversation about reproductive rights much later than we should. We wouldn’t have to talk as much about abortion, for instance, if we were willing to provide our youth with comprehensive information about sex and sexuality and give them age-appropriate access to various forms of contraception.
One of the greatest ironies in this matter is that those who are most opposed to abortion are often the same ones who are most opposed to comprehensive sex/sexuality education and access to contraception. As a result, they find themselves desperately trying to stop a problem they helped create!
Third, folks don’t often step back and think about the complexities of what Scripture has to say about the matter. I’ve heard many biblical literalists use passages from places like Jeremiah 1:5 (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”) or Psalm 139:13 (“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb”) to make their case. They act as if that’s all Scripture says on the matter.
Such people forget another important aspect of Scripture: the part that talks about the punishment for adultery. It was common for folks in what many today call Old Testament times to stone those who committed adultery.
Now let’s stop and think for a moment. If life begins at conception (as pro-lifers frequently argue), and a child was conceived in the act of adultery – then the stoning sanctioned in Scripture was in effect terminating a pregnancy.
I say this simply to remind folks that the matter of “what the Bible says” in regard to terminating a pregnancy is far more complicated than some would have us believe.
Fourth, I believe efforts to outlaw abortions under all circumstance are attempts to ignore the undeniable complexities of life. While there are some who would have us believe there are only two crayons by which our lives are colored (black and white), the reality is that my Christian faith tells me there are many more colors involved.
Jesus knew that. That’s why his earthly ministry was FULL of examples when he reached inside his box of crayons and pulled out a wide range of colors. Let me give you just a few examples.
The people of Jesus’ day told him that it was wrong to heal on the sabbath. What did Jesus do? He healed on the sabbath. The people of Jesus’ day told him it was always wrong to extend effort to secure a meal on the sabbath. What did Jesus do? When the Pharisees attacked Jesus’ disciples for grabbing wheat on the sabbath to nourish their bodies, Jesus took the side of his disciples. The people of Jesus’ day told him it was wrong to talk to interact randomly with women and people of other ethnic traditions. What did Jesus do? He engaged the Samaritan woman at the well and the Syrophoenician woman and treated them as people worthy of his time and attention. Time after time, Jesus used the context of situations to push beyond accepted norms of his day.
The new stream of bills attempting to eradicate access to safe and legal abortions are no longer considering context at all. They are outlawing abortions in all circumstance: even those that are the result of rape and incest. And the saddest part is that many of the proponents of those bills are using Jesus’ name to justify their acts.
I hope that in these difficult times people of faith will summon the courage to speak their truth. For only when we provide a faith-based witness will people realize that Christians are NOT of one voice on this matter. And as we move forward, I hope we will do so with love and respect for all persons – especially those women and their loved ones who wrestle with some of the most challenging decisions of their lives.
So how about you? What do these matters raise for you?
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