Before I even endeavor to touch this third-rail of discussion, please let me be clear that a) if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned by the US Supreme Court, I will be at the front of the pack leading a week-long celebration; b) I am a stauch believer in the rights of the unborn to have life; and c) if anyone links to or quotes this article in a manner which implies nullification of (a) or (b), they will be guilty of slander.
I was born in 1968, five years before the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade, which made abortion legal in all 50 US States. I was probably 12 years old before I heard anything about it, or even understood what it was all about. Since this time, almost every political discussion I have heard with Christians has had, at its underpinnings, the subtext of abortion. Every presidential and congressional vote I have cast to date has been, by and large, based almost solely on this issue – with little more than lip service paid to other issues (which happen to best align with my pocketbook, coincidentally).
In the past few years, I wonder how wise I – and entire Christian organizations – have been in so blindly following this issue and electing politicians who a) promise to do something about – or to at least curb – abortion; and b) fail to accomplish anything regarding it. We end up playing Charlie Brown while Lucy holds the ball for us to kick – and we’re continually surprised and/or disappointed when nothing happens.
In reality, though, we have displaced our faith.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken
Instead, we have placed our hope in politicians and governments to correct this “wrong” – we have expected that the government will provide the justice that only God can provide. Certainly, the government’s purpose according to scripture is to provide defense and to provide a system of justice. Abortion is clearly an injustice against the most innocent in our society. But when we cry out against the systems of this world for not acting in the manner that God would, have we not displaced our source of hope and is it possible that our cry is one of selfishness, as well?
The Silver Lining of Roe v. Wade
Something that I have witnessed in the church that, I have been told by those older and wiser than I, was distinctly missing prior to the legalization of abortion is this:
In the manner of caring for young, unwed mothers, the church finally stepped up to the plate and been what it is supposed to be. Before 1973, there were very few ministries aimed at assisting young, unwed women (or, for that matter, poor married and/or abused women) who were pregnant and in despair of what was to come in their lives. I have heard it argued, and I believe, that Roe v. Wade became culturally ‘necessary’ because of the failure of, and self-righteous attitude of, the church.
Much like the stages of grief, the church moved through denial, protest and anger (with a rash of abortion clinic bombings, to boot) in its response to abortion legalization, and it wasn’t until at least a decade (possibly two) after the 1973 ruling that wholesale ministries aimed at assisting at-risk women and their unborn children both before and after their childbirth really took hold in the church. While it speaks to the human nature of humans in the church, it is a sad commentary that it took millions of unnecessary deaths to convince the church that their attitude toward others who, indeed, had “gotten themselves into their own mess”, needed to be Christ-like in caring for them.
If nothing else, Roe v. Wade forced the church to man-up and act like the body of Christ, if it was going to claim to be like him.
What Then and What Now?
As part of business planning in my professional life, I often get pulled into “future-ing” exercises of “if X happens, what will we do?” In these, the biggest question is “What then?” – What then, will we do in response to X?
If the Supreme Court tomorrow outlawed abortion, I would rejoice at the innocent lives saved in such a ruling. I would probably rejoice for days on end.
But then I would wake up, and I would worry. I would worry about the church and its response. Would our response be like our response when the government took over in caring for the poor in the early 20th Century, where the church rather quickly pulled out of wholesale ministration to the poor, the widow and the orphan because the government would do their job for them. Would the church go back to despising those young women and leaving them to the consequences of their sin? Would the church be prepared to triple or quadruple its giving and serving to women who – prior to its abolishment – would have received abortions?
If history is our guide, I do not think I would like the answer to those questions. Having seen the church’s pitifully slow response to the AIDS crisis today, I think the church would fail. Not for lack of “orthodoxy” – we’ve got more of that than we’ll ever need, despite what the ODM shriekers shout at us. No – it is because we generally fail to love our neighbor beyond prostelyzation.
Case in point: Last year, Rick Warren lined up numerous leaders – religious, political and industrial – pledging monetary support to fight AIDS in Africa, where the death toll to this disease overshadows our own abortion death toll. One of those leaders was a politician who supports the Roe v. Wade ruling. After witnessing the hand-wringing, wailing, gnashing of teeth and the calls of Warren being the “False Prophet of the Antichrist” for allowing this person to speak (not at a meeting of the church, mind you, but at a mid-week event on property owned by the church), I have absolutly no doubt that the church in America does not have what it takes to be Christ in a post-Roe society.
The church is too lazy to give the manpower, too stingy to give the money, and it is too proud to partner with the agencies with the manpower required to provide this care. The church I recognize in much of America – primarily from the right – would be content standing on the sidelines while government agencies, Mormons and atheists did its work for them, all the while sniping “you’re doing it wrong!”
Maybe I’m just a pessimist, and the church really would rise to the occasion and be the salt and light required if Roe was overturned.
But maybe I’m right and the church isn’t ready.
Maybe that’s why it hasn’t happened yet…