Before I go too far into this, take a deep breath.
We know objectively when you are in a state of heightened adrenaline (fight or flight) you cannot think as clearly as when you are calm. The research project turned into book, Crucial Conversations, made this clear. There is also good evidence (as I have written on before) that social media has shaped our mind to struggle with complex ideas and ideals that do not already align with our predetermined preferences. If people cannot immediately “swipe away” from a person, thought or place they don’t like, they have very real negative visceral reactions.
(For more on this read: You are being rewired by technology.)
This is why many people are not looking to connect and understand, they are looking for justification to their preexisting preferences.
If you speak on anything in our current geopolitical culture people will exaggerate and assume the worst in you, not because of what you said, but because of how they have been shaped to handle other opinions.
Don’t think, “That’s right, I know people that are that way.” Please think, “Uh oh… I am probably that way!”
If your pulse is already high, why don’t you pause and come back later.
I am going to try, big emphasis on try, to create understanding.
Here we go…
A few conversations on abortion I wish we could have without it erupting into straw-man arguments and exaggerated character attacks.
The first conversation. What is considered alive and what isn’t?
Abortion, as I see it, is not primarily about women’s rights (deep breath), but about what a pregnancy actually is.
Is that unwanted fetus truly a person?
If we all actually believed it was (or was not) alive it would change the way society views much of this debate.
Think about it.
What if a person desired to kill their ex-wife or husband, a five-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, a two-year-old autistic child, a 75-year-old who only has a few months to live, or even a homeless war veteran with PTSD living under the bridge…would we not call it murder?
Right now in the news a famous podcaster joked about killing the homeless who can’t “do any good” for society. The world erupted against him.
Do not all these examples make life more complicated for society and the families that have to take care of them? These examples create much complexity and stress. As far as I can tell the only difference is that we believe these people to actually be…alive.
I think the first discussion is about what constitutes life.
Again, what if we believed that mass of tissue was (or was not) a living being that deserves dignity and rights? It would change much of this dialogue, maybe all of it.
This is a big deal and not the first time humans have tried to dehumanize a people group. I, along with many others, remember our messy human history and can’t pretend to turn our eye on what “might” (if you believe a fetus is a living person, a baby) be the greatest genocide humanity has ever participated in.
Can you see how this isn’t something to take lightly?
It may be a life.
Humans have made the awful mistake of dehumanizing before.
Only if you could absolutely prove that the baby in the womb was not a person would pro-life people consider the risk of being a part of yet another historical genocidal blunder.
The second conversation I would like to have: The unrealistic political and social problem of trying to save everyone.
If you don’t believe a fetus is a living person I would understand your desire to stop reading at this point. In this blog specifically it is not my intent to convince you of this. However, it may be good to understand better what Christians who do believe a fetus is a living person are thinking. To those who are pro-choice… this might explain a lot.
Let’s begin with the big picture and work my way in.
Christians think all life is sacred. If they don’t, they aren’t really Christian, independent of what their Facebook status says. 😉 Real Christianity believes all… including those who are rich, poor, minority or majority in culture are sacred. They also think the older person who can’t work, the homeless under the bridge and those who have disorders that prevent them from working in society… yep, all sacred to Christ. This includes the mother and baby. Christians want to do the seemingly impossible, help them all thrive.
I know living like all life is sacred poses a practical problem for society. Actually, many problems.
What do we do when the act of protecting one group causes another to suffer?
This could be assigned to any of the people groups mentioned above, yet with abortion we must admit, there will be times when protecting that little helpless life (remember, people like me do believe it is a life) will cause other lives to become more complicated.
As does living with your ex-spouse, the Down’s family member, the homeless war veteran, the list could go on.
This is where I think Christians are trying to do as Martin Luther King, Jr. did.
We press into the “ridiculous ideal” as best as we can.
Dr. King knew that continuing to free and give rights to black people (and other minorities) would make life and society more complex for other people. He still says this… “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive ‘selfishness.’” (Selfishness meaning: since I can’t protect everyone, I’ll protect me and my tribe only.)
As Christians we know our darkest days are when we set aside the altruism of Jesus and gave into social complexities as “unavoidable” evils (see the book Dominion by Tom Holland). Our history shows Christianity’s darkest moments are when she looked at a life and basically said, “Since it’s all so complicated, I’ve decided your life isn’t as valuable as that other person.” This is why we must lean into the “silly,” the seemingly unattainable ideal. We want to do our best to stand with all life. We are not (and have not been) blind to how this can complicate things. We knew it when we opened our homes and churches to the Underground Railroad, marched with Dr. King, and sent our best and brightest to disease ridden parts of the world to heal, help and even die with people that class led societies deemed as less than human. We know it even today when we still give away large portions of our income in a struggling economy to ministries that serve countless meals to the homeless, help immigrants naturalize, and rescue people from human trafficking. We are trying to show that all life matters. That’s what Jesus did and our brightest moments in history are when we leaned into this “silly, unrealistic” ideal.
Can you see it?
This ethic is far reaching.
Real Christians even want non-Christians to be treated with dignity. We want you to do your best to treat your ex-spouse, annoying neighbor, elderly person who can’t work, criminal who should be detained, we even want you to treat yourself with dignity. On your worst days we want you to look in the mirror and say, “I am an eternal being immeasurably loved by God.” From that knowledge and acceptance we want all people to walk into the ways and ideals of Jesus, literally follow Jesus.
Can you see it? When our spiritual grandparents marched with Dr. King and other minorities they didn’t stop and ask who was Christian first. When Mother Teresa held the hands of people dying from AIDS she didn’t ignore those who weren’t Christian. All deserve dignity. That dignity is evangelistic to us. Jesus hung on a cross for us while we were still living in sin. This means that Christians will do what seems impossible to non-believers. C.S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, says that our morality won’t make sense to those that don’t live in it.
It will seem silly or unrealistic.
Yes, yes from a non-believer’s perspective it is.
Yet, sacrificing limited Human Resources to save an eternal soul makes total sense to an eternally minded Christian. To a Christian that homeless person who decides to follow Jesus will far outlast our country, the earth and even our solar system. We want all people to know and feel that level of worth and value.
To be really clear.
Here is what Christians believe…
We believe all people are unimaginably loved eternal beings whose worth is not in how talented they are, how smart they are or how strong they are. We believe all life deserves dignity and should be loved, even the lives of those who live in opposition to Biblical ethics. Humans are not our enemies, we see all people as needing rescued from the lies of the enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
This puts Christians in a place that society doesn’t want us, and young Christians who haven’t been catechized (taught clear Christian doctrine) struggle to understand.
Following Jesus means a way of living that includes loving people without abandoning Christian morality. Grace and Truth. Real love practiced is not permission to indulge in human appetites but submission to Jesus as a way to find life to the full.
Can you see it?
We as professing Christians are bound to live by Biblical ethics all while loving and cherishing life, even the lives of non-believers.
To my Christian brothers and sisters:
Especially in this current climate we must go all out in helping mothers who are pregnant. We must be willing to open our homes and wallets to babies that are unwanted and mothers that feel stuck.
We cannot defend a Christian morality without it becoming an actual living and breathing ethic. The Christian life has always been marked by some level of asceticism, temperance and self denial to make resource space for those who are in need. God did not give you money to indulge, but infuse this world with the knowledge and love of God.
Be life, everywhere you go, be life. Set your own appetites aside to make space to help other lives. As the Mandalorian would say, “this is the way.” (There is the pop culture reference!)
What am I personally doing?
I have five children and Leslie (my wife) and I still talk about finding ways to do more for mothers who are pregnant and unwanted babies. This will absolutely mean creating more systems to help pregnant mothers in the ministries I oversee, but it also means opening my wallet personally and maybe even opening our home to adopt a child or sponsor a mother.
Whatever it takes…
I will try to protect all life. Moms, babies, immigrants, those with mental disorders, the elderly, the homeless, the poor, even non-Christians who don’t like me…all life.
I so desperately want to lean into the ridiculous ideal. I promise I won’t always get it right, I will need the very grace I want to offer others. I also promise Christians won’t get it right, but we have a living and breathing ideal. A ridiculous, eternally minded, value all life, ideal. We have Jesus to model after.
Rebuttals I often hear:
What about complex situations?
This is often followed by examples like this:
What about a mother in an emergency labor situation and the doctor has to choose between her life and the baby? Or…
What about a mom who has cancer and if she is treated the baby will die?
My friends. Please, we all know this isn’t what Christians are talking about. These are complex situations and often used as straw man arguments. We are talking about the vast majority of abortions that many Christians believe is taking place mostly for convenience. In the hard situations we just want medical professionals to try to save all life. We know this can’t always happen. Let the rare and extreme situations be rare and extreme. That’s not what we are talking about. To the pro-choice person, that’s why it may feel like these types of arguments go nowhere with Christians. They would probably simply say, “Yes, that’s complicated.”
Don’t you care about women’s rights?
The Christian would simply say, and does say, “Yes!” Women, along with all other life, should be valued and have rights.
What if it makes someone who has had an abortion feel bad?
There is correlation between accepting the weight of a situation and the weight of healing. It’s awful when people hurt deeply and all they get is a passive belittling of their pain. Deep healing needs deep confession. It was a life that died and God STILL loves you and so do we! It’s a big deal and so are you! Follow the ways and love of Jesus, it will change everything.
A few Scriptures to remember:
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ESV
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:37-40 ESV