Abortion: You, Me, and Religion
I learned of the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade while working on a job site. One of my clients ran up to tell me what had just happened. Her tone then became concerned as she expressed that we had just regressed 50 years.
I want to state that I consider myself pro-life—although I don’t agree with everything in the pro-life movement. I care deeply about life. This is also why I choose to be a vegetarian. As I do not even kill animals, I am obviously opposed to abortion. For me, the miracle of life and the rights of a baby override a mother’s right to a child-free uterus. Life should be respected. I don’t think we should ever take life causally or trivialize it for convenience. It is dangerous to disrespect life.
Years ago, while conversing with a pastor, we were interrupted by a anxious young person asking urgently for advice. He was seeking guidance to share with a friend who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and wanted the pregnancy terminated. The pastor advised this young person to accept whatever decision his friend made. I was shocked by this casual and cavalier response. I sensed the pastor’s unwillingness to affirm life wherever possible. He did not encourage taking responsibility for one another and offered no supportive church group, financial assistance, or emotional support. I felt that this young person was being robbed of an opportunity to develop a sense of values and that his friend would face his girlfriend weakened and without commitment. The pastor’s advice conveyed no sense of the friend’s accountability for his actions, suggesting neither selfless support of his girlfriend through her pregnancy nor a promise of livelong loving commitment.
At the time, I was a young father myself, one who had purposefully waited until marriage to engage in sexual intimacy. I supported my wife through each of her pregnancies, rejoicing over every movement the babies made. I considered the lives growing in my wife’s womb to be precious gifts from God. I remember singing to the fetuses and telling the tiny babies growing inside my wife’s belly that I could not wait to meet them. Each time my wife gave birth, I was right there, experiencing each and every one of my children being born. I even helped with the birthing process as best I could. It was such a mysterious and beautiful miracle to me. Given that many babies are aborted, we should discuss this travesty. Seeing our nation permit later and later term abortions without any protest is concerning. Should we not defend the most vulnerable forms of life from those who consider them mere inconveniences? Someone must stand up and be their voice.
I love the passages in the Bible that celebrate life. In the beginning, God expressed His ideal in the Garden of Eden, which was all about life, health, freedom, and the sacredness of sexuality and family. To achieve the kind of life God wants us to have, we must go back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. To function well, we must bring anything that deviates from this ideal back to it as best we can. To me, that means not considering a fetus a thing or a mere lump of cells. A fetus is human. It lives and grows. If we turn God’s creation in the womb into “a thing” we are desensitizing ourselves. It does not matter what race, age, or gender, for every human is to function in the image of God. How do we approximate that ideal in our fallen world?
Pro-life arguments tend to discuss abortion though a very Evangelical or Catholic lens, but Genesis offers a different theology for life. I don’t believe in the doctrine that the immortal soul enters the fetus in a woman’s body conception or at a certain moment. Humans do not acquire souls; instead, they are souls (Genesis 2:7). Since the fetus is human I am therefore against abortion. I understand there are some gray areas and that accommodations may be required in certain cases with no other good options, but there must be more to this discussion than propelling the abortion narrative. This is why I am not a radical anti-abortionist, but what has happened to our sensitivity for life and family in our present society? We must remind ourselves of our values—not politics—because we have not done that very effectively.
How would Jesus treat a woman wanting to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? What if she had already been to an abortion clinic? Would he cry “baby killer” or “murderer” to shame and condemn her? Some have suggested that the woman caught in adultery in John 8 was the prostitute Mary Magdalene, who had been sexually exploited and abused by Simon, her uncle. What if this abused and embittered woman had become pregnant? How would Jesus have treated Mary and the men who accused and abused her?
I hear Jesus saying to her—to all women—I’m so sorry that men’s laws and courts give abusers power over you. Punishing a sinful women was the goal of those who condemned Mary in Jesus’ day. Men who were emotionally manipulated by the powerful and had no skin in the game accused her. It’s easy to cast judgment and brazen contempt, but when the law was placed in Jesus’ hands, justice flowed like a river, the powerful men taking off one by one to leave the suffering woman alone. Jesus loved and protected her because God valued her life. Jesus saw her anguish and did not leave her in a judgmental and abusive relationship, instead offering compassion, healing, and deliverance. We can also consider how Jesus treated babies. He welcomed their affection when others around him could not be bothered. Courts can never fully articulate God’s compassion for both women and their children. What the world needs is for Christians to embody Jesus. We need more Jesus. Jesus changes everything!
My client is worried that religious freedoms have been violated when a mothers life is at stake, due to the recent Supreme Court decision. The story of the woman caught in adultery by those who strove for “justice” demonstrates the tendency of those who mix religion and politics to be intolerant. We should always be careful to avoid shifting toward imposing our religious morals on others. Allured by the promise of secular power, those who seek religious laws will only unabashedly infringe on those whose lived experience is different than theirs. I would like to see Christianity known more for its acts of kindness, compassion and healing rather than entrapped by the lure of political clout.
Now that abortion is illegal, it does not mean it will stop. I want to see the number of aborted babies reduced. In fact, I want all death to stop. To be anti-abortion is not nearly pro-life enough for me. Being constantly pro-life means much more. Reducing abortion requires providing prenatal support, daycare, and child support from fathers. It requires a safe society and economic improvement to better sustain a woman who chooses to keep her baby. We need a true sense of values and a reverent social responsibility to consider life meaningful. Isaiah 65 presents a description of a true and flourishing human life, where nothing is needed or broken. There is health care for all, all infants survive, and even the elderly enjoy life to the fullest. Everyone has appropriate housing and meaningful and satisfying employment. There is bountiful food. There is authentic and true religion. “They will neither harm nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 65:25).
Jesus, we desperately need your kingdom!
Craig Ashton Jr.
4 Responses to “Abortion: You, Me, and Religion”
You are not alone, but at times I feel like John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” It’s like three-quarters of the country shouting, death! So, you have my support, with you I am shouting, life!
Thank you. We are in the midst of a heated, animosity filled culture war. We need Jesus desperately right now.
Actually, it isn’t about abortion. Abortion is the emotional cattle prod. This is about equal rights for all.
Abortion is the excuse to legalize women as second class citizens, with fewer civil rights and constitutional protections. That sets precedence for persecution of LGBTQ people and alienation of civil rights for minorities. Jim Crow on steroids.
This is an example of how church and state corrupt each other. Spiritual and moral impulses cannot be enforced by laws. Law makers are not the voices of gods. We keep them apart to protect them from each other. The Johnson Act was considered a prophylactic at the time, by both sides.
When Reagan and Falwell made their pact, the rot began immediately.
Gender remains the last legal underclass. That has been used to sustain a legal caste system for decades, where any deviation from white cis male ideation makes discrimination a normal part of American life. Women get paid less. Trans of color are murdered without comment.
That isn’t democracy. It is tyranny.
Points to ponder:
What is the benefit of forcing a raped 10 year old to endure a pregnancy? What is her value? Less than the value of a sperm?
What are her rights to refuse to be sacrificed to a God she may not follow? Where is the line between democracy and theocracy?
Thank you, Robyn, for the pushback. I agree with you about the dangers of church and state corrupting each other. Whenever religion promotes itself by appealing to civil power, we should be concerned. I share your concern that if we are not careful, we will lose many of the rights we take for granted today. I am of the opinion that Revelation 13 warns of a religious/political (apostate-Christianity) brand of tyranny.
I do not feel the need to have my personal beliefs legislated or forced upon anyone. However, I do believe that Christians should have better plans for helping girls who become pregnant and women who want to carry their babies than simply referring them to a local abortion clinic, as in the experience I shared. As for punishment, now that abortion is illegal in some states, I would again point to the story in John 8, in which men sought power over an abused and suffering woman. I oppose both religious zealots who seek to control women and an industry that premeditatedly takes advantage of scared and vulnerable girls.
In the story presented in John 8, Jesus saw that the man who committed adultery with the woman was allowed to escape. The ad hoc court did not care to hold him responsible. Jesus exposed this extreme court that gave abusers more power over an abused and suffering woman. I am against this type of judgmental law. Jesus certainly showed mercy and grace, and in His hands, the law was a positive life-enhancing commandment that promoted protection for the woman. Justice includes accountability, action toward change, and restoration. Christians dedicate a lot of time to political advocacy and voting to advance their political views but not so much to truly promoting life and taking up the slack to meet the needs of today’s society.
The truth is that most of the Ten Commandments reflect basic morality—not lying, killing, stealing, or committing adultery. It is not religious morals that make these actions wrong. As mentioned in my post, abortion is often argued against from the point of view of the Catholic doctrine of ensoulment; however, the Bible says that body and breath equal a living human being (soul), which in Jewish theology allows for some ambiguity in the context of laws against killing. A fetus might be considered fully human but not the same as an independently living person. I believe that Jewish theology would say that abortion, for reasons other than saving the mother’s life, is the termination of another person’s life. Perhaps there are exceptions that call for more discernment and wisdom; however, I don’t see how the freedom to abort at will is the answer to our difficulties. Perhaps there is some gray area here or maybe not.
The rottenness I see in American evangelicalism is smarmy patronizing and shifty biblical exegesis. Issues among the religious right have become so politicized—for example, pro-life, pro-gun and pro death-penalty views seem to go together. I don’t want to defend the rights of women at the expense of the rights of the unborn, or vice versa.
My post focuses on my experience that abortion is often considered an acceptable solution to an inconvenience of having a baby—a view I believe applies in the vast majority of abortions. The very act of reproduction is part of the human-making process, and a man who has sex with a woman without a promise or commitment to her does not value her or provide her with the protection she deserves.
I remain passionately pro-life. It is why I am a ethical vegetarian and against all arbitrary violence against living human beings. The example I use is God’s ideal in the Garden of Eden. We should return to that ideal as best we can in this broken world to promote a more flourishing life. I must admit that the points you made, and which I have considered, present a complex issue that is often emotionally manipulated. I would say a woman certainly have value and I would definitely want to listen to a raped woman, just as I would want to hear the experiences of mothers who choose to abort. I admit that we are desperately in need of Jesus’s discernment and wisdom.
To answer your question, I would say that sperm, while part of procreation, do not take priority over women. If I understand you correctly, you are getting at the sentiment of restricting those who are perceived as being careless from having access to contraceptives. I affirmed in the blog that we need to show charity to those who have other lived experiences. Frankly speaking, reverence for the goodness of God’s creation does not allow me to treat life cheaply—and I believe that those of us who hold this position pay a price for doing so. Given the value I place on life, I can’t accept abortion for the sake of convenience or maintaining a materialistic lifestyle. I think that this is absolutely wrong.
Thanks for commenting!