This is for the Church.
I do not, as a rule, object to anyone of any persuasion reading my humble prose. So, Taoists, those who follow the Jain Dharma, modern-day Druids, and everyone in between should feel free to read the following. They are welcome. But, my targeted audience today is the Christian Church, by which I mean those who adhere to the tenets of the traditional Christian creeds such as the Nicene and the Apostles.
In short, it’s the brothers and sisters I’m speaking to, here.
By now, even those living in the most remote places on Earth have probably heard that the U.S. Supreme Court just reversed a landmark decision about abortion that has stood as settled law for five decades, Roe v. Wade. This reversal means that American women no longer have the Constitutional right to secure an abortion to terminate a pregnancy.
The actual case before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerned a state law that Mississippi enacted in 2018 that sought to severely limit the time frame in which Mississippi women could seek abortions. Mississippi wanted the cut-off at 15 weeks, far less time than that provided by Roe. The Conservative Justices on the Supreme Court decided to go farther than merely uphold Mississippi’s 15-week ban, however. They decided to overturn Roe completely, deeming it unconstitutional on its face and opining that it had been wrongly decided to begin with.
The reversal of Roe was expected. Early in May, a draft of the decision was leaked to the press and the public. Despite advanced notice of almost two months, however, many Americans on both sides of the abortion issue were left stunned when the final decision was handed down. Roe has been the way of life for the entire lives of many Americans.
We American Christians should not delude ourselves into thinking that abortion in this country is now a closed issue. It is no more closed now than it was fifty years ago when abortion was legalized. There are passionate advocates on both sides and each court decision merely spurs the opposing side into action to pull the flag to their side, again. The tug of war is not over.
So, as Christians, our view on the matter of abortion must not be shaped by the current legal situation, which is changeable, but by biblical principles and attitudes, which are everlasting.
There is an assumption among many Christians that we all feel the same way about abortion or, if we don’t, that we definitely should feel a certain way and we had better get our sinful selves in front of an elder or pastor to be prayed for as quickly as possible if we don’t feel a certain way. A healthy dose of anointing oil splashed over our rebellious heads would probably help, too.
The truth is that while the core belief of Christianity is simple – that Jesus came to save this sinful world – the application of Christianity is not simple. The world is not only complex but full of gray. Christians who try to reduce the faith to pablum do both themselves and non-believers a disservice.
The issue of terminating a pregnancy is not a matter of absolute black and white, right or wrong, despite how much we may wish that were the case.
The first thing to keep in mind is that this ruling is not a cause for celebration. The current news is filled with reports of pro-life advocates rejoicing that Roe has been overturned. In Kentucky, where the court’s decision has triggered a responding state ban on abortions, they celebrated with a carnival that had, among other things, a bouncy house.
Regardless of whether they are correct or not, a lot of people on the pro-choice side are hurting and it is not Christ-like to kick up our heels when others are suffering. It does not display the love of God and it is also just plain bad manners.
The key fact that we, as the Church, need to grasp, is that banning abortions doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Legal abortion wasn’t the solution, either. It was, at best, a mitigating strategy for the real problem, which was unwanted pregnancy.
Over the years, there have been too many on the pro-life side who have, rather glibly, said that women can simply give their baby up for adoption if they don’t want to parent.
Of course, that is easier said than done, when the nation’s foster care system is already glutted, and especially where Black and other children of color are concerned. Not everyone gets adopted.
Additionally, that view ignores the trauma that a woman or girl will surely feel if she must carry a child to term that is the result of rape or incest. To give birth, under those circumstances, is a second violation. It is not a situation that can be ignored or shrugged away. Woman was God’s crowning creation (Gen 2:21-25). To subject any woman to mental or physical degradation on purpose is to follow the way of the Fall, not the path of Redemption that restores all human beings to the state of glory God originally intended.
This view also ignores or, at best, minimizes how an adopted child may feel, knowing that his or her birth parents gave them up. Even adopted children who land in very loving homes are often plagued by the notion that they were “abandoned” and that they may not be “good enough” in some way.
My point here is not that adoption is not one valid solution to unwanted pregnancies. It is. My point is that it is by no means a perfect solution. Even if there were enough sitcom-perfect, two-parent homes to take in all the children from unwanted pregnancies in this country, the psychological effects on those children would still remain.
The problem is not abortion and it never was abortion. The problem is unwanted pregnancies.
I doubt there has ever been a time or place in history where some number of unwanted pregnancies didn’t occur. I go so far as to posit, though, that the sexual climate in America over the past six decades has made such occurrences a lot more numerous.
Casual sexual relationships have become so ubiquitous that even Christians have come to see them as completely normal. We don’t agree with it, but the problem is that we have lost the power to imagine a world where this is not so.
For several years, I’ve been privileged to be on the mailing list of a Christian center in Manhattan that helps women facing unplanned pregnancies. Every week, they send out a prayer list to their supporters and volunteers. The names are kept anonymous but the circumstances that need prayer are almost always the same. If a woman is struggling to decide whether to keep her baby or not, the pressure to terminate is almost always coming from her boyfriend. Sometimes, regretfully, it even comes from her husband.
The epidemic that very few Christians are paying attention to is a generation of men who have no sense of responsibility and paternal duty. They want to sleep with a woman but they don’t want to face the natural consequences of sex. Much easier to shuffle her off to Planned Parenthood to take care of the “little problem”.
We have become a society where sexual licentiousness is the norm. No one is expected to wait until marriage to have sex and one of the biggest blockbusters of several years ago was “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”. It was, of course, a comedy, since a person, especially a man, who hadn’t had sex by that age was not only an oddity but an object worthy only of ridicule. Of course, we laugh at him.
We are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). To disciple someone is not merely to teach or preach. Mostly, it is providing a model for others to follow. It is a way of teaching without saying a word.
We must then ask ourselves if we, as Christians, have been modeling to the world what appropriate sexuality ought to be. I strongly submit that we have not. While I don’t suggest we take a megaphone and shout out every intimate part of our lives, we ought to feel as free to mention how our faith affects our single, dating, or married lives as non-believers do to announce that they have just moved in with their boyfriend or girlfriend. We, too, must speak without shame because we are living according to God’s pattern when we keep ourselves to only one opposite-sex partner in marriage.
We must also question the right we have to make pronouncements on women’s bodies when we, as the Church, have failed so badly on the sexual front. We have known for years that various priests in the Catholic Church have been guilty of molesting and sexually abusing those under their care, often children. A recent independent study of the Southern Baptist Convention has revealed that those sins don’t halt at denominational lines. Senior members of the Southern Baptists have been found to be guilty of sexual abuse, of rape, and of covering up the guilt of their fellow pastors. Rather than begging forgiveness of the victims, those who tried to report the abuse were often put down, ignored, and gas-lighted. Their pain was minimized or altogether dismissed. “You’re imagining things. It’s all in your head, sweetie.”
Our own house is not clean. I, too, strongly believe that a child is alive from conception and should be given the chance to live. But, we have, by no means, made the appropriate strides in making this Earth a city on a hill to welcome that child. The Church is as full of sexual sin and evil as the secular world. Our biblical mandate is to transform the world by spreading God’s love and the good news of the Gospel. We have to be about that business first before we can say anything to anyone else. Otherwise, we risk sinning against millions of women in exactly the same way we have claimed for decades that abortion sins against babies.
There is a saying in the pro-life movement: abortion shouldn’t just be illegal; it should be unthinkable. What should be unthinkable to us, as Christians, is a society where a young girl would have to bear the child of incest. We should be fighting against men victimizing girls in their homes with the same ferocity that we fought for decades to overturn Roe. Or, are we really saying that incest and rape are inevitable? If that is our view, then we don’t really believe that Christ has overcome the world.
What we must also hold as unthinkable is a society where a person willing and able to work can’t support their child in a decent fashion. Are all the Christian business owners out there paying their workers what they can or just what their state’s law allows them to get away with? If we are blessed enough to have some disposable income, we must consider: do we really need the newest iPhone or flat-screen TV? Can we take a less expensive vacation? The money that pays for our luxuries, so many of which we all take for granted, could be decisive in the survival of a family that is trying to take care of their child.
In short, how much are we Christians willing to sacrifice so that those around us can thrive? Getting born is just the beginning. Children need good nutrition, sound medical care, and a robust education. And, we must face the fact that many of us have sinned by merely focusing on the birth of the child but not the life. When Jesus was on Earth, there wasn’t a type of person He didn’t minister to and He has left us to do the same. To be blunt, we are screwing up and we need to stop. We have to deal with the sin in our own hearts and churches before we can impose mandates on others, most of whom don’t know Jesus.
We now have a country on the brink of civil war – although I doubt it’s going to be very civil. It is not too late to change things, though, because nothing is impossible with God and He always responds to our repentance and prayers. Transforming ourselves and our lifestyles to come in line with the mandates of the Bible is the only thing that will bring peace to this wounded nation. When we are seen to be living rightly and holding onto a hope beyond humanity and this world, then and only then can we begin to transform our society into a place where sex is not merely an amusement and babies are not disposable.
Kimberly L. Robinson, M.Div., is a New York City native of African American descent. She has attended the Brearley School, Dartmouth College, and Alliance Theological Seminary. She holds a Masters of Divinity in Academic Theology. She has spent the first part of her career as an educator and academic and now, in the next chapter of her professional life, she has turned to writing and editing.