Yesterday I shared with you a fairly non-controversial video that I found on YouTube to start the week off looking forward to a Children’s Sabbath on Sunday. That video was safe. It didn’t take much to put it together and it certainly didn’t share much about me – beyond the fact that I truly do care about what violence is doing to our children today. But once again…that’s pretty safe. No risk involved there.
Today, I want to venture into territory that is at least a little more worthy of conversation if not downright risky and yet still has everything to do with children. At best, I hope I can spark some Christian conversation on a topic that seems to me has been captured by our culture. I really hope that this conversation is what begins here today because I don’t pretend to have all the answers about a very difficult issue…I just think that we are going about our conversations about it in all the wrong ways. So, it is my hope that you will read these words with care because they are shared to start a conversation…not to end any relationships!
So, with that lengthy introduction allow me to say that I am not a “Right-to-Life” person as many people define it. At the same time, I want to equally declare that I am not “Pro-Choice” either.
I cannot recall all the conversations, teachings, and books that led me to the discovery that both of these cultural definitions of abortion are wrong. I just know that it has been a long journey for me and one that is filled with as much personal agonizing as a person can have about the issue of abortion. I know that I was greatly affected by the teaching of Stanley Hauerwas on this issue. The book, The Church and Abortion, along with the “Durham Declaration” included in that book has also shaped me. But I have also been shaped by my own journey, my own story, and the stories that have been shared by many friends – both Christian and what I like to call pre-Christian. Whatever the sources of these beliefs, I know that this is where I am today.
I do not hold to the “right-to-life” position on abortion because I do not believe that we, as Christians can claim that life is somehow linked to some legal sense of “rights.” I think when we begin talking about this issue in that way – a way that starts with “rights” – we are forgetting that we are a people who have placed our very lives in the hands of God. In a very real way, we gave away our lives when we were baptized and to claim that anyone has a “right” to life ignores the fact that this is actually God’s domain. God is the one who gives life. God is the one who takes life. It is not a right that we grant to anyone – even ourselves – it is a gift that we receive and a loss that we mourn.
Now, I am not saying that life is not important. It is VERY important. But it should also be shaped by the way we see the world as Christians. In the very earliest days of Christianity, there were Christian parents who would prefer to see their children martyred rather than let then be brought up outside of the Christian faith. THAT is hard for me to imagine and almost impossible for me to imagine doing – and yet it is part of the history to which I am bound as a Christian. Life, and the way we live that life is so very important that there are some things for which we are willing to die. Yet, life is not a right that we have.
At the same time, I find the whole idea of “Pro-Choice” to be equally distasteful to me as a Christian. The very words assume that we live in a world in which all the people share the same playing field, the same backgrounds and the same possibility for their future. If the video in yesterday’s blog post proved anything, it proved that our world is not full of choices – at least not for everyone.
Unfortunately, in the broken world in which we live, some women have to choose between not having a child they conceived and facing a very violent future for themselves and their child. That violence may come in the form of economic hardship or it may come at the hands of an abuser. Either way the violence is real in the way it affects the life of the woman and the child. This is not a real choice…or at least it is not the same choice that someone has who is in a place in life where they are “safe” economically or physically.
For us to say that abortion can truly be a “choice” for any one person is to claim that the world is treating each and every person the same. I am not sure when that ever happens.
So…I don’t like “Right-to-Life” and I am certainly not “Pro-Choice”…where does that leave me exactly?
I think it leaves me looking at this whole issue as one of “hospitality” rather than legal battles and legislation. I believe that as Christians we will only eliminate abortion when we truly begin living out our calling to welcome everyone as Christ welcomed us. This means embracing every child – from a planned or unplanned pregnancy. This means embracing every woman – those who cannot have children but desperately want them as well as those who have had an abortion and are living with it and those who are mothers in any stage of life. This means embracing every man – those who turn out to be good at fathering children but not so good at parenting, as well as men who are great fathers and those men who are suffering from having aborted a child – and yes, you can trust me that this last group of men exist.
I know that I read somewhere that Mother Teresa once said to a group of Americans, “Do you really want to end your fighting about abortion? Then give me your children. I will take all of them…no matter what.”
I think that once WE get to the place where we are able to say those very same words of welcome to every child, woman and man around us – and live those words of welcome with our actions and even the use of our time, money and other resources – then, we can really talk about ending abortion.
Once again, if you have read this far, I pray that you realize that I am not making light of a very real issue. I am simply trying to help us all see it and talk about it in different terms, especially during the week that we celebrate gift that children are to us. I pray that you will give me the grace I need to find the words to get it right.
Wanna join the conversation?
4 thoughts on “A Week for Children… Tuesday – Let’s Talk About Abortion”
A quote I once found on FB that alleges to be from Sister Joan Chittister states “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” …. Whether it is the church, the individual or the government, pro-life advocates should care for a whole LIFE not just a BIRTH. I think this is one of the good distinctions you are making. …. In regard to the pro-choice argument, in my estimation, the main planks concern 1) a woman’s right to her own body and 2) the conditions of the child’s life upon being born. In regard to #1, the rights discussion you mention about pro-life fits here too. God has dominion also over the CREATION of a child–we ought to allow God that dominion. In this light, I think the “right” to one’s own body is a rather unconvincing platitude considering, that one had to take a very specific, unnecessary, and often immoral (according to Biblical standards) action that lead to a pregnancy (i.e., one has sex, one becomes a parent). This doesn’t mean sex is bad but it certainly has many many God-given boundaries. I also don’t understand those who do not judge abortion harshly. If someone drinks too much alcohol (also a violation of God’s commands), and kills a person in an automobile accident, society judges that person’s actions harshly. Why is killing a child in vitro any diffferent? Because we don’t see him/her? In my opinion, the only semi-convincing reason not to judge a person as harshly might be that second plank. Do children tortured, starving, and without love really have “life.” Ultimately this is still an ununconvincing reason to me, but I believe people coming from this position may still have a person’s best interest at heart (and not just their own). Thus, those that detest abortion must take away this second plank. To do this, the pro-life movement must care about ALL life from start to finish. If we truly care about children, we must help mothers and fathers raise them, even if the child was born outside of God’s law because all children were born under God’s dominion. If all lives were cared for upon birth, then abortion would be unequivocally unethical–much of the defense for it from the second plank is taken away. The goal of the pro-life movement should be to care for children. This would be the best action in combating abortion.
Cory… Absolutely love the fact that you have jumped in on this one! You’ve given me more to think about, so I’ll write a little more later but I can’t thank you enough for that quote at the beginning of your response. I’m going to pack that one away for later use!
Cory…thanks again for sharing on this. I know it is an important issue for so many people simply because they do care about the lives that are lost to abortion each day. I get that and I share that grief.
One of the points you made was that we need to be careful about being non-judgmental about abortion. I agree that there is a struggle here but sometimes I think the struggle would be more real if it were like the very incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus held both humanity and divinity in one person. Perhaps another way of looking at it is that Jesus held both grace (what we need as humans) and truth (what God ultimately holds) in one person. As follows of Jesus, we too must struggle with the grace/truth balance in our lives and most especially in our witness. When we go too far to the grace side, we simply allow abortion mills to chug along…when we go too far to the truth side, someone thinks its okay to kill a doctor who performs abortion.
I like the quote from C.S. Lewis (yeah…I know I am picking one of your favorites) in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where someone asks about Aslan being safe. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” There is a balance there that some Right to Life AND Pro-Choice Christians tend to miss. It is that balance that I am looking for in the very limited way I am using language. It is probably easier to live than it is to talk about – thus we have Jesus on a cross and an empty tomb and people who can’t always figure out how to explain it.
I really like your description of the grace-truth dichotomy (I like dichotomies in general–so much of life is a tension between two truths!). It is, in essence, Paul’s command of Colossians “whatever you do in word or deed do it all in the name of Christ Jesus”. Word is the ineffable structure, deed is the physical manifestation. Love and justice are close synonyms too. Indeed, it is easier in some ways to show the truth on this issue because it is so heated to talk about it. The words “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are loaded, because they are so important to people. The question that is seeming to emerge in our discussion dealing with the struggle of grace & truth is: how do you get the point across that God has dominion over life in-vitro while still showing compassion towards the intense struggles that parents endure in having a child? Distilled down, it seems to be the dichotomy between love-for-the-unborn and love-for-the-parents. Both need love equally. Both are important in God’s eyes. And I bet when parents are loved, they are put in a healthier position to bring a child into the world (stats back this up i bet)…perhaps we are less pro-life than pro-lives. But let us not forget that this is a sinful world. When given social permission to sin, people do. Abortion is an evil that should be at all points discouraged and detested because it is too easy to ignore the child inside; but those who advocate love-for-the-parents are rightly focused.