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?