YESTERDAY MARKED THE 40 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the Roe vs Wade decision to support the legalization of abortion. If you follow the Christian blogosphere, it was as if a bomb went off as the cry against abortion rights was echoed through the digital globe. The controversy was kindled yet again as Christians unified their voices to rally in support of the unborn or, among some of our more liberal brethren, to advocate that the church recognize a woman’s inherent right to her own body.
The arguments were plentiful, and adding to the cacophony here would only serve to drown the voice of this blog in the midst of a rising sea of typographical bellowing. Instead, I want to ask a question that I found strangely absent. After 40 years of controversy and battle, what can the church learn about itself and the way it responded to this issue? I contend there are three lessons we would be dutiful to adopt.
- Passion has the ability to override compassion. There is a women’s health clinic not far from where I live that provides abortions, and it is on the doorsteps of this place that I will occasionally see group of protesters holding signs such as “abortion is murder” or “you’re killing your child.” Every year, my church receives an invitation to join in such a protest but, in doing so, I have to wonder where the line is between protector of the innocent and victimizer of the vulnerable. Women who find themselves in such a position are struggling, vulnerable, and exposed. Some of them are here as the victims of rape, others are here as frightened young girls who do not know what else to do. I have to wonder: before they ever reach those doors, where was the church? Who is there to extend hands of healing, arms of compassion, a presence of strength? Instead, the first encounter they have with the people of a redeeming God is to be offered the label of child-killer. Yes, we should be a passionate people, but should not our compassion rise to the fore in times of trouble?
- The politicization of Christianity has caused us to lose our witness. As Christians, our values should always influence our stance on policies. However, when we begin to make Christianity about our policies, we have lost the heart of our faith. We stand as the recipients of a tradition borne out of a small nation on the edge of a mighty empire which spanned the known world. It was in an obscure town that our faith finds its roots, yet it is a faith that moved throughout the empire and, despite persecution and ridicule, transformed a global culture. This is who we are as Christians: we are transformers of culture. If we suddenly discover that policies are beginning to be adopted and passed which battle against our deepest convictions, then we need to recognize that for what it is: a sign that we are losing our influence as transformers of culture. Should we not, then, rekindle our desire to be the church, to live as countercultural people of love? Should we not take a good, hard look at our Christian witness, and see what actually reflects the God we love? Should we not first look at ourselves and be convicted that we have become complacent and lazy, content to rest in a “Christian nation”, and failing to take seriously the call of Christ? Culture is not transformed by imposing political agendas; politics are transformed by an imposing culture.
- Pro-Life means protecting all of the oppressed. We should be ashamed at how often we, as the church, rant and rave and actively seek to block abortion yet disappear the moment that child is born. We may have convinced her to carry her child to term, but now there is nobody around to help that struggling young girl to feed, clothe, and raise her baby. As much as we say we are “pro-life”, what we really mean is “pro-conception-to-birth”. What then? How many churches do you know that have funds designed to help single mothers? Contrast that with how many churches you know that actively stand against the injustice of abortion? The child is not the only vulnerable one in this situation and, furthermore, that child does not cease to be vulnerable after it is born. If the church wants to really make a difference in the statistics, it needs to put down the picket signs and take up the offering plate. It is not out of a sense of joy that women pursue this decision; it is out of a lack of options. After 40 years of lip service, it is time that we provide those options, and look to actively support and aid these young women.
In short, the church faces the same struggle preachers do. It is easy to stand on a soapbox and talk; it is easy to ramble around in theories and make decisions for others; it is easy to build to a crescendo, demonstrating our passion for all to hear. It is not so easy to step off that pedestal and put words to action, to set down a sign and take up a cross. It is, however, as cross-bearers that we are called to be a people of compassionate witness, working for the protection and aid for the oppressed in every form.
What do you think? What can the church learn from the past 40 years?
Image Credit: Sabian Maggy