Dear Christians, Your Stance on Abortion is a Joke

abortion-stops-a-beating-heart

Dear Christians,

Your stance on abortion is a joke.

Now, let’s get a couple of things out of the way first.

  1. I am a Christian.
  2. I believe life begins at conception.
  3. I believe abortion takes a human life.

I’m not the typical person you see denigrating the conservative Christian position on abortion, so this should make for an interesting blog post. Throughout this election season I’ve repeatedly listened to good friends of mine (the majority of whom are conservative, Christian, and view abortion as “our nation’s genocide”) talk about how they could never vote for an opponent who was pro-choice. Generally this has always led to the point in the conversation where they say that, regardless of anything, they’re voting for Trump.

Realize this isn’t about Trump. I’m not going to tell you to vote for him or not to. What it is about is recognizing that Trump was a supporter of all forms of abortion, even elective partial-birth abortion, right up until the point he started campaigning for president on the Republican ticket. At that point it became politically necessary for him to claim that he was pro-life, regardless of any intentions to do anything at all about it. It is important to recognize two things: first, that the top four presidential candidates (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein) are all actually pro-choice; and second, that all it takes to win the evangelical vote on this issue is to tell Christians what they want to hear and then simply not follow up on it.

After a recent conversation with yet another Christian who claimed that the entire basis of their support for any elected official lay solely in their position on abortion, I conducted an informal poll and asked approximately one dozen college-educated, conservative Christians who identified abortion as their top issue to name the last time any legislative effort was made to outlaw abortion. Not a single one could name a single time, nor could they indicate that their support for a candidate would wane if he claimed to be pro-life but made no effort to act on that belief for his entire political career. In other words, the real Christian position on abortion is predicated on the kindergarten-level stance that someone only need to say “the magic words” to get their vote, and that immediately and permanently let both the voter and the candidate off the hook to do anything at all about it.

When I taught at a university I had a young, idealistic freshman approach me regarding abortion, defending it as the substantive issue upon which Christians should base all of their votes. She then went on to claim that no Christian could ever be a Democrat, and that the Republican party was the sole refuge of anyone claiming to love life. I asked her the same question I did of the others mentioned above – when was the last time the GOP did anything at all to change the status quo? Crickets. I then presented her a very specific situation: in 2002, when President George W. Bush was enjoying a 90% approval rate, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, with a balanced (and arguably slightly conservative-leaning Supreme Court), did the GOP do anything to outlaw abortion?

No.

Instead, what they made the focus of the entire government was a defense against terrorism in the light of 9/11. The legitimacy of 9/11 and terrorism is unarguably legitimate, so that aside, let’s pit the two scenarios against each other. On 9/11 approximately 3,000 US citizens died. According to conservative Christians, abortion represents a national genocide in which approximately 50 million have died since 1973.

50,000,000 versus 3,000, in the context of a government’s position on saving lives. Seems to be a bit of a non-issue, right? TO put this in perspective, here is a chart outlining the relative number of US deaths from terrorism and abortion during the same time frame.

abortion-versus-terrorism

If the GOP had actually adhered to its ideological position that abortion is one of, if not the key issue in protecting the lives of American citizens, shouldn’t it have placed terrorism beneath abortion in the priority list? Absolutely. What did it do? Not a damn thing – and Christians didn’t challenge that.

To throw in a quote from my favorite superhero, I think Batman probably sums this up best.

batman-what-i-do

Christians excel at recommending we outlaw solutions without coming up with an actual answer. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:3-4 when he said, “They preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Planned Parenthood and its policies, with all of their heinous ugliness, at least presents a solution. When a woman is facing the reality of an unwanted pregnancy, one that will change her life forever with the presence of a child she doesn’t love and doesn’t want to raise and would likely be unable to find an adoptive family for, she has a couple of choices. She can approach the side of the line represented by Planned Parenthood, where she will find acceptance, guidance, and a list of choices that, regardless of their ugliness, represent a way to live her life and ensure that a child will not grow up unwanted and unloved. Or, she could approach the side of the line represented by the Western Christian church, where she is instantly condemned as a whore for having the pregnancy, a murderer for even thinking about abortion, and an outcast when she seeks alternative options such as an adoption. What do you think she will choose? Do you see why Christianity is losing the cultural battle here?

If one family in every third church in America adopted a child, all of the children currently in the US foster care system who are eligible for adoption would find a home. Let that sink in. One family in one out of every three churches in America. I’ve spoken with multiple families who wanted to adopt and chose international over domestic adoption. The reasons range, but the most relevant and oft-cited reason is that domestic adoption laws often present a complicated scenario where the birth mother could later have a claim to access, and even parental rights, for the child. As long, painful, and expensive as the international adoption process can be, there is usually not this risk. No one wants to enter a situation where the child they adopt could possibly be forcefully taken from their family later in life, and this is completely understandable.

However, that shows Christians where their real fight lies. Abortion is not a legal issue; it is a cultural one. If Christians truly want to save lives, they should realize that the process Jesus outlined in founding Christianity was to redeem the social condition through the Christian’s presence as salt and light in everyday life, rather than by legislative action of outlawing anything they deemed to be sin. The Christian’s fight with regards to abortion should not be in outlawing the procedure, thereby driving abortions underground and actually costing lives (when the entire claimed basis of the movement is to save lives), but rather in presenting loving, grace-filled alternatives and an accepting refuge for those women in often-controversial situations. Christians should be fighting to change domestic laws to facilitate adoption, and then creating an environment where the church is begging to redeem unwanted children. Instead, the church is known only for being a bastion of hypocritical condemnation.

I say “hypocritical” because Christians are unwittingly responsible for thousands of abortions within the church each year. All forms of “the pill;” i.e., oral contraceptives, use abortifacients as a third line of defense. The first two lines of defense in oral contraceptives are actually contraceptive in nature – third line of defense is abortive, making the lining of the uterus unable to facilitate the implantation of a fertilized egg – and a fertilized egg, according to conservative Christian beliefs, is a life that has already formed. The linked article above estimates that even at infinitesimally low odds, it is likely that the pill is responsible for tens of thousands of unintentional and unknowing abortions each year. It is time for Christians to stop standing on the “holier-than-thou” ground they have planted their flag on for decades and recognize that, based on scientific evidence, many of the people you go to church with on a weekly basis are using a product responsible for abortions, all the while condemning others who engage in the practice.

Abortion is a legitimate healthcare issue. Without legalized, medically sanitary abortion, abortion would still continue, but it would look absolutely horrible. Per the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, approximately 42 million women choose abortion each year, globally, with nearly half of those procedures deemed unsafe. Approximately 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion procedures, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality at 13%. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 8 minutes a woman in a developing nation will die of complications arising from an unsafe abortion. Outlawing abortion does not solve this issue (if you think it does, let me know how that war on drugs is going). Without cultural support for legitimate alternatives (e.g., adoption), making abortion illegal simply makes it unsafe for both the mother and the child and ironically presents a situation where MORE life is threatened rather than saved.

So, in the end, the Christian’s stance on abortion is an absolute and utter joke for several reasons:

  1. It relies on a juvenile and immature response to a complex and legitimate issue by simply requiring any candidate for any office to say some magic words to gain the Christian’s undying allegiance.
  2. It is a viewpoint founded on the position that we need not actually do anything, nor attempt to find any solutions, just as long as we judge those considered “more evil” than us.
  3. The viewpoint ignores science and legitimate healthcare issues (e.g., the chemical composition and effects of oral contraceptives and the legitimacy of legalized abortion in the world of healthcare) in favor of a hypocritical, judgmental basis that simply states “Don’t do that!” without event attempting understand or explain why.

If you want to be culturally relevant; if you want to present actual solutions steeped in love and grace rather than cliches and bumper stickers wrapped in judgment, then I would challenge you to rethink your position on abortion and what should be done about it. Be a solution in a world of problems.

Grace & Redemption

A friend approached me recently with a struggle she was experiencing; in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, some “Christians” were suggesting that those who were murdered deserved what happened to them because they were gay. This broke her heart (and mine), and she wanted to know what to do with this. How does one handle someone wearing the moniker of absolute love, total forgiveness, and undeserved redemption but spews a message of hate? How do we respond to that? How do we wrap our minds around that concept?

There are several key realizations which must occur here. The first is that all of us deserve the harshest judgment for our sins, and being shot to death is probably the most pleasant thing any of us deserve. These victims deserved it no more than any of the rest of us.

The second is that during Jesus’ time of ministry the harshest judgment, criticism, and outright physical beatings he administered were reserved for the most religious. In the midst of a ministry Jesus explicitly declared as not for the purpose of condemnation (John 3:17), he explicitly and repeatedly condemned those who spread a message of hate, condemnation, and legalistic adherence to a set of rules they could neither explain nor follow themselves.

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” – Matthew 23:4

In fact, the religious members of the day actually tried to “trap” Jesus several times by putting sick people in front of him and watching to see if he would heal them, so they could condemn him for doing so. Talk about perversion.

This is the second realization: no harsher judgment will occur than that which is reserved for those whose responsibility is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), whose sole identity is found in the basis of love (John 13:35), and whose highest standard is remembering the sin from which we have been saved and extending that same love and forgiveness to others (Matthew 18:21-35, emphasis on verse 35).

The third thing we’ve got to wrestle with is how we approach actions that others are engaged in which we disagree with, and which we may consider to be morally questionable, objectionable, or perhaps even reprehensible. How do we approach this issue with Christians and non-Christians?

The latter first: how do we deal with what we believe to be sin in the lives of non-believers? First and foremost we absolutely must recognize the different roles of those involved. It is the natural tendency of humans who believe they have truth to convict others of their sin. All of us do it; if we believe something is right and true, we want to go on a crusade and set the world straight. In Christianity, however, that’s not our job. In John 16:8 Jesus specifically states that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is not our job to convict others of what we think is their sin.

We humans and Christians also excel in judgment. It’s natural to have opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with wrestling with issues and deciding in our own mind where we stand on something. However, when we begin to judge our neighbors and decide for them where they stand before God, we are the ones guilty of the greater sin.

I have a friend who is vocally and blatantly pro-choice. When you get to know her; when you dig into her life and hear her story, you find out that she was raped, held hostage, and denied medical services until abortion was no longer an option – and she doesn’t believe that anyone should be forced to be a parent. Sure, the issue may seem black and white to us who have never been there… but what of her?

Another buddy of mine is divorced, and his wife divorced him because he was repeatedly unfaithful to her. Seems black and white to us. That is, until you find out that his wife kidnapped his kids when he was at work one day, took them 2,000 miles away, and held them hostage with a list of demands and threatened to withhold any contact with his kids until he caved. He didn’t even know if his kids were alive for almost four days. Once they got back together, she threatened to repeat this on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, until he was driven so far into anxiety and depression, not knowing whether his kids would be at home at the end of each workday, that he attempted suicide. When he woke to the reality of the selfishness of suicide and his kids’ need to have him there, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and asked for a divorce – his wife threatened to mentally and emotionally abuse the kids if he left, and proceeded to start to do so right in front of him. So partially in an effort to cope, and partially because he knew it would make him so repulsive to her that she would finally agree to the divorce and not take it out on the kids – he cheated. He cheated repeatedly until she divorced him. And now Christians look at him as a divorced adulterer, a failure as a husband and a father, who is too worthless to redeem or love.

What does God have to say about our tendency as humans and Christians to judge others as failing to abide by God’s laws?

“There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” – James 4:12.

Billy Graham put it this way: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Holy Spirit's Job

Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to judge. However, do you know what Jesus’ final charge to his disciples was before he died?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Jesus explicitly states that our primary responsibility and our sole identity in him is love. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. This commandment may seem quaint, and even naïve to us, unfortunately – that is, until you realize the context.

If you want to know what underscores this even more, go to this passage in the Bible (John 13) and scan above this. Do you know what Jesus did immediately before he said this? He washed the feet of all of the disciples, including Judas Iscariot, and then looked Judas in the eye and told him he knew Judas was going to betray him to his death, and then turned and looked his other disciples in the eye and immediately told them their primary responsibility was to love! And then immediately he turned to his #1 guy, his closest disciple, and simply and clearly states that within the next 12 hours his #1 guy is going to utterly, completely, and vocally abandon him to his death. And still Jesus loves, and doesn’t condemn.

Jesus did not give us his primary commandment in an environment of comfort, in a place of victory in his ministry, or in a moment of elation. Jesus told us to love others as he washed the feet of the man he knew was about to betray him to be tortured to death within the next 24 hours, and Jesus was so overcome with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stress that within an hour he was literally sweating blood and the Son of God was literally begging his Father to not make him go through with this. With that as the background for his message, he chooses to tell us that our primary job on this earth is simply this: love.

Lest we be tempted to judge the struggling believer as someone who should have it all together, let us remember a few examples from the Bible.

  • Abraham is remembered in Scripture as a man of faith, but when the Bible tells the story of Abraham’s 175 year life it only tells the 25 year period of when he was most faithless, and struggling to live up to what God had called him to do – and God was repeatedly faithful in the midst of Abraham’s repeated lies, betrayals, and mistakes.
  • David is called the man after God’s own heart, and after God had given him everything he lied, cheated, and murdered. This was after he became a believer – and God describes him as a man after his own heart after David acted in this way.
  • Elijah was so close to God that he was one of only two men to never die, yet he was suicidal in the midst of his ministry.

If you read through the “heroes” of the faith it reads like an orchestra of broken instruments; people who claimed to be redeemed and were utterly broken, sometimes beyond recognition. These were people who totally did not have their shit together. Yet in the midst of this litany of fragmented, cracked, damaged, and ruined instruments, God orchestrated the most beautiful love song the world has ever heard.

The song of redemption.

And this song is the one song he has charged us to play during our time on earth.

In the end, Jesus is the God of the skinned knee, the Lord of the bruised shin, and the Savior of the stubbed toe. I’m convinced that his proudest moments come when those who have failed, who are naturally weak, and who have no redeeming factors simply try – and fail. And try again. And fail. And try again.

And our only job is to be there to help each other stand back up after we’ve fallen. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.