Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Framing the Abortion Debate - broader and deeper

I’ll have a little piece in the Seattle Times on Saturday morning, but wanted to elaborate a bit for those who are interested. Here are a few basic propositions that I think must govern the dialog on this subject.

I. Life in the womb is worth protecting because it is life and as such, is precious in God’s eyes. The Bible is offers many scriptures to indicate that we’re talking about more than just tissue here. And this life, since it is a small, frail, vulnerable life, needs our voice to protect it because it can’t protect itself. The political left has largely danced around this untidy reality, along with the untidy realities that abortion carries with it, at the very least, the risk of grave psychological and physical consequences. Again, the left conveniently avoids these realities in all their rhetoric.

II. Life outside the womb is equally precious, a fact that the religious right seems to ignore. You see, the statistical reality is that most babies which were at some point under consideration for abortion are born into situations that are stacked against them. Whether the issue is extreme poverty, addiction, promiscuity, or spousal abuse, the fact is that unwanted children who are brought into the world deserve the same protection, care, and compassion from the religious right once they are born as they received in the womb. To move from a somewhat intrusive politic which mandates birth, to a completely libertarian, Darwinian, ‘you’re now on your own’, ‘survival of the fittest’, policy once the child is born seems absurd.

III. The life of the mother is as precious as the life of the child. I’ve been a pastor long enough to hear the agonizing stories of women who have wrestled with the issue of abortion. Never yet have I spoken with one who took the issue lightly. When Troy Newman of Operation Rescue said this in response to the Supreme Court’s Ruling: “…We can do more than just put hurdles in front of women seeking abortions; we can put roadblocks in front of them”, I wanted to scream. His language precludes relationships, enflames rhetoric, and moves us further away from any constructive dialogue about the real issues. I just can’t see Jesus talking like that to an entire gender.

IV. The real conversation should view abortion as the symptom of a larger set of cultural pathologies, and both left and right, all of us really, find ourselves complicit with these diseases. Our greed and consumerism is driving people to overwork and overspend, which is leading to stresses in the home and the loss of civic community (people are still Bowling Alone). When this isolation is blended with a recreational sexual ethic, the loss of covenant commitments, and an over sexualized culture, it’s not hard to understand how abortion comes into play. Throw in a culture of fear and violence as seen in our propensity to silence and censure those who disagree with us, and we can see how the problem grows. Unless there’s a conversation centered around these root issues I fear that court mandates of any perceived magnitude (and this recent ruling was small indeed) will be nothing more than an escape valve to avoid the harder conversations. But once these harder conversations begin, I pray that we’ll work together all of us, to envision a different kind of country – a country where the highest good is the common good, and where care for one another and a strong ethic that ties sexual expressions to committed relationships will grow in the soil of healthy families and strong communities. Working together towards such common goals would perhaps open up room for more civil dialog on the particulars of how to protect the dignity and life of both the mother and the infant, and new solutions would no doubt emerge.


At 20/4/07 22:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the careful thought that went into this piece. I hope the scope of your thinking survives the editing process when it shows up in the paper tomorrow.

Your willingness to appear in print to encourage dialogue on this very painful and divisive subject is apprecieated.


At 21/4/07 00:05, Blogger Nova said...

thank you so much, Richard for offering a more complete perspective on a painful and controversial issue. as a woman who experienced a very difficult pregnancy that jeopardized my health, it was hard to justify why i chose to continue on with the pregnancy (which i did). my partner, who was equally committed to perserving my daughter's life, also struggled to see me so sick and in pain. i'm glad we chose to continue on with the pregnancy - she's a blessing beyond imagination. at the same time, i appreciate an "evangelical" who sees that it's not necessarily black and white, and strives to care as much for the living as you care for the life-in-womb.

At 23/4/07 10:27, Blogger MountainPowerLineman said...

On the subject of abortion: I listened to a news story on NPR this morning about forced abortions in the nation of China. I urge you to listen to the podcast segment. We should pray for those in China who are suffering because of the Chinese government's cruel laws.

I don't know how to make a link in this format, but you can cut and paste this into your browser window.

Please remember to pray for those who weren't given a choice.

At 23/4/07 10:29, Blogger MountainPowerLineman said...

At 23/4/07 22:45, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recent ruling on abortion is no more about life than rape is about sex. It was a political decision. A step toward undoing Roe. The decision makers said as much. It is meaningless to them, just collateral damage on a path to controlling women's lives. That is the end game here.

Your thoughts are challenging and beautiful but Jesus also said that you must give Rome it's due. Women require political rights on earth--equal to that of men. Like it or not, women have to contend.

Roe v Wade is about a woman's right to choose, not babies.

The state has no business in this matter. I trust women and their doctors far more than a powerful elite bent on the rule of law laid down against the dreams and realities of vulnerable human lives.

I doubt the men in your congregation would stand to be stripped of their ability to decide how their bodies might be used. It is interesting to me that all the men in the Seattle Times piece were clear on God's word because it doesn't involve them, not really.

Give us your ideas, but please don't suggest that the end of abortion is a matter of social necessity.



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