I make no claim on this being THE Christian response, I’m merely offering you one Christian response. And I suspect this is not the Christian response you’ve been hearing lately.
When we consider the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding Roe v. Wade I’d encourage you to keep something in mind. I don’t think this is remotely about the value of babies’ lives. I know those are the words that get used, but look closer. I’ve found that most of us actually agree on the value of young humans. I believe this is actually about Christian Nationalism. Christian Nationalism is the idea that we can legislate one particular version of morality on others and make other people live according to those beliefs. As a Christian who follows Jesus, I am adamantly against this. Not only does this horrifically alter Christianity, it also leads to a nightmare of a country for people who do not fit into the majority.
One of the easiest ways to see how this conversation is about Christian Nationalism is to listen to many different Christians saying some version of this argument: “Now it’s time for us to step up and take care of vulnerable women.” Now it’s time? Now? You had to ‘win’ power over people before you would accept the call to care for them? This is bullshit religion that looks nothing like Jesus. This is the stuff the Old Testament prophets lost their minds about. If vulnerable pregnant women didn’t warrant your care before you legally took away rights to their bodies, I doubt they’re interested in your care now. Spoiler alert: it was our time to take care of vulnerable women before the Supreme Court made this recent change. And collectively as Christians, we did not do a good job of this.
I’m pro-life. But this does not necessitate I believe in making abortions illegal. Thinking otherwise is a partisan political argument that lacks deeper thought or conversation. Does this make me pro-choice? So be it. There is more than one way to decrease the instances of abortion and we need not succumb to Christian Nationalism to do it. In fact, abortions have been decreasing since the 1980s which most Americans would find shocking given the way we talk about it.
For reference, 1973 was the year of Roe v. Wade. This graph shows that after an initial spike the numbers have gone down, and gone down lower than they were prior to 1973. So why the sudden urgency to change the law? Because this isn’t about babies. It’s about control and power and the ability to force others to live by white-conservative-male-evangelical values. Otherwise known as Christian Nationalism.
I’m for the sacredness of life of all people. As a Christian, it means I’m especially for people who are vulnerable or marginalized. And yes, this includes babies. It also includes the mothers of those babies and the adults those babies grow up to be. And this includes undocumented immigrants and the LGBTQ community and refugees and migrants and asylum seekers. It includes people in prison and those who are elderly and those who are hungry and those deemed as enemies and those who have been abused. Yet these people are not the ones who we associate with this idea. Most of the people who claim pro-life are actually just anti-abortion. It’s time to redeem this term.
We need to establish a holistic ethic of life that practically allows us to live out our faith. A helpful way to do this is to consider an elderly family member on their deathbed. Which criteria would warrant pulling the plug on life support? Which criteria would matter to you? What if they are considered brain dead, or have no hope of recovery, or no hope for a quality of life, or no ability for a ‘sentient existence’ (ability to think, read, speak, write and communicate)? I doubt many of us would argue for our loved ones (or ourselves) to be kept alive under any and all circumstances. If presented with that situation, you would likely draw the line somewhere. Now apply the same criteria to an embryo or fetus inside of a woman.
Is the logic consistent? If not, you’ve got work to do. And you owe it to yourself and others to make the effort to think this through in a deeper way than the single-issue-voting craze would like. Those in the pro-choice camp have far more nuanced conversations in this regard. Keep this in mind when you’re tempted to argue that the traditional pro-life movement is the noble defense of unborn babies. Based on your end-of-life ethic, at what point is a fetus fully a human person? If we want to consider that all embryos are fully babies, then we’d have a hard time arguing for ever taking a person off life support using the same criteria. And keep in mind that the mother is fully a living, breathing human throughout the entire pregnancy journey no matter the status of the embryo/fetus/baby.
Using the same logic, those who are pro-life should be the loudest critics of capital punishment. After all, that’s the blatant choice to take life from a human who meets all the criteria of life we’d apply to end of life or beginning of life. Yet sadly, I’ve found that the pro-life group tend to also be those who most readily argue for the merits of capital punishment (not to mention war, and torture, and the justification of killing our enemies).
But here’s the most important part of this entire conversation: as a Christian, we don’t stand equally with all people. We stand primarily with those who are vulnerable and marginalized which often requires us not to stand with the powerful and the safe. Jesus modeled this for us. It’s why in John 8 we read that “only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.” He stood with her and not with the guys holding rocks. We might argue, “But what about those guys? Don’t they need Jesus too?” Yes, they do. But they are holding rocks in an attempt to violate another human and Jesus will not participate in this. If we attempt to stand with all people equally it will always be marginalized people who suffer. The church must do better than this.
To make laws without nuance that prohibit abortion regardless of rape, incest, or the health of the mother is to legalize a theoretical morality at the expense of actual people. Rather than meeting vulnerable women with practical solutions and support, we have decided to solve the problem from a distance with a law instead. But our faith is not lived out in laws. Our faith is lived out in sacrifice and surrender.
Christian Nationalism is lived out in laws.
It seems to me that for the evangelical church in America to win these culture wars, it must come at the expense of the people Jesus is focused on the most.We don't stand equally with all people. We stand primarily with those who are vulnerable and marginalized. Click To Tweet